Big Moves, Big Challenges
As a teenager Joel Stam got a job on a local dairy farm. During this time, he learned how to manage a dairy farm and eventually had the opportunity to take it over. “The challenge for me, with the farm in BC, was that it was just the farm as is,” Joel says. “There was no affordable land available to support expanding the herd, and you ended up buying feed and hay from Alberta and Washington, it was more like a chicken farm than dairy.”
In late 2011, Joel and Mandy sold his farm in BC and on January 1, 2012 they purchased the farm in Ontario and moved their family there. Joel continued to work with the previous owner over a four month period of transition to learn how to best manage it as he didn’t have a lot of experience with a tie stall dairy operation.
In September 2017, about five years after purchasing the farm, the tie stall barn and all but four cows were lost in a barn fire. “I decided at 1:50am the next day that I was going to rebuild,” Joel says. “I like a challenge.”
With an interest in technology and automation, Joel quickly added an automated conveyor feeding system in the tie stall barn. In the summer of 2017 he invested more heavily in the feeding system to maximize profitability.
With a new barn build, Joel has been able to incorporate his love of technology into the barn design and the equipment in it. “I didn’t know how much automation I could do,” Joel notes. Their new barn, which the cows moved into on December 11, includes two robots (Lely A5 Astronaut), automatic brushes, three Lely Discovery 120 manure collectors, and a Lely Vector.
Today, half of the milking herd is heifers that were in a different barn at the time of the barn fire and have calved since, while the other half has mostly been sourced over a period of time through Walker Dairy. Around 70% of the animals he is currently milking are heifers. Joel describes the transition to a robotic system as “calm.”
Eagle Lee Farm uses Newton® to balance all of the herd’s rations. The calves are fed Optivia® Milk Replacer and 22% Rapid Gain calf starter. The younger heifers are fed Optivia 18% Heifer Ration and the older heifers are on Optivia Heifer mineral. The milking cows are fed the Shur-Gain 19% Probotic Dairy Ration, along with a custom premix balanced in Newton. The dairy herd uses the Shur-Gain technology of RM104 and Selko® Vivalto®. This herd was also one of the first in Ontario to use Vivalto in the dry cow ration.
Even though Joel’s been in the new barn for less than six months, he’s already planned ahead and is prepared for a future expansion. When building the barn, he wanted to design it so that he could easily grow in the future. The barn has room for four robots and the building site would allow for an expansion to add more stalls. His goal is 10% growth annually, which would add his third robot in 2022.
"I like dairy farming because of the challenges, whether it's working in the field, being a mechanic in the shop, spending time in the office with bookkeeping or working with the animals in the barn," Joel says. “I also like that it’s a home based profession, never having to commute and always being home working with the family.”