Thomas Besset Macaulay was what can be called a man with varied interests. From the start of his career, he followed in his father’s footsteps (a Scotsman emigrated to Canada) and worked for the Sun Life insurance company, as actuary, director and president following his father’s death.
Described by many as a tireless worker, a man who made things go forward, he was also a warm man who treated his employees as family. His career at Sun Life was marked by the ascent of the company to the first rank in North America thanks to its worldwide expansion. Towards the end of his career, T.B. Macauley decided to buy a farm. He chose a 200 acre site with a magnificent view of Mount Victoria in Hudson Heights, western Quebec. And so came into being Mount Victoria Farms.
As he was considered a gentleman-farmer, nobody suspected that he would mark the history of breeding and genetic improvement for Holsteins and corn. With his actuary training, he applied his mathematical theories to genetic selection, in order to develop a purebred Holstein line with a much sought-after morphology, excellent mammary systems and fat ratings of 4%.
Macaulay strongly believed that breeding was essential for giving direction to genetic improvement. Previously, he had been able to develop corn hybrids adapted to Canada’s shorter season. He had also worked on yields by developing varieties with bigger cobs and more kernels. And all this happened on his lands, where a mini experimental farm was established.
Meanwhile, in his barn, with the same goals in mind, he chose the Holstein breed to develop a quality dairy herd under the prefix Montvic. He started by selecting a family that transmitted the traits he was looking for. At a time when artificial insemination and genetic improvement tools did not yet exist, he decided to buy an exceptional bull that would help him with his breeding. That is how Johanna Rag Apple Pabst was brought to the Hudson Heights estate. The rest is history. Its progeny stood out from the pack, transmitting good conformation and high production with lots of fat. His bull’s influence was such that it is at the origin of all Holstein lines on the planet, which propelled the fame of the Canadian stock on the world scene. For Starbuck or all bulls of Canadian origin influential in the breed, we always come back to Rag Apple. T.B. Macaulay was the first Master Breeder from Quebec – the highest recognition given to a breeder by Holstein Canada.
In Scotland, from where his father came, he founded the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in Aberdeen. Mr. Macaulay received honorary degrees from McGill University in Montreal, as well as from Aberdeen and Edingurgh in Scotland, in recognition of his many achievements. The Sun Life Board of Directors awarded him the title of President Emeritus after he retired as president of the company in 1934.
Thomas Besset Macaulay died peacefully in 1942, on his farm. Although he bought his first Holstein at 66 years of age, the last 18 years of his life were devoted to this breed and he became the pioneer who left his mark on the complete history of Holsteins worldwide.