A central Alberta couple that runs a dairy farm was named the 2020 Outstanding Young Farmers for the Alberta/N.W.T region and will go on to compete for the national title.
Roelof and Mary van Benthem, of Benthem Dairy Ltd. in Spruce View, were chosen to represent the region on Friday at a Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer’ Program event at Holiday Inn & Suites, Red Deer South, in Gasoline Alley.
Mary van Benthem said they were proud and honoured to be recognized by the program that brings all farming sectors together to prepare for the future, to recognize and educate each other.
“As dairy farmers, we feed our own animals off our own crops. We have access to information from grain farmers. They are so knowledgeable. We get to talk to them,” van Benthem said.
Van Benthem Dairy has 840 acres, along with 120 milk cows and 150 young stock. The farm strives for quality milk production by taking great care of their livestock and ensuring traceability and biosecurity.
In late 2018, the dairy replaced its milking parlour system with two automated milking robots that provides information to help with herd management, herd health, and milk quality.
She said it’s European technology that is becoming more common in Canada. Cows are trained to access the robots that will clean and milk them whenever they decide they want to be milked.
“It’s a much healthier option for them because they can get milked as often as they want to get milked. All the cows have access 24/7.”
She said the farm also has an automated feed system, so cows always have access to fresh feed, and an automatic cow brush that helps cows stay clean and allows them to get their back scratched whenever they want.
Karilynn Marshall, executive director with the Outstanding Young Farmers Program for Alberta/N.W.T., said young farmers are coming out of colleges and universities keen to apply new technology.
“The technical details in today’s agriculture just blows your mind. Farming isn’t farming anymore. It’s a science,” Marshall said.
Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ Program is celebrating its 40th year and is an annual competition to recognize farmers who exemplify excellence and promote the contribution of agriculture.
Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, they must make the majority of their income from on-farm sources, and are selected from seven regions across Canada. Two national winners are chosen each year, this year in Saskatoon in December.