On the Farm: Jessica and Michael Lovich ‘play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses’ as they build their dairy farm
BALGONIE, Sask. — Jessica and Michael Lovich laugh when they remember the day their three young daughters defined their farm roles when they grow up.
“They decided when they get bigger, the oldest one (Reata) will be the farm veterinarian because she’s into pets and animals,” Jessica said with a smile.
“The middle one (Renelle) will be the bookkeeper because she’s more into that kind of stuff, and the youngest one (Raelyn) is going to be the farm manager because she milks a lot of the cows already.”
Added Michael: “For being nine, seven and four, it’s interesting because out of Lego they built their own robot milking barn.”
The Loviches operate Lovholm Holsteins near Balgonie, less then a half-hour drive east of Regina.
The 30-something couple met while attending Lakeland College in Alberta. Michael studied livestock production while Jessica completed her diploma as an animal health technician.
Michael went home to work at his family’s dairy farm near Cherhill, Alta., while Jessica pursued her desire to see the world. Along the way and to earn some travel money, she milked cows at dairy operations in several countries.
After marrying in 2007, they worked together at Michael’s family farm until buying an existing dairy, Prairie Diamond Farms, at their current location in 2015.
They said Saskatchewan’s Dairy Entrant Assistance Program was a big incentive for them to move their milking herd east.
“It was probably the best, and still is in Canada, for what you could do and where you could go,” said Jessica.
Under the program, they receive 20 kilograms of free quota from the milk board to start but must match it with 20 kg.
“So then we’re at least starting with 40 kg and then we grow forwards,” Michael said.
“That quota is ours for the first five years as long as we stay under 80 kg of total holdings.”
They milk 65 to 70 cows and have about 200 head on the farm of 550 acres, which is a mix of owned and rented land.
The young couple are quickly making a name for themselves by garnering recognition and international exposure for their breeding program.
“We have been very fortunate that in our show cow endeavours we’ve had some really good cows come out of our farm,” Jessica said.
“The year we moved here we actually had bred the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.”
Added Michael: “She was grand champion Holstein and supreme champion cow out of 2,300 head.”
He said his main goal is to breed quality cows that can be marketed to any producer.
“I strive for a true-type cow that has good conformation, good milk production and longevity,” he said.
Added Jessica: “I think what makes us unique is the partnership that we have. Michael’s focus is on the cows and my focus has now become more the business side of it and how can we become more profitable. We play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and that’s what makes us a good team.”
Last year was a milestone year for the couple, being one of three finalists nominated for Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers. They called it a positive experience that they will never forget.
“Unreal,” said Michael.
“Win, lose or draw, you meet awesome people in the farming industry…. Everybody’s situation is so unique.”
Added Jessica: “It’s (OYF) opened some other network doors for not just dairy industry stuff, so it’s helped.”
The experience has also reinforced and encouraged them to continue welcoming visitors to their farm.
“We do a lot of school tours here on farm,” Jessica said.
“We try to be good advocates for not only the dairy industry but agriculture in general.”
Their close proximity to a major urban centre has helped them become part of Ag in the Classroom.
They hosted several classrooms of students last year from Kindergarten to Grade 8, as well as two busloads of adults from Switzerland on an agricultural tour of Western Canada.
“We really enjoy teaching people where their food comes from,” said Jessica.
Added Michael: “It’s an eye opener for kids… Some of them have no idea where the milk comes from.”
They’ve discovered that their daughters are excellent representatives of the farm, and their involvement during the tours is the best way to teach others, particularly other children.
“If our kids are home (from school) they’ll prep the cow and put the milker on and they’ll show the school kids,” said Michael.
Watching their young ambassadors at work only adds to the wholesomeness that comes from a farming life, he said.
“I don’t think there’s a better place that they can grow up than on the farm because they get a little bit of everything. Some days growing up on the farm you don’t get all the extra activities that maybe you want to because there’s chores that need to be done, but on the other hand, I think a little bit of hard work never hurts a kid.”
Added Jessica: “They learn responsibility and we all learn co-operation. We value our family time together and chores count as family time.”