Dr. Tom Hutchinson examines the unique heritage genetics of the Wholearh Shropshire flock ~
A number of outstanding Canadian pioneer farmers and livestock traders began a tradition, which lasted more than 50 years, of going back to the British Isles to look for the best animals they could find. They also sought out animals they felt would do well under Canadian conditions. These animals were shipped to Ontario and Quebec and either sold as advanced orders. Many others and especially the very best went to the importers farm to be bred, building up outstanding flocks and herds. The best animals from these farms were shown at both Ontario agricultural fairs as well as major shows in the USA such as Chicago. This was good advertising for the fine Canadian livestock breeds. Large sales followed. Many animals were sold to New England states, to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and to the newly opened up American mid west.
One outstanding pioneer stockman and trader was William Miller who, with his family had settled in 1839 in Pickering on a farm later known as Thistle Ha’. Brothers settled nearby and they developed a fine reputation for having and being able to get hold of outstanding livestock. As the breed societies got going in Britain, William and his son Robert began trips to Scotland and England on an almost annual basis. They often had large orders list in hand from other Canadian, USA as well as Mexican farmers. The Millers imported many breeds of Livestock but the sheep breeds they focused on, because they did so well in Canada and had strong breed societies in Britain, were Shropshires, Cotswolds and Leicesters. Robert Miller was inducted in to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1980 for his incredible work in enhancing the breeds of sheep, horses, cattle and pigs and his efforts in breed education and selection. Succeeding generations of Millers maintained the farms reputation for raising fine blooded stock, and a good portion of Canada’s breeding stock can be traced to Thistle Ha’. The Shropshires were the breed which they continued at Thistle Ha’ over 4 generations of Millers. The last Miller at the farm was Hugh Miller who died at around 2003 in his 90’s. This property was designated a National Historic Site in 1973 and municipally in 1977.… Continued