By Tom Collins
GODERICH — A Huron County farmer who helped the family chicken business get into dairy, and an employee who helped one of Ontario’s most successful farms decrease mortality rates have both been named winners of Ontario Holstein’s Dairy Youth Awards.
The award is for dairy farmers from ages 25-35 who have demonstrated leadership and taken an active role in their communities. The winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin this fall.
Winner Derek Van Dieten, of Goderich, graduated from Ontario Agricultural College in 2007. He returned home to his parents’ chicken and 150-acre cash crop farm with the intention to start a dairy farm as his parents were too young to retire. He saw dairy farming as his ticket into farming. Within a year, the farmhoused a new freestall sand-bedded barn.
Van Dieten gives much of the credit to his parents, Hank and Martha, who never farmed until they came to Canada. The son of a miner and a teacher, Hank immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1980 with the idea to start milking cows, but soon found himself in the chicken business instead.
The Van Dietens started dairy farming with just 26 kg of quota and cull cows from nine different herds in 2008. Today they own 130 kg of quota and milk 90 cows. Van Dieten bought a large amount of that quota before the quota cap was instituted in 2009, and has bought quota every month since then.
“It’s been a pretty good run,” he said. “I can’t really complain about the quota policies too much.”
His parents still run the chicken farm.
Award winner Laura Schuurman works for Summitholm Holsteins at Lynden between Brantford and Hamilton. The farm is an annual contender for the province’s top BCA award, which measures milk, fat and protein.
Since becoming involved in the operation seven years ago, Schuurman has brought the calf mortality rate down from almost 10 per cent to less than one per cent by being more aggressive with treatments instead of waiting for the calves to get really sick.
She told Farmers Forum that the farm starts treatment of the animals as soon as they look slightly off or miss a feed or two by giving the calf electrolytes. If that doesn’t work within a day, the farm starts treating with antibiotics.
Schuurman also helped increase the average daily weight gain in pre-weaned calves from about 700 grams to almost 860 grams per day. She also helped create a program to increase pregnancy rates from 23 to 26 per cent. Part of that was looking for ways to get the cows to get into heat sooner, such as changing the number of days until the cows get a shot of prostaglandin from 70 days to 64 days.