Fighting for dairy quota called monthly battle

Ontario farmers say they are having a hard time finding extra quota to accommodate the ups and downs of butterfat production

Dairy farmers in Canada who wish to expand are finding it tough to find extra butterfat quota.

William and Vicky Morrison with their son Scott, 15, and daughter Jane, 11, milk 180 cows on their farm just outside Woodslee, Ont.

With a milk price averaging 75 cents per litre, dairy farming is paying the bills for the Morrisons but expansion is difficult under the supply managed system.

“We moved to this farm in October 2013 after buying it as a bankruptcy,” said Vicky. “It was in a state but it came with 178 kilograms of daily butterfat quota and land was cheaper than at our previous farm, which only had 115 kg of quota attached.”

After buying two neighbouring farms, totalling 165 acres, the Morrisons then had to update the milking equipment and manure handling facilities.

“We now farm 300 acres and have almost 250 kg of daily butterfat quota,” said Vicky. “There are 180 registered Holstein milking cows, with 40 dry cows and 190 young stock.

“With the quota we have to produce the same amount of milk per day, so we try to calve 18 to 25 cows per month to keep cow numbers and therefore milk supply consistent.”

The Morrisons would like to increase their daily quota but it is proving difficult because quota is hard to find.

“There are plans afoot to increase the size of our heifer and dry cow barn and to add more quota. Our farm is capable of producing 300 kg of butterfat per day and that is our goal.

“Quota is really hard to get right now. We bid every month and can only get about 0.5 kg per month,” added Vicky.

As well, she said uncertainties over trade deals have dampened many expansion plans.

She said milk producers must find ways to boost local milk consumption and so lessen the need for Canadian producers to export lower class dairy products, which is disallowed under the latest North American trade agreement.

Canadian dairy farmers must produce their butterfat quota level per day. If they fall short, they can gather under-credits, which can be used later. Currently, farmers can hold up to 30 credits, but this is being reduced to 15 in 2021. With over-credits, when farmers overproduce they are permitted to only go over 10 days.

At the Morrison farm, cows are milked twice per day in a double 10 DeLaval parallel parlour with Maestro cabinets. They average 36 litres at four percent butterfat and 3.25 percent protein.

“William is actually a trained DeLaval technician so this is a huge advantage to us. The equipment has a low service cost and is relatively quiet. Our somatic cell count is always low around 45,000 to 90,000. The milk all goes to Dairy Farmers of Ontario for use in cheese making.

“All the milking cows are kept indoors but we hope to let the dry cows out to pasture later this year when we get paddocks sorted out,” she said.

Robots are becoming popular in Ontario but the nearest dealer to the Morrisons farm is about two hours away.

“The biggest problem we face here is that any main suppliers for dairy equipment are quite far away,” said Vicky. “There are only eight dairy farms here in Essex County and nine in neighbouring Kent.

“High temperatures and humidity are also concerns in this area so we have to use fans in the livestock lying areas to cool the cows down and to try and keep flies away.”

William and Vicky hope their son Scott will eventually decide to farm and are glad both their children are heavily involved with agricultural activities.

“Both kids help out with the farm chores during the week,” said Vicky. “Scott milks the cows and Jane feeds calves. Scott is heavily involved in all farming activities and is investigating dairy farming related studies for when he leaves high school.

“The kids are also heavily involved in 4-H in Essex County with Scott on the senior out-of -county team and Jane on the junior one. They do a lot of showing with calves, which gives them both excellent experience and bonds them with the animals.

“Therefore it is our aim to build up a decent dairy herd that hopefully some day Scott will want to take over and run himself,” added Vicky.

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