ST. ALBERT — There’s an endless parade of tools, tips and tricks to get ahead out there. But at the end of the day, focusing on doing what you do best is what it’s all about.
That’s exactly how Rosenhill Farm Inc. at St. Albert ended up with the top-managed herd in Ontario.
Lactanet (formerly CanWest DHI) announced the top-managed herds last month and Ontario had a strong showing. Rosenhill Farm Inc. was third overall in Canada. Five of the 10 top managed herds in Canada were Ontario farms. The other five were in Quebec. Ontario also had the top three best-managed robot herds in the country, with Rosenhill leading the pack. Another Eastern Ontario farm, Heidi Farms, owned by the Oeggerli family near Cornwall, broke the top 10, coming in fifth overall in Canada.
Andre and Judith Hildbrand, Swiss immigrants who moved to Canada in 1997, operate Rosenhill Farm milking 120 cows on three Lely robots in a barn built in 2017. They used to milk in a tie-stall and as they got older began looking for their next move. “You can either send that money to the government or build something,” Judith said. So they decided to build, and settled on robots.
Robotic milkers have been growing in popularity in Canada and the Hildbrands were impressed with the benefits. Cows tend to milk more often, as often as five times a day, she said. Switching up to three-times-per-day milking “is very hard,” she said. Robots mean more flexibility for the farmers and “for the cows I think it’s really the best system.”
They have sand-bedding for cow comfort, even though sand is a pain in the neck when it comes to upkeep, she said.
There’s no special secret to their management that got them top accolades (they’ve also been in the top five herds in Russell County every year for the past 20). They pay attention to details and, as Judith describes it, “It’s like running a marathon. You keep working at it.”
Andre is very active in the barn keeping an eye on the cows. Judith spends more time on the computer, and between the two different monitoring systems they’re able to keep a close eye on their animals.
“Sometimes you pick up a cow in the barn that’s sick, sometimes on the computer you see that something’s wrong,” she said. “You just try to do your best every day.”