Jan and Jony Roos are thrilled to be Ontario’s 2019 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF), and the fact that they were nominated by a former employee makes it even more of an honour.
“It gave us a good feeling that our employees appreciated it here,” says Jony. “We didn’t expect to win because the other competitors were really good, so it was a surprise.”
The couple own Roos Dairy Goats, one of the largest milking goat operations in Ontario.
Originally from the Netherlands, both Jan and Jony grew up on farms and after moving to Canada, Jan began doing custom work for a local farmer when he was 13. Later his brother joined him and they expanded to custom farm for a number of dairy and grain farmers in the Brownsville, Ont. area, southeast of London.
In 2002, while Jan and Jony were still dating, Jan and his family purchased a 100-acre farm. Over the next few years, the couple considered beginning a dairy or poultry operation, but decided they would diversify into raising milking goats because they didn’t have to purchase quota, the animals were small and easy to work with, and they saw a lot of opportunity in the sector. “We saw a herd of goats for sale and jumped into it because we knew the market was very active at that point; it was growing and there was lots of demand,” says Jan.
In 2007, they started out with 200 pregnant goats and quickly increased that to 500, but found that they needed to expand more to cover the costs, so went to 1,000 goats, and built a barn to house the young stock that they quickly outgrew as the farm continued to expand.
The farm has grown to 300 acres, producing feed crops. They currently milk 2,000 goats daily and have focused on better ways to more effectively manage the herd, including developing their own smartphone app to help them and their employees keep track of their young stock.
“We breed the herds all at once so a lot of kids get born within a month, so a friend helped us develop an app,” says Jony. We enter the ear tag number on the app and it keeps track of things like when the kid drinks by itself, medicines and health status.”
In 2017, they installed a state-of-the-art, rotary milking parlour that they brought in from the Netherlands, the first of its kind in North America, which allows them to milk 100 goats at a time, reducing their milking time from three shifts to two. It has been a major boost to their efficiency with the additional milking capacity. With their current breeding program, the Roos hope to expand their milking herd to 2,500 goats over the couple of years.
With four young children, Julian (eight), Joanna (six), Janine (four) and Jessica (three), the Roos are busy young farmers who want to continue to grow the farm. Future plans include building a new barn and raising their own meat goats, which they also see as a growing market.