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Kerrie’s Canadian Adventure (part 1)

October 30, 2015

I am Kerrie Brown from Florencecourt in Co. Fermanagh and am studying BSc Agricultural Technology with Professional Studies which is a course joined between Queens University Belfast and CAFRE Greenmount. I began the course in 2013 and spent the first two years in Greenmount mainly learning the theory around agriculture but there are practical aspect to the degree also, working on the college farms.

I have chosen to do the 1 year placement in my third year before going into final year at Queens. I have decided to split my year out and am currently doing 6 months on a dairy farm in Canada before returning home to a different placement for the next 6 months in Northern Ireland.

The farm I am on is Bally Bright Farms which is owned by William and Vicky Morrison. The Morrison family moved from Waringstown, County Down in 2007 to a dairy farm in Bright, Ontario and then moved again in 2013 to the current farm in south western Ontario close to the city of Windsor at the U.S/Canada border.

I am from a suckler to beef, and sheep farm in Northern Ireland, so I decided to go and work on a dairy farm to experience a sector of agriculture that I am less familiar with.

Bally Bright Farms, is set on around 300 workable acres, which are planted in maize (corn) and an alfalfa/grass mix.  The farm has around 200kg butterfat/day of milk quota, and currently is milking around 155 cows to fill this.  When the farm was acquired it needed substantial revamping, and so the heifers are housed on a neighbouring farm.  By early 2016, all the livestock should be accommodated on the premises.  The animals are all on a total confinement system, due to the extremes of climate here in Ontario, where winter temps can get down to -20°C, and as high as 40°C in the summer, often with 90% humidity.

The cows are milked in a double 10 parallel, rapid exit Boumatic, twice daily at 5am and 5pm.

Cows are fed a total mixed ration, with the majority of the forage portion as corn (maize) silage, which yields around 20t/acre at 60% dry matter.  To balance this low protein, high energy feed, alfalfa, a leguminous forage which will produce hay type feed at around 20% protein, is fed.  At Bally Bright Farms, a 50:50 mixture of grass and alfalfa is grown to get the best of both worlds – if it is a wet season the grasses will prevail, but in a dry season alfalfa will cope better. 4 cuts are taken of this annually, usually starting late May and the last cut during September. This forage mixture is ensiled just like grass silage in Northern Ireland, but care must be taken to ensure the crop has dried sufficiently, as alfalfa is a “woodier” forage than grass and so requires longer drying times.

This alfalfa/grass mix is fed at a 33:66 ratio with corn (maize) silage with 6.5kg of a protein based supplement.  The highest producing cows get a top-up of 1kg/day.  The 155 milking cows are averaging 37kg/day at 4.00% butterfat and 3.4% protein.  Right now that fills the daily milk quota, and the “incentive days” or extra quota days that are given out in times of extra demand.

In Essex county, where the farm is situated, there are only 11 milk producers, and all the milk produced there is used by a local cheese factory in Windsor, which mainly produces mozzarella cheese.

At the time of writing, I have been here over 4 months and I have really enjoyed my time so far. It has been a great learning experience building on what I have studied in my course and it has been interesting to compare farming here to farming in Northern Ireland.

DSC04489Inside the barn at Bally Bright DSC05279Harvesting 3rd Cut, August 2015 DSC06015Getting the girls milked                        DSC04881Mowing 2nd cut alfalfa/haylage in a 60 acre field

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Warm Christmas Wishes from Bally Bright

December 22, 2010

Christmas 2010 is almost upon us, and again I’m sitting at my computer trying to squeeze a year at Bally Bright onto a page.  As usual it has been busy here, so this will definitely be the edited highlights!!  We started off 2010 with a trip to the sun, to escape the Canadian winter, and met up with my sister and her family in Newport Beach, California. A wonderful time was had by all, and the children most definitely enjoyed their trip To Disney Land and Legoland.  While the adults just enjoyed catching up, oh yes and the “Cheesecake Factory”! Spring brought better weather and a chance for Scott and Jane to explore the new outside toys that Jane had got for her 2nd birthday.  They had such fun in the playhouse, having picnics at the picnic table, and driving the school bus!  Scott even finally got his trampoline, now that the yard was tidy enough to put it in. Next thing we knew, our spring helper, Erwin had arrived and it was time to start cultivating to get ready for planting corn.  It didn’t take Erwin long to acquaint himself with the 7810, or for Scott to find his new driver.  An extremely good spring had almost all the corn planted by 1st week in May.  Just as well as May turned out to be a very busy month, with corn planted, 1st cut silage and our first crop of edible beans all planted by the middle of May.  It really was all hands to the pump, fortunately we had extra help with William’s Mum and Dad here for a visit.  We also introduced Erwin to the joys of milking cows!!    2010 will be remembered as a very hot and humid summer here in Ontario, and the cows were very glad of the sprinklers that we installed last summer.  Sometimes it was tempting as a person to go and stand under them, they help to keep the cows more comfortable and reduce the risks from heat stress, something that was never a problem in NI!!  We even managed to get the gardens around the new house started this year, and I’m sure they will be an ongoing project. The humid weather made for excellent growing conditions all summer.  Canadians like to see the corn knee high by the first of July, well ours was Scott high by 1st July!!  It all culminated with an early corn harvest during the 1st week of September, when again we were lucky to have extra help when my Mum and Dad came to visit.  We also harvested the cranberry beans that week, with a bumper crop of over 1.6t/acre.    Scott started back to school, and is now in Grade 2, and Jane continues to go to daycare a couple of days a week, just to give the eyes in the back of my head a break!!  All too soon it was Halloween again and time for us to carve our first family of pumpkins, we had such fun, so who is who?           As yet the winter weather has not arrived, but I’m hoping that Santa’s sleigh will have snow to arrive on, as we actually missed the snow last year!!  Thanks to all who continue to correspond with us, and I promise to have the blog up to date by the time Christmas comes around.  As usual I am stopped by the lack of paper, so Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2011 from all at Bally Bright.  

Scott is 7

December 22, 2010

Where does the time go?  It seems no time since he was a wee tiny baby for his first Christmas, and now here he is 7 years old, and a big independant boy.  He is such a fun loving child, and lives life to the full every day.  We had a great time going to Montana’s and getting him the Moose horns for his birthday!!

Cultivating and ploughing

December 22, 2010

November is the usual battle with the weather to get all the field work done before the frost.  This year with all the combining done early we ahd lots of time, but the corn stalks proved a little tough this year, so we had to get creative and use the RTS to chop the stalks enough to go through the plough.  Jane likes to watch too, while Scott is permanently in the buddy seat!!

Spooky, Halloween fun

December 22, 2010

Halloween is big here in Canada, with lots of trick or treating, and almost everyone decorating the homes.  This year, as Jane is now old enough we decided to make a family of pumpkins for the porch.  So Scott and William carefully went and picked the pumpkins from a local farm, and one Sunday afternoon we got busy with ice cream scoopers and knives of various descriptions.  We really did have fun.  The only question is do you know who is who?????

Fill her up for winter

December 22, 2010

October brings the harvest of the corn for high moisture stoage in our concrete silo.  This year we are working with our nieghbours and bringing the corn home using our own grain trailers, a bit slower, but the weather was fantastic, so time was not of the essence.  Scott and William worked hard putting the 200+ tonnes of corn in the silo.

Isn’t it A-MAIZING

December 22, 2010

Only a few days after the beans were harvested, it was time to put the corn silage in the bunker.  Early planting combined with a very humid summer in Ontario laft corn silage harvest about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, with excellent crops.  this year we had planted BMR corn, known for its lower levels of lignin and so greater digestibility for the cows.  It does however have a slightly lower yield potential, and so to compensate for this we planted the corn at 15″ row spacings instead of teh usual of 30″.  Veldale Farms were again harvesting with their Claas 870, and EVert was packing bunk with his monster Case tractor.  I think Dad really enjoyed his spin on that one, leather seats and all in it.  Willie got to really give our new New Holland telehandler a run, and as usual there would be no show without Scott riding shotgun with Willie C……. is there anybody I’ve missed ….. oh yes, Mum and I were busy feeding the hoards in the kitchen, and Jane was jsut looking pretty – I think I’d like that job!!!!