Our next tour takes us to a farm that has been in the family for 6 generations, Beslea Farms Ltd located in Yarker, Ontario.
Who are the owners of the farm and how long has the farm been operating?
Chris and Brianne Brown own and operate Beslea Farms Ltd. They have had sole ownership since 2009. Prior to this, the farm was owned with Brianne’s parents, Uncles and Grandparents. Brianne is the 6th generation to own the farm. It was previously located in Shelbourne, Ontario but due to urban encroachment the farm was relocated to Yarker in 2011.
What is your Farm Size and what crops are grown?
Our Farm consists of 480 acres farm owned land. Another 120acres is available in a long-term lease. 97% of the feed consumed on the farm is grown on the far with only protein supplements being purchased. Crops that are grown on our farm include grass, pure alfalfa hay, corn, soybeans, wheat and barley.
How many cows and young stock are located on your farm? What breed does your herd consist of?
Our farm consists of a total of 220 head. We milk a total of 100 cows. 75 are purebred Holsteins and 25 are purebred Jerseys.
How many employees do you currently have working on your farm?
The farm always has one full time employee on the farm year round. We also bring in exchange students from all over the world through the summer and show season to help out with the extra workload.
Both Chris and Brianne work full time on the farm. Chris is responsible for the cropping, feeding of the milking herd and equipment maintenance. Brianne takes on the responsibility of their breeding program, Milking of the cows and raising all of the young stock. She also oversees the Marketing of the farm.
What is your average milk yield/cow?
Our current production average per cow/day is 36kgs for the Holsteins and 26kgs for the Jerseys. Our whole herd average is 4.8%Fat and 3.6%Protein.
What does the diet for your milking cows and young stock consist of?
Two different diets are fed to our milking herd, based on breed. The Holsteins are fed a TMR consisting of corn silage, balage (or haylage, depending on the weather that year), grain, corn and/or barley mixed with a purchased protein supplement. The Jerseys are component fed with the majority of the ration coming from balage and dry hay.
In both breed the cows are split into three groups. These groups are based on their production. The higher two groups are top dressed with extra grain, protein supplement and mineral.
Our young stock are fed whole milk up to the approximate age of 3 months. Depending on their weight and height a 22% pelleted calf started and free choice water are given. Hay is not introduced until just before weaning. At weaning time, the calves are switched to an 18% pelleted calf grower. Calves that we determine will go into our show program are typically fed milk a little longer and begin on a 36% pellet when they start on that program.
Our Dry cow program is something we take very seriously on our farm. Dry cows and bred heifers are split into two groups, far off and close up.
Depending on the time of year, far off cows and heifers are fed corn silage, hay and free choice mineral.
Our close up dry cows and heifers are segregated at 21 days pre-calving and receive our base TMR ratio along with a customer dry cow pellet.
What is your Milk price per litre? Is the production for cheese, yoghurt, liquid milk?
Our blend price over the past year has ranged on average between 75 and 86 cents per litre. Our milk typically goes to three different locations where it is either used for cheese, fluid milk or made into powder for products such a Kraft dinner or known to some as Mac and Cheese.
What is your farms Breeding objectives & considerations?
We keep our breeding objectives simple and straight forward. We take a balanced breeding approach looking at improving type while not sacrificing production.
What Sires are currently being used on your farm?
Currently we are using such Holstein sires as Dempsey, Goldchip, Airlift, Mogul, Beemer, Solomon, Kingboy, Brewmaster and Unix. We still have those reliable and trustworthy bulls that we use that have worked for us in the past. We have young calves by Sanches, Windbrook & Gibson. We recently had a Lheros heifer calf born on the farm.
With our Jerseys we are still using Tequila, Vivitar and we have started to use some Tequila son’s. We have calves by Joel and we have had great success with Rapid Bay bulls. We continue to use a wise selection of their bulls including Variety, Scout, Grayson and older bulls like Gateway and Resurrection.
What temperature extremes are you faced with on your farm and how do you manage these factors?
The average yearly rainfall in our area is 960mm. Since moving to the farm in Yarker in 2011 we have had two drought years. Being in close proximity to Lake Ontario, we are fortunate not to have many temperature extremes to deal with.
Our cattle are housed in a tie stall with side wall curtains and fans. Temperature regulation in the barn is easily and effectively managed with the curtains and fans. Calf blankets are utilized in winter months for heifers that are under two months of age that are housed in single calf hutches outside.
What Type of housing is provided to your herd?
Our milking herd is housed in a tie stall facility that contains pasture mats and straw bedding. We are currently in the process of converting to sand bedding. All the young stock is housed outside in single hutches. Group housing is provided in our heifer barn there they have a yard with a covered and bedded lean-to all year round. Far off dry cows and heifers have access to a bedded, coverall building that they have access to all year round they are fed outside in an “H” bunk feeder in a scraped yard in the winter and they have pasture access in the summer. Close up dry cows and heifers are housed in two loose housing pens in the coverall barn all year round.
What Type of parlour system is used on your farm?
Our cows are housed in a tie stall barn where they are milked. We have a track system with automatic take off in the tie stall. The cows are tied tail to tail in two rows with two people milking them with 4 units each. Show cows and cows that require special attention are housed in box stalls and can be milked right in their stalls.
Is there a Quota system in your region?
Canada does have a quote system. A simple explanation on how our quota system works is 1kg of quota owned allows you to milk one cow. Our system is based on Kgs of butter fat produced.
How does the classification system work in your region?
We classify approximately once every three months with a classifier from Holstein Canada. Holstein Canada classifiers score all breeds in Canada which is convenient as we have two breeds in the barn. We participate in mid-rounds and to date have never skipped a round.
Unique Facts about Beslea Farms
- Prior to moving to Yarker, Ont, Beslea farms also was home to a flock of 300 Rideau Arcott Ewes. We hope to return to this in the future
- Chris has begun a small, commercial beef herd with the intention of starting a purebred Speckle park herd in the future.
- Chris is actively involved as a delegate with Gaylea, a Co-op in Ontario that is branching into other provinces in Canada. They work with Dairy Farmers and now Dairy goats as well.
- Our youngest son is Autistic and Brianne has become a strong advocate for children with Autism in Ontario. She has worked tirelessly over the last year by working with the government and parent advocacy groups to bring monumental changes to the Autism Program in Ontario. Over Forty thousand children receive life changing therapy and services. She is currently working on a project that will bring her passion for the dairy industry and her drive to help the Autism community together in a mutually beneficial way. Stay tuned!