New facilities for their top performing Ayrshire dairy herd are on the agenda as Christian Bilodeau and Annie Sirois look at the future improvements to their southern Quebec farm.
Working with older facilities now, with the milking herd, calves and dry cows housed in separate barns, the Quebec couple, who farm at St-Odilon-de-Cranbourne, south of Quebec City say a new barn that brings all cattle under one roof is one major improvement they hope to undertake over the next few years.
Bilodeau and Sirois milk 50 head of cows on the family farm where Christian was born and raised. Christian took over the family opération about 17 years ago. Annie, who came from a non-farming background at Baie-Comeau has been learning the dairy industry since the couple was married in 2003.
Bilodeau and Sirois’ management in developing a high quality, high producing diary herd, along with their community and industry involvement earned them the honour of being named Quebec’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2015. They will be competing with other regional winners for the national Outstanding Young Farmer honours at the annual awards competition in Edmonton in November.
As Bilodeau and Sirois have worked to improve dairy herd genetics over the years — they were named Ayrshire Canada Master Breeders in 2001 — one of the most important management changes has been to install a BouMatic robotic milker. The robotic milker has helped reduce labour requirements on the farm, as well as increase milk production.
Along with managing the dairy herd, Bilodeau and Sirois also own about 360 acres part of which produces forages for the dairy herd, and seasonally they also run a maple syrup operation.
While Sirois is actively involved in community, school and sporting activities involving their four children, Kellyann, 14, Louis-Alexis, 13, Charles-Antoine, 10 and Lily, eight, Bilodeau is also involved in industry and community organizations.
Bilodeau is a director of Ayrshire Quebec, president of the local Applaches Ayrshire Club, and as well as has long involvement, holding executive positions, with a provincial livestock improvement organization.
Also, as a volunteer fire fighter, Bilodeau says one of his most challenging experiences was being among area emergency response crews attending to the devastating 2013 train derailment and fire in the nearby community of Lac Megantic.