On the Farm: The choice to farm came naturally for Danny and Diane Kotylak, but starting up wasn’t without obstacles
CANDIAC, Sask. — It all started with a birthday gift — a quarter of land.
Danny Kotylak knew he’d be a farmer early in life. With his grandmother gifting him his first quarter section, one-half cultivated and one-half pasture, it was like destiny came calling.
“After that, my parents gave me six Simmental heifers to start my own cattle herd,” said the 56-year-old mixed farmer, who now has a herd of more than 200 cattle.
Danny’s wife, Diane, has a similar story. She too grew up on a mixed farm knowing that rural living was a must in any of her future plans.
“My mom and dad had three girls so we had to work on the farm, which was uncommon for the area as most families had boys in the family who did the majority of the farm work,” said Diane, adding that she always loved the farm.
When Danny and Diane married in 1988, the choice to farm came naturally. However, setting up their own operation came with obstacles as the couple bought more land and expanded their cattle herd.
Danny and Diane fondly recall when they bought three bred cows just for Diane.
“Only two of three calves survived and Diane ended up having to bottle feed one. Of course, that calf became our pet and would even come in the house,” laughed Danny.
The couple now farm 1,200 acres of cropland and 750 acres of pasture and hay land. Their two grown children, Brent and Candice, are still integral parts of the farm but both pursued off-farm careers.
“They still come to the farm often to help so we try to schedule working with the cattle on weekends or their days off so they can help us out,” said Diane.
“Both of the kids have considered farming, however, it is not easy for young farmers to get into the industry and there isn’t much land available in our area.”
While the senior Kotylaks know they have chosen the right lifestyle for them, they have witnessed some difficult times in the farming industry. The COVID-19 outbreak has come with its own challenges, including plummeting cattle prices. They believe the market will recover, and they try to focus on the factors they can control.
“We are calving during COVID-19, as are many producers, so that requires us to stay home, which is the positive side of this situation for us,” said Danny.
The Kotylaks currently have more than 80 calves. Among those are numerous sets of twins that require more intensive care. Danny checks the cows around the clock and will often stop the more aggressive twin from feeding to allow the weaker of the pair to suckle.
“The cows decide what you do that day. It can be anything from watching for new calves to feeding or fixing fences,” said Danny, adding that the biggest challenge he has faced in the last several years is a lack of feed.
“We have not had good production years for feed as we only have about 400 acres to produce enough feed for all of our cattle for the entire year.”
Despite the challenges, Danny and Diane love their choice of careers and wouldn’t change.
“The best part about farming is the flexible schedule and being your own boss,” said Diane. “We also love our cows and we know them all. Each has its own personality and every single one is unique.”