Sustainable Farm Practices at Lakeside Dairy

September 7th, 2012

Our farm uses a lot of new technologies to help us be more efficient. We are large enough to provide four fulltime, non-family employees with really good careers, and we are proud to have long term relationships with our workers. We also rely on contributions from six family members to keep things running smoothly.

Like your family pets, our cows need attention, food and water every day. On our farm we have almost 400 animals, not including our cats and dogs. Between 170 and 180 are milking cows and the rest are babies, youth, or cows that are resting up before having new calves and starting their cycle in the milking barn. The cows that require the most constant attention are the girls that are making milk. Our system is referred to as a Voluntary Milking System, and each cow wears a tag that helps us monitor her activity. Cows enter the milking station on their own schedules and the process is automated from that point on but we will step in to ensure that every cow has been milked recently. By utilizing reports generated during milking, individual cows can be monitored to help us maintain very high levels of health and efficiency in our milking herd.

High quality forage is essential to maximize the efficiency and production of the dairy and approximately one third of our land is used to grow feed for our cows. The rest is used to grow cash crops like canola for oil and wheat for bread. The most unique crop we grow is seed potatoes and all of our potato production ends up supplying seed that is required to grow potatoes for french fries or fresh table markets.

Something we use on our fields is clean, recycled drywall. The sulfate in the drywall decreases the pH of the manure, reducing ammonia and greenhouse gas by up to 90% or as much as 3000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent annually. When this mixture is spread on the land, it adds sulfate and calcium, and retains nitrogen, all of which are nutrients plants need to grow. Moreover, this diverts over 800 tonnes of clean drywall scrap from the landfill annually, providing a local urban company with a business opportunity in drywall recycling.

Cropping and animal agriculture fit well together for many reasons. We can share staff and equipment and even more importantly we can utilize by-products from the animals to maximize the efficient use of nutrients. We are very mindful of the finite supply of natural resources that are required for farmers to feed the world’s seven billion people. Considerable efforts are made to understand the bio system we live in, what our role is as food producers and our responsibility as consumers of energy and resources.

Finally, Lakeside Dairy hosts University of Alberta dairy science students on our farm every year to discuss nutrition, animal health and strategies that reduce the footprint of dairy farming on the environment.

I take pride in our efforts of sustainable farming practices and efficiently supplying high quality food for everyone to enjoy.

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