12 August 1920 – 28 July 2018
One of the first Canadians inducted into the International Poultry Hall of Fame, Donald Shaver, founder of Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd., has died, a few days short of his 98th birthday.
Donald Shaver was born and grew up in Galt, now part of Cambridge, Ontario. As a teenager he kept chickens in the backyard of his urban home, and in a vacant lot next door.
He joined the Canadian army in the second World War, achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and was part of the force that liberated The Netherlands in 1945.
After the war, he extended his interest in poultry breeding and established a hatchery and feed mill in Galt. He assembled a large collection of White Leghorn lines purchased from other breeders and began crossbreeding experiments that led to the development of the Shaver Starcross 288. The outstanding performance of this hybrid encouraged Shaver to expand his operations and begin selling parent stock to franchise hatcheries in Canada and the United States. He built a larger hatchery and established a breeding farm adjacent to his home on the outskirts of Galt. By the mid 1960’s new farms were added, and a much larger hatchery, as the business expanded around the world.
At its height, Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd. was selling breeding stock in more than 90 countries. Subsidiary companies were established in the US, Great Britain, France, and Germany. There were joint ventures in Pakistan, New Zealand, India and Barbados. The company expanded into brown egg layers and meat chickens, which were sold alongside the highly successful white egg Starcross 288. By the mid 1970’s there were four breeding farms in Cambridge, and two hatcheries. Breeding development work took place in France and Great Britain as well as in Canada.
Donald Shaver was himself responsible for a large part of the Company’s success and expansion. He travelled extensively, probably spending between one third and one half of his time overseas. While at home he worked 16 hours seven days a week, and expected similar commitment from his staff.
Initially, most of the genetics input came from consultants, of which Dr R.K. Cole of Cornell University was the most active. In-house geneticists were hired beginning in the 1960’s and two were employed at the time of Donald Shaver’s retirement in 1985.
Early on, during a period of rapid expansion, Cargill Inc. of Minneapolis became part owners of Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms. When Donald Shaver retired in 1985, they became sole owners and soon sold the Company to ISA in France, and they in turn were taken over by what has now become Hendrix Genetics. This Company still maintains two of the breeding farms and a busy hatchery in Cambridge.
Shaver also established a beef breeding business and it became quite successful, selling frozen semen and embryos internationally. However, when one case of mad-cow disease occurred in Alberta in 1995, the international market shut down and the beef business closed.
After retirement, Donald Shaver maintained his lifelong advocacy for sustainable agriculture. He made his final presentation on this topic in 2016. He was also involved as a Director in energy, insurance, communication and manufacturing. He was Chairman of Canada Development Investment Corporation until 2008.
Among many awards, Donald Shaver received honorary doctorates from the Universities of McGill, Guelph and Alberta, and was an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is survived by two sons and two daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.