By Tom Collins
ELORA — Switching to a sand-bedded barn seven years ago is still paying off for Albadon Farms and has been a big contributor to the farm’s successes.
The farm, owned by Josh Ireland, and his wife, Marjan, and his parents, Mark and Debbie, of Teeswater in Bruce County, switched to sand in 2010 and in 2013 was announced as having the best-managed herd from Ontario to British Columbia in CanWest DHI’s annual rankings. Two years later, the farm received its first Master Breeder shield. This year, the farm was tops in Western Ontario in BCA (breed class average) and had the second highest overall, according to CanWest DHI. BCA measures milk, fat and protein. The farm’s score of 326 trailed only Prinzhaven Farms in Eastern Ontario of 327.7.
Josh Ireland told Farmers Forum that going to sand was a big investment that has since paid off, especially when it comes to the cows’ health.
“The cows tell us that it’s worth it,” he said. “They’re closer to a natural living environment. The biggest thing is that they’re able to express their true genetic ability, maybe even overachieve, because their health is better. When they’re healthy, they can put up larger volumes of milk.”
Ireland also said communication with employees to make sure things are done the way the farm owners want it done also plays a large role in the farm’s success. He believes the ag industry needs more education on human resources, but admits that managing cows is easier than managing people.
“If they feel appreciated and taken care of, they’re going to want to do a good job,” he said.
Here are the top-ranked dairy farms for highest BCA average in the counties covered by Farmers Forum and according to the 2016 CanWest DHI progress report.
• Brant County (average BCA of 219.7); Emcrest Farm, owned by William and Jean Emmott of Brantford: 284.7
• Bruce County (average BCA of 235.3); Albadon Farms Ltd., owned by Mark and Josh Ireland of Teeswater: 326
• Dufferin County (average BCA of 229.8); Swissbell, owned by Walter and Marlie Kaehli of Grand Valley: 268.3
• Elgin County (average BCA of 231.8); Silverridge Farms, owned by Charlie Dykxhoorn of Springfield: 292.7
• Essex-Kent County (average BCA of 222.6); William and Vicky Morrison at Woodslee: 252.7
• Grey County (average BCA of 227.6); Gordon Martin of Mount Forest: 278
• Huron County (BCA of 227.5); Gubelmann Brown Swiss Ltd., owned by Ernst Gubelmann of Walton: 304
• Lambton County (average BCA of 214.6); Stewardson Dairy Inc. at Thedford: 287
• Middlesex County (BCA of 223.9); Stanton Bros Ltd., owned by Jim, Jeff and Greg Stanton of Ilderton: 285.7
• Norfolk County (average BCA of 225.6); Marbank Farms Ltd., owned by Wayne and Leonard Bootsma of Port Dover: 281
• Oxford County (average BCA of 236.2); Larenwood Farms Ltd., owned by Chris, Grant and Dan McLaren of Drumbo: 312
• Perth County (average BCA of 232.4); Jubilee Farm, owned by Cecil and Nathan Siebenga of Atwood: 305.3
• Simcoe County (average BCA of 224.5); Robins Holsteins, owned by Andy and Jason Robinson of Midland: 278.3
• Waterloo County (average BCA of 238.5); Margrove, owned by Dale Martin of Elmira: 298
• Wellington County (average BCA of 234.3); Bellwin Farms Inc., owned by Jim Bell of Elora: 307.7