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LEVEL OF DESCRIPTION: Fonds
No.: PR3581
TITLE: Cormie Ranch Fonds
CREATOR: Cormie Ranch
DATE RANGE: 1905-2011, predominant 1961-1992
EXTENT: 14.37 m of textual records. -- 645 photographs. -- 46 plans. -- 4 maps.
ADMINISTRATIVE
HISTORY/BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: The Cormie Ranch was established in 1961, near Tomahawk, Alberta. It consisted of 22,000 acres, south of Wabamun Lake and west of Edmonton. At its height in the 1980s, Cormie Ranch was the largest multi-breed purebred cattle breeding operation in Canada. The goal of the Ranch was to be a leader in the purebred market and recognized the need for innovation, implementing new herd management, computerization and genetic techniques as they became available. The Cormie Ranch adapted and refined technology, methods and practices to its own needs, environment and targeted markets. It was one of the first large scale ranches to use artificial insemination and transplant techniques and the first to develop efficient methods of embryo splitting.

Its founder was Donald Mercer Cormie, who was born in Edmonton July 24, 1922 to George and Mildred Cormie. He and his wife Eivor had eight children, (John, Donald, Allison, James, Neil, Bruce, Eivor and Robert). Donald Cormie had two brothers (George Jr., John Gordon) and three sisters (Evelyn, Allison and Helen). Cormie worked at North West Mill & Feed Company with his father George, and then attended the University of Alberta where he received his BA and LLB. He worked in the Merchant Marine from 1943-1944. He obtained his LLM from Harvard Law School in 1946. He returned to Edmonton, where he worked for the firm of Smith, Clement, Parlee and Whitaker.

In 1954, Cormie co-founded Cormie Kennedy, a law firm specializing in real estate and securities law. It would become the second largest law firm in Edmonton in the 1970's. He was appointed Queen’s Council in 1964, and was active in a number of associations and groups in Alberta throughout his life. Cormie also started First Investors in 1954 with partner Ken Marlin. The company eventually became part of the Principal Group, a financial services firm that grew into Canada's sixth-largest mutual fund manager. The recession in the mid 1980’s pushed the Principal Group and its subsidiaries to bankruptcy in 1987, and 67,000 investors lost their savings. Cormie was fined $500,000 in 1992 after he pled guilty to misleading investors under the Investors Act. He died in Scottsdale, Arizona, February 20, 2010.

The Cormie Ranch established four types of herds for cattle breeding and marketing: Charolais (established 1966), Maine- Anjou (established 1973), Herefords (established in the early 1960’s) and Simmental (established 1970). From 1966, Cormie Ranch sought to develop genetically superior bulls through large scale artificial insemination, and by importing bulls from Europe to develop sire testing and progeny evaluation. By 1974, the Ranch had identified a market need for increased calve production, and began its first transplanting that year. The Cormie Ranch sought to keep current in breeding technology and innovation in order to produce highly sought after offspring. The Ranch grew to be the largest private bull semen bank in the world, developing sought after bulls in the Simmental and Maine-Anjou breeds.

Cormie Ranch was made up of herd management, farming and embryo transplant divisions. The Ranch employed 12-15 staff year round, and up to 20 in summer. Each herd breed was managed by a specific unit, whose herdsmen were responsible for all aspects of the herd, including calving, artificial insemination, haying, branding and weaning. They met with the manager at headquarters every week. Each cattle unit reported directly to the main Cormie Ranch office and manager, Donald Cormie. His son, Bruce Cormie served as ranch manager starting in 1983.

The Cormie Ranch sought self-reliance, buying land from adjacent farms. The farming division of the Ranch was developed to provide feed for cattle. The farming portion of Cormie Ranch operated hay, grain and crop land, as well as a shop to service machinery. There was also a feed mill and a grain handling system.

The Cormie Ranch’s large scale frozen embryo transplant program produced and sold to markets in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Transplanting facilities also operated in Tomahawk, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Lethbridge, Alberta and San Antonio Texas. The program sold $3.3 million worth of semen from its prize bull, Signal.

Cormie Ranch operated on a huge scale (up to 2,000 registered cattle a year), and computerized its herd records starting in the 1960s. the ranch, with assistance from the Principal Group, eventually developed its own system to manage financial data and reporting, as well as ensuring the systematic capture of individual and herd data related to breeding, genetics, traits, implants, transplants, purchases, sales, inventories and customer information.

The ranch operated from 1961 to 1989, when it was sold to Japanese buyers in order to pay outstanding debts related to the bankruptcy of the Principal Group. The ranch itself continued to operate through the various name changes of its corporate ownership. Cormie Ranch Ltd was run by a board of directors headed by Donald M. Cormie, until the corporation was dissolved in 1985, and its assets and liabilities went to Collective Securities Ltd, owned by Cormie and other shareholders. Cormie Ranch Inc. was the last iteration of the corporation, created in February 1986 by Collective Securities, and was dissolved on July 19, 2001.

SCOPE AND CONTENT: The fonds consist of administrative and operational records of the Cormie Ranch from its inception to its dissolution. The material traces the history of the ranch prior to its purchase by Donald Cormie. The records are comprehensive, and include material created and used by the ranch in the course of business. The records document all aspects of the farming, cattle, breeding and artificial insemination operations of the Ranch, and includes herd listings, breeding records, calving, weaning, feeding, and cattle sales and purchases (prior and subsequent to computer automation).

The records also include management office files, internal and external correspondence, herdsmen’s reports, farming reports and statistics, feeding programs, finances, staffing reports, office and employee correspondence, and material on the data management system and policies. The records document the development of the ranch over time, including legal correspondence and files on land sales and purchases, photos from cattle shows and event management, reports related to marketing efforts, cattle imports, correspondence and reports on land drainage, ranch security, and management and director reports and minutes.

Ranch records also consist of detailed cattle records, including data reports, projections, listings of sires, certifications, analyses, indices and registrations of cattle and herds.

ASSOCIATED MATERIAL: Bruce Cormie also donated a number of artefacts, including a number of trophies, a plaque, prize ribbons, fair banners and truck signage. All artefacts are pending transfer to the holdings of the Royal Alberta Museum.
RELATED RECORDS: Other records pertaining to the Cormie Family can be found in the North West Mill & Feed Company fonds (PR3558) at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
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