by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
“I bought this farm in 1950,” states 91 year-old Warren Canary. “When I came here I only brought 17 cows with me.” He points out the many changes made over the past decades.
The 175-acre farm management was taken over in 1974 by Warren’s son Jim and became an established LLC when Jim, Jr. rejoined the farm full time in 2012.
Canary’s are currently milking 59 cows and have 40 head of young stock.
“Our herd is 100 percent homebred registered Holsteins,” said Jim, Jr. “About 10 percent are red and white Holsteins with many of the black and whites having the red carrier gene.”
“We’re a small farm,” said Jim, Sr., “and we give our cows special, individual attention.”
Individual attention includes hosing off cows that are stressed out by the heat that has become prevalent in New York State. “They seem to really enjoy it.”
Canary says there are only three or four of the highest producing cows that are affected by the heat.
Although the herd is usually turned out to graze at night in the summer, they have mostly been kept in the barn this year due to the excessive rain and mud. “The mud has been up to the udders, and that causes mastitis. But, they seem happy in the barn,” Canary reports. As a result, even with the heat, Canary Dairy has seen an increase in production, a 23 percent increase, in fact!
“We historically have always milked two times per day. However, this past year we made the decision to milk three times in the winter.”
Canary says that they see many benefits in milking three times per day.
“We gained 10 pounds of milk per cow! We saw the biggest response in our first lactation animals, which made up 45 percent of the herd this past winter.” The dairy peaked at 101 pounds per cow in March. And while their somatic cell count for 2012 averaged 103,000, while milking three times per day the average dropped to 74,000.
Canary’s ties up each cow’s tail, which keeps it clean and helps to keep the udder clean as well. This does not interfere with the cow’s lying down.
Each cow has a Pasture Mat mattress and barn fans are placed strategically around the barn to ensure cow comfort. Maternity pens, bedding in a mixture of sand and sawdust, are used for calving and calves are placed in feed tubs to ensure that they are kept clean and not exposed to manure.
“We breed for big cows,” states Canary, “and we remodeled the barn five years ago to make more room for the cows.” The stalls are sized to accommodate the size of each cow housed in it. “We rarely see banged up hocks any more.”
Longevity is another trait the Canary’s breed for and one of their oldest — and still productive — cows is ‘Canary Atley Bunny’. Rated as a 3-E 93 Excellent, Bunny is 13 years old and has produced 350,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime — so far! “There are six generations out of Bunny all living here on the farm,” reports Canary. “You don’t see that very often now-a-days!”
Canary’s have 10 cows rated as “Excellent”, 30 rated as “Very Good”, and none rated lower than “Good Plus”. They have received Progressive Breeder awards for the past six years and are very proud of their status as breeders. Award criteria includes herd classification for Breeder Age Average (BAA) to be in the top 25 percent, the farm must have a minimum of 20 registered cows of which a minimum of 75 percent bears the owners prefix, automatic evaluations of all herds are done on an annual basis and a milk component cutoff is based in combined fat and protein.
“We focus on pounds of components, as that is how we get paid! We strive for high levels of milk with high components. We are currently at 4.0 percent fat and 3.3 protein.”
Canary says they strive for “healthy, fertile, high producing cows that are big enough to eat a lot of forage and covert that feed to milk in an efficient manner.”
Canary’s grow 55 acres of corn silage of which 80-90 percent is brown mid rib (BMR). “We feed BMR because it allows us to feed very high levels of homegrown forages and minimize purchased grain. We typically feed 68-72 percent forage depending on forage quality. With focusing on forage quality, nutrition and cow comfort, we are able to hit high levels of reproductive efficiency.”
Canary’s use a combination of Presych, Ovsynch and tail chalking in order to maintain a 31 percent pregnancy rate.
“We raise all our heifers and occasionally use sexed semen on the top 10-20 percent,” reports Canary. “We sell many cows and heifers for dairy in the local community and overseas in countries like Turkey and Russia that are looking for top registered Holstein genetics.”
Canary says the farm focuses on quality and details. “We surround ourselves with partners that have the same passion for success.”
Jim, Jr., who worked with Cargill for many years, explains that the reason he and his wife came back to the farm is because of family.
“We wanted to raise our kids on the farm to instill in them the discipline and dedication and so they would have a strong family foundation for their future. It is a team approach and watching everyone working together is very gratifying. We are truly blessed and grateful for what we have!”
Canary Dairy, LLC is located at 395 County Highway 140, St. Johnsville, NY. “Visitors are always welcome!”
Canary Dairy, LLC ~ four generations strong
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin