2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Casehill Farms. Starting in 1969 as a small mixed herd, Graeme Little with his son Steve, had worked up to a 45 head herd by the time Steve finished high school.
Rebirth and Growth
After a barn fire in 1996, Steve and Graeme made the decision to rebuild and upgrade the facilities. With the help of an external advisor making recommendations on feed management strategies and the future direction of the farm, the Littles built a 156 stall, 4 row sand bedded free stall with a centre feed alley, and purchased a TMR trailer for feed delivery instead of keeping with the conveyor system that had been used in the old barn.
Today, Casehill Farms has more than tripled in size, milking just over 130 cows and filling 200 kilograms of quota. The third generation of farmers – sons Doug, Mike, Jon and Russ – each play an integral role in the operation of the farm and are the drivers behind plans to keep expanding the farm.
There is still a push to increase production while maintaining body condition and keeping reproduction goals in mind. A recent switch to 3X milking has increased average milk and dropped their somatic cell count by 20%. In response to increased quota holdings, “our goals have changed as far as fat production moving from 150 kg to 200 kg,” says Doug. “We're focusing more on kilos of butterfat per head, and we can better manage our stocking density.” They are currently operating at just over 80% stocking density, a benefit in itself because of the impact on cow comfort, resulting in more eating, drinking and lying space.
All Hands on Deck
Having so many (all!) sons interested in farming, Steve has long been in expansion mode. “I managed with most of the day-to-day labour while they were in school, but there was always someone around to help,” says Steve, explaining that the boys would help after school. With everyone home now, they are working on fine-tuning every aspect of the farm with everyone sharing milking and crop work, and each son taking on a specific role.
When asked what they’re most proud of Steve mentions being “able to support the whole family and get along. We’re self-sufficient.” Russ, finishing his last semester of high-school doing a co-op placement on the home farm, is the resident welder. He and Steve do most of the mechanical and maintenance work, with Steve also responsible for hoof trimming and calf chores. “We can do most things ourselves and make good use of our
labour,” Steve adds.
Reaching a production average of almost 35 litres with a 4.3% butterfat and 3.15% milk protein has been due, in part, to feeding a consistent, balanced ration and making use of some of Shur-Gain/ Trouw Nutrition’s technologies. Their decision to include RM104 in the ration has increased feed efficiency, and the inclusion of toxin binders was a valuable decision in response to the toxin stresses in this year’s feed. Following a ration balanced with Newton® software has given the family “more confidence in the ration. Before (our switch to Shur-Gain), we were questioning things, but since getting this new ration going milk has gone up significantly,” notes Doug. Crediting a one-group dry cow TMR that was suggested years ago, cows are calving in strong, impacting peak milk and wholelactation performance.
Better quality forage production is another key focus area. Mike takes a lead role in harvest, and the family works hard to get haylage and corn silage off at prime maturity and moisture. year they’ve added a driveover pile to increase corn silage inventories. A third of the 500 acres is allotted to corn silage and knowing that the cows milk better when fed a longer-fermented (hence more digestible) feed, they have planned corn silage inventories to have a few-months of carryover, which allows new crop corn silage some months to ferment before it’s used in the ration. The remaining acreage is planted to grain corn and hay, harvesting most of the alfalfa as haylage and the grass-alfalfa mixtures as dry hay.
What does the future have in store? Four boys interested in a dairy future means growth. The Littles are continuing to bid on quota and grow their milking herd. They are buying land and plan on tile draining more of the current acreage. It’s a lot of work and a lot of growth, but the passion the Littles have for the industry is as evident as their marked drive to succeed.