The Dairy that Strives to be Different
When a person hears the words ‘dairy farm’ one of the first things that comes to mind is probably the signature black and white Holstein dairy cattle.
But as you walk on the property of Primrose Farms, there isn’t a purebred Holstein cow in sight. Primrose Farms is one of the only Fleckvieh dairy farms in Alberta and that is something that they are very proud of.
The Fleckvieh breed originates from Lower Bavaria, Germany and they are known for their use as a dual-purpose breed, which makes them suitable for both milk and meat production.
Cornel and Cremona both grew up on family farms in Alberta: Cornel in the beef and grain industry, and Cremona in the dairy, beef, and grain industries. Unlike their farm now, Cremona grew up with Holstein Dairy cattle, but once they started their own dairy together, their financials were just not making sense, “On 25 cows in our herd we spent too much money on pharmaceuticals and veterinary services, and we thought that there has to be a better way to do this.” On the beef farm that Cornel was raised on they bred a Simmental cross, and in Switzerland Simmental cattle are occasionally used for milk production as well. “If we could find a hardier animal like the Simmental, they would do much better.”
So, in May 2004 after they finished reading an article in a FarmShow magazine about a farmer in Manitoba that was crossing his Holsteins with Fleckvieh, they decided to give that a try. They contacted the company that was importing the genetics, it was sent on a Grey Hound bus and they have never looked back. “As soon as the calves started to hit the ground, they were stronger and more robust and we were just so happy about it.” Cornel and Cremona also saw that their farm economics started to improve, “with the Fleckvieh you have a dual purpose animal, you’re not just limited to the income coming from the milk production, but you also have the ability to have a good income from beef production as well. The longevity of the animal also improves, they are just a more balanced and natural animal.”
At Primrose Farms, they milk about 100 cows but have about 250 head in total. They raise all their own calves on the farm as well. The females are kept, joining the milking herd once they are old enough and the males are grown as beef animals. Usually in the beef industry, male calves are castrated if they aren’t going to be used as breeding stock; Here on Primrose Farms they leave the males intact so they can use their natural ability to grow.
Because they leave their males calves intact, they don’t use any hormones to facilitate growth. They also don’t use any hormones on their milking cows either. Primrose Farms allow their cattle to naturally come into heat. The only hormone they would use once in a blue moon, is oxytocin, this is commonly used to encourage a first lactation heifer to drop her milk, as they can be a little nervous.
Animal welfare is very important to Cornel and Cremona, they both want a low stress lifestyle for all the animals on the farm. The milking barn is a loafing barn layout, which allows the cows to roam freely. They have specific areas designated for feeding, milking, water and a big open area for the cows to lay down and relax.
In January 2011, there was a major technology change on the farm; they started milking with robots. Since the addition of the robots Cornel and Cremona have both noticed a more flexible work schedule. This flexibility has allowed them to pursue more enterprises, like eggs, chickens and pigs; there are also a few friendly geese and ducks on the property! Since this flexibility allowed them to pursue more of what they wanted to do, in 2016 they got a processing license and there first batch of pasteurized milk was made.
Since that first batch they have branched out into whole milk, yogurt, kefir, chocolate milk, eggnog and now ice cream! Soon in 2018, they will expand with grass fed butter and sour cream. They also grade and clean all their own eggs. The meat from their chickens, pigs and cows that aren’t used for milk production is all custom processed off the farm.
With the Fleckvieh animals it has led to more visitors on the farm, and Cornel and Cremona have a full open-door policy. Both Cornel and Cremona are very passionate about farming, and they both love to express their passion for the industry. “There is so much disconnect between the consumer and farmer, we have no problem filling that gap and showing the public how much we love and care for our animals.”
Since Cornel and Cremona market their own product to sell, as well sell it in a few select stores throughout Alberta, they cherish the relationships that they make with their consumers. “We want consumers to have a relationship and to know the farmer that is producing their food, instead of just relying on a label.”
If you are interested in learning more about Primrose Farms check out their website at http://www.primrosefarms.co