Dairy Farming on Vancouver Island

Words by Jennifer Sieffert
Photos by Jenn Dykstra

Happy Cow Dairy, farm to table.

 


 

My husband Kyle and I grew up in the Comox Valley, both of us lovingly raised on the family farms started by our grandparents in the 1960s—Knopp’s Dairy Farm and Sieffert’s Farm. And we now have a dairy farm of our own—Happy Cow Dairy in Qualicum Beach. Purchased with the help of Kyle’s family in 2015, it’s the first new farm in many years to be purchased on Vancouver Island that was not associated with an already existing farm, or passed down from generation to generation.

For our families, farming isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle.

As dairy producers in B.C., we are held to some of the highest standards for milk production, transport, and processing found anywhere in the world. Our milk is stored in a cooled tank and picked up every second day by the milk truck. At pick-up, it must be cooler than 5 degrees. They take a sample before it’s put into the truck tank and that sample is kept cold and tested back at the milk plant. If there is a trace amount of cow treatment, or anything that doesn’t meet the quality milk standards, it gets dumped.

This daily work is our joy and our routine. An average day on the farm consists of getting up at 4:30am to milk the cows, followed by feeding the calves, young stock, and milk cows, as well as cleaning their stalls, all before breakfast at 9:30-10am We’re then back out for daily chores and farm maintenance until the second feeding at 3pm, followed by a second milking at 4pm. One more feeding for the calves, and then it’s in for dinner about 7pm. As evening falls, we’re not done yet, as we tuck the cows in about 9:30-10pm, push up their feed, and then it’s off to bed for us as well.

We are currently milking approximately 64 cows and have 150 on the farm, including calves, heifers (teenaged cows), and their mothers. All the cows on our farm have names and are known better by their name than their number, as they act more like pets. When family and friends come to visit, they get to meet the cow that was named after them. Walking through the barn doing chores seems to take longer than it should, as you are usually being nudged and rubbed up against, as the girls want to be scratched or played with. In the summer months, all pregnant cows go out to the field to have their babies, and once they have calved, we walk them and baby back to the barn. We are not the only ones who care; all cows in B.C. are monitored regularly to ensure good health, as only healthy cows produce optimal amounts of milk. Growth hormones such as BST or rBGH are not legal in Canada and therefore not permitted for use with dairy cows.

We must not only maintain provincial standards for quality milk production, but also for clean premises. This includes all milking equipment, milking procedures, the milking parlour and barn. Everywhere the cows go must be kept clean, well-maintained, and is subject to regular inspection.

All the milk that is produced on Vancouver Island is used to make the milk that you buy in-store, by either the Dairyland milk plant in Courtenay, or the Island Farms milk plant in Victoria. Most of our milk goes to Dairyland, and it’s also used exclusively by BoMé cheese in Qualicum. Treat yourself and check them out!

Our business, our lives, and our memories are mapped out on our family farms. Kyle remembers sitting and even napping on the side of the tractor with his grandfather, and I recall afternoons spent with family, running through the greenhouses, making mud pies and riding the tractor. Now that we have our own farm, we are able to share this lifestyle with our 5-month-old son Caleb and we hope he makes fond memories like ours. His first stop when home from the hospital was in the milking parlour to see dad and meet all the girls. One of the special things about creating our dream is to have had Kyle’s grandfather, at 88 and 89 years old, work side by side with us. He’s mowed and baled every crop, cleaned up the fields by excavator, and was always there to lend a hand.

It is very important to us that people know where their food comes from. If you’re curious or want to know more, we welcome you to get in touch. We would be happy to show you around and let you meet all the girls.

Every day on the farm isn’t always glamorous, but we wouldn’t change it for the world.




Category: Volume 12