By Tom Collins
BROWNSVILLE — An Ontario dairy goat farm has created an app to make it easier to keep track of its 2,000-head milking herd.
Jan and Jony Roos, of Roos Dairy Farm at Brownsville in Oxford County, have six employees but that increases to 13 during kidding season in the winter months, when there can be thousands of young goats on the farm. That’s also when things can get confusing. It can be hard to keep track of the many kids with special needs, especially after a shift change. The couple designed the app for their smart phones so employees can update the status on each kid. If, for example, one kid is sick or doesn’t need to be bottle fed anymore, the employee makes a note on the app and the next shift would have the up-to-date information.
“You’re more free on your own and you can do your own thing instead of babysitting them,” Jan said. “It saved quite a bit of time.”
Jan’s family emigrated from the Netherlands to Canada in 2000 to start a dairy farm. Jony, who also grew up on the Netherlands, emigrated in 2005, but Jan and Jony didn’t know each other until they met here.
Jan’s brother was taking over the family’s dairy operation and Jan didn’t like milking cows. So, he was looking for other farming opportunities. He met Jony first and then, along with Jan’s parents and brother, the two bought a herd of 200 dairy goats in 2008. Dairy goats were a good option as the animals are smaller and the Roos avoided the exorbitant cost to entry into supply management. He also figured he could grow the farm as fast as he wanted.
The Roos — who were named Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in September — built a new barn to accommodate 500 milking goats but quickly outgrew the barn as they kept expanding the herd. By 2015, Jan and Jony were running the farm on their own.
Two years ago, it took about 24 hours to milk all the goats twice a day with a parallel parlour system but there were headaches with employees cancelling shifts.
To combat this, in 2017, they installed a new 100-stall rotary parlour when they were milking 2,500 does. That cut down milking time to about three hours twice a day and gives Jon more time for custom work, something he has done since he was 13.
While Jan enjoys milking goats, he does have unusual advice for others looking to enter the industry. “Don’t,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for not too much pay. Let’s put it that way. We like it. And it’s all set up now so that it runs smoothly but it took a few hiccups to get there.”
Outstanding Young Farmers: Dutch boy meets Dutch girl, then they buy dairy goats
By Tom Collins