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  Birth of East-Gen marked at EBI's final AGM
By Nelson Zandbergen - AgriNews Staff Writer

KEMPTVILLE - Progress has put the name of Eastern Breeders Inc. out to pasture, a reality embraced at the farmer-owned company's 49th and final annual general meeting last month.

Begun in 1947, the Kemptville-based bovine artificial insemination firm will merge July 1 with Gencor, its western Ontario counterpart in the Semex Alliance, a marriage unanimously approved by the EBI membership on Feb. 8.

The $30-million new entity, known as East-Gen for the time being, will be managed out of the Gencor Guelph headquarters. While that means closure for the EBI administration office and the expected loss of nine jobs, according to EBI genetics programs supervisor Paul Stewart, the prominent sire barns off County Rd. 44 will remain an active part of East-Gen.

"It's just another step we're taking to ensure we meet the needs of our members and bring value back to our members," said Stewart, drawing a parallel with the gradual consolidation occurring in the dairy sector generally.

He also paid tribute to EBI's general manager of the last five years, Ann Louise Carson, noting she "played a pivotal role to ensure the merger went through." Carson, he added, "worked herself right of employment, which shows a lot of character and principle."

Brian O'Connor has been hired as East-Gen's first general manager, a position not sought by the outgoing EBI GM.

Kemptville farmer Charles Bennett heads the new board of directors as president.

"We're two very strong organizations that have a long history coming together, and it will make a stronger company going forward," Bennett told the record large crowd that turned out for the AGM.

The man with the distinction of being EBI's final president, John deVries of Bowmanville, spoke of the process that led to the merger, beginning with talks between the respective boards and senior administration early last fall. Their intent to put the idea to a delegates' vote was revealed Jan. 18, "the hardest day of the year" for deVries. "It is one thing to make progressive decisions in the boardroom, but it is tougher seeing the concrete effect these decisions can have on the lives and families of the people directly involved," he said.

The decision to combine corporate DNA builds on last year's return to profitability at EBI, which had shrunk its board to 10 members and instituted a number of changes after a $531,000 loss in 2009.

"Genomics, fewer dairy farmers, larger herds and today's definition of loyalty: these factors all pointed towards a need for change," said deVries.

EBI made almost $397,000 on revenues of just over $9.6-million in 2010 - up from $9.2-million the previous year -- and returned over $1.3-million to the membership. This "bounce back" was attributed to the August launch of the loyalty-based Rewards Program, in concert with Gencor, and the strongest round of proofs ever seen in Semex sires.

"When we looked inwardly at the success our 2010 changes brought, we saw what a great idea it was to work with Gencor on our new programs - and took stock of the support we got from our members for making this shared move... In a solid financial position and vision and position and vision, we felt the timing was right to take this great company to the next level. To lead, not just react to change, in our exciting industry," Carson said in her report to the gathering. "The result of this reflection is a well known fact today: East-Gen's birth is announced."

As an organization, the newly amalgamated East-Gen will comprise 8,583 members across a service area of Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

East-Gen will also own 45 per cent of shares in Semex Alliance, the corporate entity that actually owns the bulls - both dairy and beef.

Semex CEO Paul Larmer outlined the firm's bullish results for 2010. These included a $3.9-million profit - up $7-million over 2010 - and an increase of over 1.1 million doses in volume sales around the world, as Semex continues to grow its global market share.

The historic AGM also served as an opportunity to recognize individuals for their work with the soon-to-be-defunct EBI board: Crosbie Williams of Gould, Newfoundland and Labrador; John Straathof, Arnprior; Bruce Hill, Nepean; Brian Wilson, North Tay, New Brunswick. Tokens of best wishes similarly went to a number of local members and breeders: William Carss of Sandy Crest Holsteins in Arnprior and Gerald and Hugh Hunter of Maple-Ain Holsteins in Smiths Falls were congratulated for their prestigious Master Breeder Shields.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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