This past January I traveled with eight other of my classmates from the University of New Hampshire to Prince Edward Island, Canada with the New England Dairy Travel Course. Students from the University of Maine, the University of Connecticut, the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Massachusetts were also enrolled in this course. All 41 of us traveled together via bus that was supported by a very generous grant from Northeast Farm Credit’s AgEnhancement program. We met Jan. 4 at the University of New Hampshire’s Durham location at our Fairchild Dairy Farm. As UNH students, we gave a tour to the visiting colleges of our facility starting with our calf room. The calf room holds around 20 calves and is attached to the main barn where the lactating cows are held. The rough herd size is 90 cows, milking 75 of which 25 belong to our student-run CREAM herd. The somatic cell count for the CREAM herd is 71,000 cells/mL and the somatic cell count for the remainder of the milking herd is 54,000 cells/mL. They are milked in a double five herringbone parlor and are held in a tie stall. The heifer barn is located in close proximity to the main barn and the dry cows reside in a pack barn that gives them access to a field for grazing, weather permitting.
After the tour of the Fairchild facility, we boarded the bus and traveled to UMaine in Orono. Their facility, the Witter Farm, is a teaching facility similar to that of UNH and is located a few miles from the main campus. The farm milks around 40 registered Holsteins in a 35 cow tie stall barn using a four unit pipeline system. They are milked twice daily by farm staff, student employees and students in UMADCOWS (similar to UNH CREAM). They house their calves in individual stalls in a room attached to the main barn. The heifers and dry cows are kept in the livestock barn. The Witter farm also has a horse barn that contains about 12 mares and one resident stallion. The horses are used for teaching purposes and students can be enrolled in classes that teach them how to ride and care for the horses. The farm recently made a new addition of several sheep that will be used for research purposes. We left the facility and stayed in a hotel nearby for the night.
On Monday, Jan. 5 we woke up at 6 a.m. and boarded the bus to begin traveling to Prince Edward Island. The drive lasted the entirety of the day and the students entertained themselves with playing card games and reading books. The 8 mile long Confederation Bridge that allows vehicles to travel from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island was closed to top-heavy vehicles, which included our bus, from crossing the bridge. This ban was put into place because of severely strong winds that would put our bus in great danger of tipping over while crossing. We were stranded in the city of Moncton, New Brunswick for the night. To pass the time students went out to dinner and watched T.V. until going to bed to rest up for our drive in the morning.
The morning of Jan. 6 we woke up at an early 5:30 a.m. in the hopes of being able to cross the bridge. However, the bridge was still closed to taller vehicles so we remained at the hotel for several more hours until we were able to cross in the early afternoon. We crossed the bridge and immediately went to Goldenflo Holsteins. Chris Macbeath and his relatives run this family farm. Their philosophy was “If you are going to milk a cow 2x a day, 7 days a week, you might as well milk a good one.”
They milk around 80 Holstein dairy cows in a modern tie-stall barn, they have many excellent cows and have achieved the Master Breeder Herd title with show type animals and deep cow families. Their cows are bedded on straw bedding, which is very helpful in decreasing the prevalence of mastitis and lowering the somatic cell count. They have over 900 acres of land that they grow most of their feed on, which decreases the amount of money needed for shipping in feedstuffs.
From Goldenflo Holsteins we traveled to Eastside Holsteins. At this farm they had a group of very well groomed milking cows in a tie stall barn, being milked with a pipeline. They had an automatic feeder that fed out concentrates five times a day with forages. Their focus is on show cows and embryo flushing. They were very proud of having been involved with the fame of “Missy” and were hopeful that they would be able to market embryos from the “Missy Family”. The owner Bloyce Thompson made a partnership with Lewisdale Holsteins that allowed for East Side to add several new high number genomic animals to their herd. After this farm we checked into our hotel and were able to rest for the night.
On Wednesday, Jan. 7 we woke up early and boarded the bus travelling to Lewisdale Holsteins. This farm is owned by Jamie and Scott Lewis and was a cobreeder of “Missy”. This farm has very strong family ties and also specializes in the growing and packaging of potatoes. The cows are in a tie stall barn and are fed using an automatic feeder. Their young calves were housed outdoors in individual hutches. They were previously housed inside, and since moving them outdoors, they have seen very good results (less incidence of disease) and they don’t often lose calves to the cold weather.
Forever Schoon Farms was the next farm we visited. They are a leading Ayshire Herd, and the owner, Garnet Schellen, was selected to be a judge for the Ayshire Show at the 2014 Royal Winter Fair. This farm has placed several bulls into the artificial insemination market over the last few years. They milk around 65 cows, which are housed in a free stall barn. They are fed free choice silage and concentrates from a computerized system. They are milked in a six stall step-up parlor, which was very interesting.
The farm has 400 acres of land which they crop barley, hay and silage.
The next stop on the trip was Kouwenberg Farms owned by three brothers that emigrated from the Netherlands several years ago and built their facility from the ground up. They milk around 250 Holsteins in a freestall barn. The parlor is a double 10 parallel that allows for each cow to be individually released from the parlor after she has finished milking. The stalls are cleaned with a robotic sweeper. They are kept for 1 or 2 lactations and culled, therefore their milk production is not as high as would be expected with such a large dairy.
After this farm we traveled to the Atlantic Veterinary College for a tour. The school was very impressive and meeting with the professors and students was helpful. After this tour we returned to the hotel to rest up.
On Thursday Jan. 8 we woke up early yet again to head over to four more farms. The first was Frizzells Valleyville Farms. They milk between 250-300 cows with two single box and two double box Boumatic Automated Milking Systems all within a large free-stall barn. This farm was a Master Breeder herd with deep cow families and some of show quality type, the famous Missy was born here.
Although temperatures were not ideal this day we braved the cold to view, from a distance, the bull that they housed here. The barn was cleaned using an alley scraper.
The second farm we visited was Crasdale, who focuses on “breeding balance”. They were in the process of building a brand new freestall facility with two Delaval automated milking units and Optifeed automatic feeding system. The cows will be transitioning from an old tie stall barn at a further location into this new state-of-the-art barn.
The owner, Brian Craswell, is known worldwide for managing and auctioning at cattle sales. His wife, who gave us the tour, knew all of the pedigree information for every one of her cows, even up to three to four generations back and “loves them like family.
The last two farms we visited were Jewelldale Farms and Blue Diamond Farms. Jewelldale Farms is operated by three generations of the Jewell family and a partner Frank Macdonald. The herd is housed in a freestall tarp barn, and they also cash crop soybeans and have their own little store where locals can buy eggs and other products.
Blue Diamond Farms, owned by Tom Robinson, milks about 80-85 head in a peat moss bedded free stall. This way of bedding kept the hocks and legs very clean and in good condition. The owner has sold embryos overseas and is currently the President of the Prince Edward Island Holstein Association.
The trip was very educational and fun and all of the farmers were eager to answer all of our questions about their establishments. We would particularly like to thank Northeast Farm Credit for making this trip possible.