Got Milk? From Hipsters To Holsteins

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It seems the county is becoming more and more diversified. Where once we were a quite, rural, pastoral, off the beaten path backwater, today we are the “it” destination. We are a place for hipsters, craft wine, beer & cider, local food, arts & culture and so much more.

Got Milk?

Another local beverage that doesn’t get much attention is milk. Now when I think of cows and farms I think of old school farming, milking by hand or perhaps my machine. Like so many other things today farming and the dairy industry is changing. Enter Lee Nurse and family of Nurseland farms. Lee and his family had a vision, to sell their traditional 35 cow dairy farm in Halton Hills and go high tech, become super efficient using the latest in milking and diary technology to maximize production and keep labour and therefore some costs to a minimum.

Keeping it in the Family

They also wanted to keep the farm operation tight to immediate family and perhaps some part time farm hands. (Full disclosure, my son who is in high school is one of the part time farm hands). This is 2016 and Lee also didn’t want to be tied to the farm, he wanted some flexibility. He wanted to be able to get away from the farm once in a while and have the opportunity to go see one of his daughter’s in a school event or heck maybe even take his wife out for dinner. Lee and his wife are young, in their thirties and his three daughters ages range from a baby to preschool.

A Mooove Towards Technology

Enter the high tech world of dairy operations. Lee and his family and the bank have invested heavily in a cow friendly modern milking operation that is quite incredible. The cows roam freely within designated areas of the barn, they are trained to walk into a milking stall, where through sensors, a computer knows that specific cow, the milking robot custom fits the milker to each cow and milks it. The computer system monitors the milk production as well as the health of the cow and after each milking the robot is steam sterilized and ready for the next cow. A digital report is made after each milking of each cow.

There is a compost bed, where the cows can lie down and chill out. There is another area where the cow manure is cleaned by automation and there is this giant Roomba (that robotic disk shaped vacuum cleaner) like robot that pushes the feed closer to the cows for easy reach and comfort of eating. These are more of the labour saving devices.

A Business and Lifestyle Investment

The operation, while expensive is a long term investment for Lee and his family in Prince Edward County and in farming. It also creates a sustainable model, with increased yields, lower labour costs and the flexibility to not have to manually manage the farming operations as much. Now the focus can be shifted on managing the business of farming. Nurseland has plans to grow from 68 cows to 90 or so in the next few years. Their capacity is 100. They plan to acquire more quota over time and as profitability allows.

I asked Lee, why Prince Edward County. He said he was looking elsewhere in places like Arthur and Brantford but those places were quite a bit more expensive. He has family in the area and a farming operation came up for sale on Danforth Road in Hillier during his search. Lee indicated that the value here is much better than most others places in Ontario, which allows him to achieve better returns on his business. So it was a good investment

Great Neighbours

The bonus is that the community and farming community in particular has been really welcoming and helpful. His neighbour Scott Simpson has been incredibly helpful especially with the new barn build. Lee’s not sure how he could have done it all without Scott’s help. While this has been a busy year for Lee with work, he is looking forward to raising his young family here. The automation makes it easier for his wife who is already a tremendous help with the farm and his three girls to become as involved with the dairy as they want to over time.

While it’s great to see places like the Drake Devonshire make the county more hip, it’s also wonderful to see young farmers coming to the county and investing and innovating with tomorrow’s technology today. Got Milk? Cheers.

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  1. Janet Davies

    Hey Dan – this is a great piece. Someone suggested this family as a possible County Magazine story. They couldn’t remember the name so I Googled and found your website!
    QUESTIONS: If I do write them up can I use a quote or two from this and credit you? Also who took the photo? it’s FAB.
    Let me know? Thanks!
    Hope to see you soon – probably at Blizzmax
    cheers Janet

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