For the MacEachern family keeping their dairy cows, of course well fed, but also equally important — comfortable — is helping improve the efficiency and productivity of their central Nova Scotia dairy farm.
Since they’ve have been owners of the Folly River Farm near Debert, N.S. for the past five years, Lauchie and Jolene MacEachern are seeing improved production from their purebred Holstein herd. Improved cow beds along with more recently switching to three times a day milking is helping to put at least 20 per cent more milk in the bulk tank.
Their lean, yet effective, approach to management, active debt management and future growth strategies were among the elements that earned the MacEachrens recognition as Atlantic Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for 2017. They will be among seven regional finalists from across Canada competing for national OYF honours in Penticton later in November.
While Jolene was raised on a Nova Scotia dairy farm, Lauchie had limited farming experience growing up. They both attended Nova Scotia Agricultural College and after some off-farm travel and work experience returned to Nova Scotia with plans to farm. They were offered an opportunity to take over a non-family farm through a succession plan and after six and a half years of transition officially took over Folly River Farm in 2012.
“We were fortunate that Folly River Farm had very good facilities for dairy cattle,” says Lauchie. There is always need for upgrades and improvements, but they worked with and eventually bought a well-run dairy farm with good quality cattle.
MacEachern milks 75 to 80 head year round, in a double-four herringbone milking parlour. The herd is housed in a six-row free stall barn, with a central feed alley between every two rows. Along with milking cows, they also crop about 350 acres with about 95 per cent of the production of corn (silage and grain, legume forages and some wheat used in the dairy operation.)
One of the most important changes made in recent years involved a new bedding system in the free-stall barn. Cows were previously bedded with sawdust on the floor of the concrete stalls.
“What we have gone to now is a deep-bedding system,” says MacEachern. He installed a 4 x 4 rail at the back (tail end) of each row of stalls and fills the bed area with recycled wood fibre. The rail holds the bedding material in place.
“It’s made a noticeable difference,” he says. “Cows are much more comfortable. They want to lie down more and chew their cud, which in turn increases milk production.”
He has also improved lighting in the freestall area and installed more fans to improve airflow through the barn. While the milking herd is fed a well-balanced ration, he did harvest a fourth-cut of alfalfa this summer. The improved feed value produced a measurable increase in milk production. Also in July he switched to three times a day milking, which is also producing more milk.
The series of minor to medium changes in feed and facilities has helped MacEachern to improve production in the herd. Looking ahead, as finances and quota become available, he plans to continue to buy more milk quota and expand herd numbers. With some adjustments, there is room to expand the milking herd in the existing barn and looking further down the road, there is room to nearly double free-stall barn area with a barn extension.
While Lauchie concentrates his efforts on the diary farm, Jolene has an off-farm career as an industry liaison officer at Dalhousie University. They are also actively involved in raising their three children, Ewan, 10, Allister, eight, and Adriana, five. Other outside activities include being involved with a Holstein club, 4-H projects and getting young hockey players to the local arena.