By Susan Mann
DRUMBO — As Oxford County dairy farmer Chris McLaren goes about his day looking after a 100-cow herd, he doesn’t think about the fact that his family’s farm once again has the top managed Canadian dairy herd.
“I just kind of go about my business and put my cows in a position to perform,” says McLaren, who farms with his father, Grant, and uncle, Dan, at Larenwood Farms in Drumbo. “I don’t really think about it or try to achieve these awards. It just happens when you pay attention to all the little things.”
For the third consecutive year, Larenwood Farms was the tops when it comes to dairy herd management in Canada. The McLarens also earned the top score in the CanWest DHI National Herd Management Score Award for all of Canada in both 2014 and 2015.
In 2016, the McLarens achieved a score of 985 points out of a possible 1,000 points for performance in six different management areas: Milk value, udder health, age at first calving, calving interval, longevity and herd efficiency. The Larenwood herd was judged against 8,000 CanWest DHI herds stretching from Ontario to British Columbia.
CanWest DHI is a non-profit milk recording organization that provides dairy management products to Ontario and Western Canadian dairy farmers. In Ontario, the second-highest herd management score went to Summitholm Holsteins of Lynden in Wentworth County, while Brakke Farm of Grand Valley in Dufferin County ranked third.
McLaren attributes the farm’s success in herd management to the many little things they do right.
“It starts with bringing forth good cattle — having cows that have the potential to produce the amount of milk that we ask of them,” he says.
Another focus of their herd management strategy is harvesting, storing and feeding good quality feed, he notes. Rounding out their strategy is barn design and sand bedding, which “is extremely comfortable for the cows,” he says. “It’s definitely the most comfortable bedding that cattle can lie in.”
The McLarens milk 100 Holsteins and grow hay and cash crops on 500 acres. Chris is the sixth generation of his family to farm their land. Along with focusing on cow comfort, McLaren says they zero in on preventing problems and they’ve always been big on attending meetings, workshops, conferences and talking to other farmers.
“We learn as much as we can. We take the areas we need to improve on and learn from people who are doing a superior job in those areas.” McLaren says there isn’t one area of herd management that’s more important than others.
“It’s like legs on a table. You can’t support the table if you don’t have all the legs.”