Fourth-Generation Dairy Farmers Realize Their Dream

Hard work and applying new technology and dairy production practices have helped a young Quebec Cityarea couple, build a successful, high producing dairy herd and also earned them recognition as Quebec s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2011.

Over the past dozen years Rene Gagne and Pascale Chabot have grown the fourth generation farm from 50 cows producing on average 6,900 kilos of milk, to a 276 head operation, including 125 lactating cows with average annual production of 10,000 kilos of milk per cow with a quota of 144.25 kg/day of fat.

With a modern dairy, and a family of four children, Rene and Pascale have realized two of their dreams in life. And as they continue to expand and improve their operation, they now hope it remains an appealing career choice for the fifth generation of Gagnes.

Their Ferme Valerien Gagne Inc. farm, is located in the Beauce region of Qubec, about 50 km south of Qubec City. Born in St-Elzar and passionate about farming, Ren Gagne had always helped out on the farm. He met his future wife, Pascale, at the local fair. Ren and Pascale both have college diplomas in Farming Enterprise Management and Operation. One of their dreams was to be the fourth generation to operate Ren s family farm. Although the transfer was not easy, Ren became owner at the age of 23.

Ren and Pascale possess an extraordinary sense of entrepreneurship. They always strive to combine efficiency and productivity and take the necessary means to achieve this both in the barn and in the fields. In 2000, the construction of a free stall barn with a double-10 milk parlour was an important milestone for the business. Constant efforts to improve dairy genetics have allowed them to improve the classification of the herd from mostly Good, to 40 head rated Very Good, 88 rated Good Plus and 20 head rated Good.

Pascale says it is hard to name an individual management change that has contributed to the farm success.

There have been so many changes that combine to make the farm what it is today, she says, It is hard to point to one in particular.

Pascale says she has to go back to 2000 when she and Ren decided to expand their 50-head tie-stall operation where the cows were literally tied 24 hours a day and convert it to a free-stall unit. At the same time, they more than tripled their existing quota and expanded the herd accordingly. Since then, they have greatly expanded the capacity of their dairy barn and their milk parlour. As well, they have transitioned from the small square bales they traditionally fed on their farm to a fully-automated Total Mixed Ration system with the accompanying silos and mill that allow the TMR to load itself.

Throughout the years, they have hosted numerous students, including 50 Quebecers from various schools and 18 Europeans. They ve also hosted various events on the farm: training sessions, a UPA Open House and most recently a three-day seminar on hoof diseases.

Pascale is a member of the Beauce Holstein Breeders Club. In 2008, she was named the Entrepreneur Woman of the year by the Union of Women Farmers of the Beauce region.

The future promises to be no less interesting for the owners of Ferme Valerien Gagn. Their main goals looking ahead include improving the housing for their dairy heifers and maximizing the milk production from each cow through better genetics.

They are very mindful of the cost of concentrate and how it affects their bottom line and are looking at ways of keeping those costs in check. There is also a workshop to build so they can handle more of their equipment repairs in-house.

Most importantly, with four young children Dave, 9, Claudia, 6, Alex, 4 and Lory, 2 they are preparing for the integration of the next generation of dairy producers on Ferme Valerien Gagn: they re doing their best to get their children interested in farming.

They are very young yet, says Pascale. But we re hoping, at the very least to arouse their curiosity so they ll want to get involved.

CompiledwiththehelpoftheOutstanding YoungFarmersorganizationandRheal Cenerini,awriter/translatorbasedatLa Salle,Man..

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