Farmers’ grandfather raised the breed, as did the uncle from whom they bought the operation in 1983
ELORA, Ont. — Jersey cows are a family tradition at Creek Edge Farms.
Based at Elora, Ont., Oscar Martin and his sons, Terry and Javen Martin, admit they have a soft spot for the brown, doe eyed cattle.
“My grandpa had Jerseys and my uncle who owned this farm before had Jerseys,” Javen Martin told a tour group.
The average Jersey provides 26 to 27 litres of milk per day but the butterfat is at 5.5 percent, a full percentage point higher than Holsteins. The farmer is paid for butterfat so Martin sees that as a bonus.
The family bought the farm in 1983 and two years ago they completely renovated the dairy, rebuilding an old tie-stall barn and creating a system that centres around robotic milkers from the DeLaval company.
The building measures 240 feet by 118 feet. The interior is brightly lit and well ventilated and the concrete floors glow like marble. The 95 milk cows move freely on slatted floors and visit the robot milkers several times a day.
Milk production went up and the cows feed themselves and go for milking whenever they want.
“It was a big change for the cows. They went from a tie stall to free stalls,” Javen said.
He manages the family custom silage and hay cutting business and with two robotic milkers on site, he has more time to devote to that venture rather than showing up every day for the 5:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. milkings.
Some cows still need to be fetched while others check in as often as possible to get the high moisture corn offered as a snack while the robot does its work.
If a cow tries to cheat the system for treats, the computer knows it has been milked recently so no feed appears and the cow is released from the chute.
At the same time, being milked more often has reduced udder problems, which promotes better animal welfare because cows are not engorged as they wait to be milked.
The feeding and milking system is run from a centralized computer that informs managers if something is wrong. It has also given the Martins some insight into cow behaviour. The timid cattle are able to pick their times without being butted out of the way by the boss cows.
“One of my best cows, when you check, is always in there at 10:30 at night. That is when it is quiet,” he said.
The farm grows corn, wheat, soybeans and alfalfa. It buys hay for the cows.
The milking cows get 60 percent alfalfa and 40 percent silage with straw and corn distillers grains for added roughage.
In addition, they sell the bull calves for beef because there is no market for Jersey veal calves. These are finished on a dry corn ration and go to customers who want Jersey beef.