Dairy students want the best and they’re finding it at Lakeland
Lakeland College students delve into what it takes to lead in the dairy industry. As the second dairy Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland (SMF) unit to ever learn and work in Lakeland’s new Dairy Learning Centre, these animal science technology students agree their education is exceeding their expectations.
“Lakeland is renowned across Canada as one of the best schools for agriculture,” says Ron Eggenberger, who hails from a purebred sheep operation near Kleefeld, Man., and is the dairy SMF unit’s calf manager. “It’s completely different here with the new Dairy Learning Centre and everything else on the Student-Managed Farm – you don’t get anything like this anywhere else. One of the big advantages that we have here is that the technology is phenomenal.”
Opened in 2017, the Dairy Learning Centre features state-of-the-art-technology in robotic and conventional milking and feeding systems that allows students to explore both styles of production. “With all of the technology here you really get a sense of what is currently in industry,” says Jodie Stoker, the dairy SMF unit’s genetics manager from Deroche, B.C.
The facility also features a Lely Vector automatic feeding system, three group-house calf rooms – two of which use automatic milk feeding systems – and dairy management software, including DeLaval’s Herd Navigator that tests progesterone levels in milk and monitors lactate dehydrogenase.
“The Herd Navigator gives us a lot of information. For instance, it notifies you that the cow has a health issue before they even show physical signs of it,” says Jonathan Lange, the dairy SMF unit leader who came to Lakeland from Dufresene, Man.
With guidance from faculty and farm staff, the dairy SMF unit manages 120 lactating cows, which are part of a 290-head herd. Students are involved with managing heifers, herd health visits with the vet, milking, nutritional consultant visits, sustainability management, genetic selection, hoof trimming and more.
“You get to work with the animals a lot, but the biggest advantage about this program is that it helps build your confidence, which is really important as a producer,” says Lange.
The unit is making great strides in achieving their goal to improve the production, health and longevity of the herd through genetic advancements by using the technologies available in the Dairy Learning Centre. Elevate, a new genomic testing system that provides DNA test results from tissue samples, allows the students to see the genetic ranking of each cow in the herd.
“There are so many tiny details that you could miss that might bring a lot of dollars back to your business and operation – I’m really learning the complexity of dairy farming here,” says Jordan Bruins, the unit’s public relations manager. His family farm is near Tees, Alta.
The dairy SMF unit also made a significant purchase this year to improve the herd’s genetics: Chubanna Armani Marawa. Purchased from a Lakeland alumnus, Andrew Wildeboer, Class of 2001 herd health technology, the cow comes from Chubanna Holsteins. To initiate this purchase, the unit put together a proposal for the dean of agricultural sciences to approve that covered profit margins, expenditures such as transportation and feed costs, potential risks and more.
“It really makes you think about what goes into making a smart decision when purchasing an animal and by purchasing this cow, we can quickly improve the genetics of our herd,” says Stoker.
With 11 students from across Canada on the dairy SMF unit this year, learning to effectively work and communicate as a team has been a key lesson for the unit.
“I think we’re all working well together to do new and innovative things on the farm to enhance operations. It definitely prepares you for real life,” says Nicki Meier, the dairy SMF unit’s nutrition manager whose family has a dairy farm near Abbotsford, B.C.
While the opportunity to make six-figure decisions with Lakeland’s award-winning experiential learning model is the main draw for most, the dairy SMF unit praises the college’s comprehensive classroom experience too. “They have some of the best advisors and instructors here, and great curriculum where you are learning a lot of in-depth information,” says Meier.
Beyond gaining valuable experience in the Dairy Learning Centre, members of the dairy SMF unit are finding themselves serving as ambassadors for Lakeland and it’s a role they’ve taken on with pride.
“When I was wearing my Lakeland jacket back in B.C., people recognized that I was from Lakeland,” says Stoker, noting other students were recognized in Manitoba and elsewhere too. “People are always really interested in what we do. It gives us an opportunity to not only promote the college, but agriculture and its advancements in technology today.”
Lakeland dairy fast facts:
- 38 litres is the average herd milk production per cow per day
- Two-day production exceeded 9,000 litres in fall 2018
- Lakeland had its first classified excellent cow in 2018: EX 90 – Vermilion Lauthority Adriana
- Recipient of eight Milk Quality Awards from Alberta Milk
Photos: From the top, there are students from across Canada on this year's dairy SMF unit; (from the left) Jonathan Lange, dairy SMF unit leader, Nicki Meier, dairy SMF unit nutrition manager, and Jordan Bruins, dairy SMF unit public relations manager, check out feed distributed by the the Lely Vector automatic feeder; Jodie Stoker, dairy SMF unit genetics manager, examines a tissue sample that will be processed through Elevate to determine a calf’s genetic ranking; members of the dairy SMF unit monitor the DeLaval Automated Milking System (robotic parlour); and Lange (left) and Andy Borstlap (right), the dairy SMF unit heifer/transition manager, proudly pose with Chubanna Armani Marawa.