After going through a farm expansion phase over the past few years, Peter and Nicole Tuytel of Chilliwack, B.C. are looking to fine tune efficiencies on their dairy operation, and also maintain time in their day for raising a young family.
Those are the priorities ahead over the next few years for the B.C. couple who earlier this year were named B.C. and Yukon regional nominees for Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers program.
“We have the size of dairy operation we want for now,” says Peter. “We have had a fair bit of growth in our farm in the past few years. So now we will look at ways to increase the efficiency of our operation, and with a young family (Caitlyn, six, and Braydon, two) we need to make time for them as well. As everyone tells us, they grow up so fast.”
The Tuytels own and operate Elmbridge Farms in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. They own 125 acres, and are milking about 120 head, three times a day. Their total herd including dry cows and replacement heifers is 300 head of registered Holstein cattle. About 30 head are red and white Holsteins while the rest are black and white, and there are four Jersey cows in the herd as well.
Both Peter and Nicole were born and raised on dairy farms. Peter grew up on a farm at Chilliwack. He was also in the poultry business, producing broilers for about 12 years. Six years ago they bought the farm they are on today. They sold the broiler business and decided to focus on expanding and improving the quality of their dairy herd.
The Tuytels have focused on improving the genetics as well as the production side of the purebred dairy operation. Peter was named a Master Breeder by Holstein Canada in 2011 — a designation that recognizes at least 15 years of superior dairy cattle breeding.
“We concentrate on the genetic side of the operation,” he says. “We’ve always been a purebred operation and we like seeing the quality of cattle improve from one generation to the next. Our passion has been to use genetics to make breed improvements.”
Their most famous cow, Elmbridge FM Loveable, a two-time Canadian national champion, is actually a cross of Peter’s maternal line with Nicole’s paternal line. It was named the best bred and owned cow in the red and white Holstein show at the 2011 World Dairy Expo. At the 2012 World Dairy Expo, Embridge FM Loveable won the Produce of Dam class and also had award-winning daughters in the show as well.
Improved genetics along with improved management have combined to significantly improve herd performance over the past 10 years, says Peter. A big part of that involved moving to improved dairy facilities six years ago. The original farm was an older tie-stall barn, whereas the current location at Chilliwack is a more modern free-stall operation, with a double-six herringbone milking parlor.
“As a purebred operator the tie-stall operation was nice as it was much more hands on and you had more direct contact with the cattle,” says Peter. “But at the same time we are also involved in commercial milk production and the milking parlour made it possible for us to expand our milking herd.”
Along with the barn itself, the Tuytels also introduced a total mixed ration (TMR) feeding system, dividing the herd into two TMR rations geared for high producing cows in early lactation and lower producing cows in later lactation. Two years ago they also switched to three times a day milking.
“A number of things have significantly improved herd performance,” says Peter. “Ten years ago our milk production was at about 25 kilograms/head/day whereas today we are at 43.6 kilograms/head/day.”
Improved genetics, an improved feeding program with a TMR and properly balanced ration, comfortable free-stall housing, and milking three times a day all factor in to improved performance. The Tuytels employ two full-time workers who help with the feeding and milking
Peter says there are no plans to expand the milking herd over the next few years, although they will work on improving genetics, and also in improving production efficiencies.
“One thing we consider is eventually moving to a robotic milking system,” says Peter. “The technology has improved considerably, and the amount of information these systems can provide which assist you in overall herd management is incredible. We still want to be very hands-on managers and maintain that connection with the cattle, but at the same time it is a tool that can improve management efficiency.
“We had quite a bit of growth and change over the past few years, so now we feel it is time to focus on some efficiencies. And with a young family, it is important that we have the time to enjoy that as well.” †