TILLSONBURG — Kornelis Schaafsma sold off the family dairy farm in the Netherlands earlier this year. Now he’s searching for a replacement here in Ontario, and the pickings are slim.
There just aren’t very many dairy farms up for sale in the province, at any price. Nevermind that Schaafsma expects to pump the entire $5 million to $6 million he collected on the sale of his Dutch operation, plus take on substantial additional debt, in return for an Ontario farm with about half the production capacity of the one he left behind in Friesland.
He says he’s in the market for a 60- to 120-head milking operation — a family farm he and his wife Aafje can handle by themselves — with about 100 acres to support it. He estimates the cost of such an operation, including roughly 75 kg of milk quota, at between $7 million to $8 million in southwestern Ontario and perhaps $5.5 million in Eastern Ontario.
He previously milked between 140 and 150 cows at the farm where he grew up in Holland.
“We are still working on a few opportunities,” says Schaafsma, 41, whose fifth child was born July 21st — the young family’s first Canadian member, a son named ‘Sam.’ “We even gave him a Canadian name,” he says.
Though the Schaafsma family has been staying with a dairy farmer friend in Tillsonburg — he’s eager to land a farm anywhere in Ontario. Whether tie-stall, free-stall, robotic or parlour, he’s open to it.
For a third-generation dairy farmer like himself, “Ontario has the total package,” he says, noting the supply management system, which adds millions to the price of a farm but guarantees farmers a firm price for their milk.
The Netherlands eliminated a similar quota system in 2015 and now have a system in which farmers acquire environmental “phosphate rights” to produce milk. He also noted that Dutch regulations were making it difficult to use your manure as fertilizer.
Depending on the area, farmland in Holland may go for $18,000 to $48,000 per acre, he says. By contrast, prices in southwestern Ontario consistently verge toward the high end of that range.
There wasn’t any one thing that drew the family to relocate to Canada, he says, but highlighted wide-open spaces and natural beauty. “It was more that we like the lifestyle here, the kind people, beautiful nature and the agricultural opportunities.”