After riding the lumps and bumps of the goat-milk industry over the past few years, Patrick and Cherylynn Bos have made significant changes to their farm operation leading to more stability, farm expansion and recognition as Alberta’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2015.
Eight years ago the Boses added a milk processing plant to their farm near the central Alberta community town Ponoka. The plant processes milk from their own goats as well as other area producers into milk and cheese sold under various brand names throughout Western Canada.
“When we started milking goats 18 years ago we shipped to a plant which went eventually went bankrupt,” says Cherylynn. “So then we shipped to another plant which later got sold. There was no security. Finally we built our own plant, which gave us stability by allowing us to control our products from farm to fork.”
Three years ago they introduced their own milk and cheese brand, Rock Ridge, marketed through specialty stores in Alberta. “We felt we had to get our foot in the market too and diversify,” says Cherylynn.
One other major change for the couple was realizing as the business grew they couldn’t do everything themselves. “That’s been one of the biggest changes for Patrick and me,” says Cherylynn. “We’ve always been hands-on people and now that we’ve expanded the herd and with the plant’s growth, we’ve had to switch to being managers. When we don’t always get to do things ourselves, it can be frustrating sometimes, but we recognize that we can’t move ahead by doing it all ourselves.” The farm now has eight full-time employees and also hires a few summer students.
“We want this to be a really great environment for us and our employees to work and a nice place for our family to live,” says Patrick. “By making sure our employees have the management tools they need to make things sustainable it also means that as our children get older we can have a holiday and take time away from the farm for things that are important to them as well.”
The couple have expanded their herd from 350 milking does to 750, and are in the process of setting up a new, 90-stall, semi-automated rotary milking parlour built through a collaboration of companies from Holland, Israel and Canada. “We realized that to be sustainable we needed to grow the herd size, and with the buildings, equipment and software which are coming into place now we can manage a large herd and focus on herd growth, health, and genetics,” says Patrick, who helped re-design part of the automation of the rotary parlour to better suit the needs of their operation.
“It will be the largest North America dairy goat herd, and the individualized feeding and herd management system, along with the amount of automation that’s going into it makes it one of the most cutting edge rotaries in the world right now.”
A family member nominated Patrick and Cherylynn for the Outstanding Young Farmers title. “As family, I guess they see how hard we work, and it was so thoughtful on their part. It was just an incredible ‘WOW’ feeling to be nominated,” says Cherylynn.
“When you go to the Outstanding Young Farmers you’re with a group of people who are very excited about farming, and you come back with such a renewed energy and excitement about what you’re doing,” says Patrick. “It’s very gratifying.”
Along with more stability for the farm, the Boses hope the changes they’ve made and future plans will provide a better lifestyle and more options for their four children — Amelia,12, Connor, 10, Justin, nine and Adelle, four — down the road. “We’re not just growing the farm for now, we’re hoping to bring it to the point where our children, if they want, have the option to stay and work alongside us,” says Cherylynn.