Quality feed, housing | Owners of Claynook Holsteins tell international visitors the secret to raising award winning cattle
NEW HAMBURG, Ont. — High quality cows that produce plenty of milk are valued at Claynook Holsteins, but their comfort is a bigger priority for brothers Dennis and Wayne Wagler.
The third generation family farm near New Hamburg, Ont., is in the heart of dairy country, where 800 farms operate west of Toronto.
The brothers, along with their children, wives and a herdsman, milk 185 cows and farm 800 acres.
They grow most of their own feed, including hay, alfalfa and high moisture corn supplemented with minerals.
Feed supply was variable this year. The ground was saturated Nov. 5 when an international tour from the World Holstein Federation visited, but no rain fell during the summer.
“It was really dry this year. Our corn silage was phenomenal, but our alfalfa was very poor,” said Wayne Wagler.
About 150 millimetres of rain in October have stranded 60 acres of corn and 60 acres of hay. It has to dry before it can be cut and ensiled in the on-farm silos.
High quality feed and a comfortable environment allow the cows to produce 11,600 kilograms of milk per year with 4.1 percent butterfat and 3.3 percent protein.
The Waglers run a tie stall operation in which milkers run on a track and come to the cows. This takes about an hour and a half per milking. Cows are milked twice a day. The barn, built 11 years ago, is bright and temperature controlled. The stalls are wide and have a special mat as a base and chopped wheat straw for bedding.
“It’s better for the cows. Shavings are harder on their legs and feet,” said Wayne. “It is a comfortable hotel here.”
Hydrated lime is added to the bedding to change the pH level. This keeps feet dry, discourages bacteria from growing and helps maintain hoof health.
“We have very high quality milk because we have low somatic cell counts,” he said.
Manure falls into a 30 centimetre deep trench at the back of the stall and is carried by gravity to a cement holding tank.
The farm has 550 head, including heifers, dry cows and bulls. Forty young bulls are on site, and most are sold to artificial insemination units.
If the artificial inseminators don’t want them, they sell to local farmers to use as clean-up bulls, said herdsman John Martin.
The family was awarded Holstein Canada’s master breeder award in 2002. The star cow these days is a 2008 female named OCD Planet Diamond, purchased from Oakfield Corners Dairy in New York.
It has produced 10 bulls that were good enough to go to an artificial insemination unit, has been flushed 15 times and been genetically tested.
It was rated one of the top 200 genomic cows in the United States as of December 2011.