Dave and Skye Hamming of Tazo Farms are pictured inside their barn, with roughly 110 cattle behind them. A recently installed DeLeval milking robot, pictured in the background, allows them to do more, with fewer hands. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Dave and Skye Hamming of Tazo Farms are pictured inside their barn, with roughly 110 cattle behind them. A recently installed DeLeval milking robot, pictured in the background, allows them to do more, with fewer hands. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Supply management key to survival of B.C. dairy industry, says Okanagan farmer

Automation, robotic milking; family farms continue to adapt to keep up with the changing times

The next three years are anticipated to bring about much change in Canada’s dairy industry, but for B.C. farmers, that’s nothing new.

For years, farmers have been forced to adapt to an ever-developing industry. For some, it closed the barn doors for good. Others have found the changes beneficial.

A robotic farm is something that sounds like it belong in a sci-fi film, yet for some dairy farmers it’s far from fiction, as they make the switch to more automated methods of production.

Automation allows farmers to do more, with fewer hands. It also allows some smaller players to keep up with the bigger operators.

Now, instead of a farmer milking a cow, it’s done by a fully automated robot.

One by one, cows enter into a small area where a robotic arm cleans and moisturizes the teats, before attaching four pumps. Hundreds of kilometres away a farmer can look at a cell phone and tell which cow is being milked, represented by each quarter (teat).

The system will also notify the farmer of any health-related concerns detected during the milking process.

One family from Falkland, north of Vernon, has made the switch, thanks to a new DeLaval system supplied by J&D Farm Services.

Story continues below.

A DeLaval robotic milker has been installed at Tazo Farms in Falkland, among its many features being the ability to inform farmers of any health-related concerns identified during the milking process. The robot knows which cows have been milked, and prevents animals from being milked too often, or not enough. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

A DeLaval robotic milker has been installed at Tazo Farms in Falkland, among its many features being the ability to inform farmers of any health-related concerns identified during the milking process. The robot knows which cows have been milked, and prevents animals from being milked too often, or not enough. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Family farm adapts

In 2003, Skye and Dave Hamming moved inland alongside Dave’s parents, brother and sister-in-law. They migrated their family farm, Hamming Holsteins, from the Lower Mainland to Vernon, and have since expanded to Falkland where Skye, Dave and their daughters reside.

Together at Tazo Farms in Falkland, they manage roughly 110 dairy cows, producing about 2000 litres of milk a day. The third-generation farming family tends to 500 acres in the Okanagan.

During the busy season, farmers will get up at 4 a.m., and won’t stop working until midnight. It’s a lifestyle not many are willing to live. Dave says most youth growing up on farms nowadays would rather work in the oil industry, as the money is better and the work is more consistent.

However, through an automated system, the Hammings can make a living on their farm and spend time with their family. It has allowed them to refocus on what matters most; family and a diverse childhood for their kids. Skye admitted farmers are workaholics, but said they recently vowed to put family time back in the spotlight.

“If you have to milk 3 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) you will miss your daughter’s basketball, soccer, hockey (game). What do you do? The cows need to be milked.”

Story continues below.

A DeLaval robotic milker shows farmers how much milk is being processed, by quarter (teat). (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

A DeLaval robotic milker shows farmers how much milk is being processed, by quarter (teat). (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Amid challenging time, supply management remains shining light

Family farms are starting to disappear from the landscape. As they do, larger companies have been stepping in.

This has been the case in the U.S. for some time and is now starting to happen in parts of Canada.

A supply-managed, tariff-rate quota (TRQ) establishes a limit on the quantity of a product that may be imported at a lower rate of duty. Since the 1970s, TRQs have been imposed by the Canadian government to regulate the production of farm products.

This system allows farmers to purchase and reserve part of the market to sell their products. To ship their milk, the Hammings must purchase and hold a quota, which acts as a licence to produce a pre-determined amount of milk.

While this guarantees profit every month, it also allows commodity sectors to limit the supply of products to what Canadians are expected to consume. This helps ensure a stable market and limits overproduction.

The Hammings credit Canada’s supply management system as the reason for their survival.

“We’ve just watched to the south how many family farms are gone because of the no-quota (system) so then you get these huge mega-farms that can be more efficient … it just kind of wipes out the smaller family operations.”

BC Dairy Association general manager, Jeremy Dunn, agreed.

“Without supply management, you see what you have in the United States and other dairy regions, where you have large consolidated farms focused on low-cost production, and that’s the only way for those farms to get ahead.”

This system, while favoured by Canadian farmers, is not well-liked by everyone. It limits the expansion of American farming markets into the north, and some critics say it drives up consumer prices by guaranteeing a minimum purchasing price to farmers.

Story continues below.

After a day of work, Dave Hamming is pictured on Tazo Farms in Falkland, as the sun goes down. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

After a day of work, Dave Hamming is pictured on Tazo Farms in Falkland, as the sun goes down. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Uncertainty for Canadian dairy industry looming

Changes to numerous trade agreements and import controls are continuing to shuffle the dairy market.

Through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an additional 3.25 per cent of access to the domestic market has been given to 10 Trans-Pacific countries.

It’s just one of several new trade agreements that are affecting Canadian dairy farmers and producers.

A new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is another. In December, a report from the Canadian Press outlined a complaint by U.S. trade representatives that American dairy producers were being unfairly shut out of markets north of the border.

“In CUSMA, the Trump administration put dairy in its cross-hairs,” said Dunn.

“The government of Canada did as well as they probably could have in protecting our market. Dairy farmers would have wanted them to do better.”

Nevertheless, you likely won’t see a jug of American milk on store shelves any time soon.

Most TRQs were allocated to foreign dairy processors, rather than producers. Therefore, imported dairy products will appear as ingredients in dairy products like baby milk.

While this won’t likely affect the Hammings much, the Dairy Processors Association of Canada estimates this market access change will result in more than $100 million in annual losses for Canada’s dairy processors.

Story continues below.

The light leaves Tazo Farms in Falkland, marking the end of another day. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

The light leaves Tazo Farms in Falkland, marking the end of another day. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

The future of B.C. dairy

According to a recently released economic impact study by the BC Dairy Association, the dairy industry contributed $1.225 billion to the province’s GDP and supported almost 12,500 jobs in 2019. That same year, 469 farms across the province produced more than 840 million litres of raw milk.

The pandemic, Dunn added, has brought the value of local food production to light.

“We should be thankful in British Columbia to have a strong dairy sector.”

READ MORE: Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

READ MORE: Canadian blueberries no threat to U.S. producers, embassy tells trade commission

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

There are hiking trails aplenty around Quesnel, including at the West Fraser Timber Park right inside the municipality. (Submitted Photo)
Many things to do in the Cariboo

Jim Hilton’s column from Jan. 20

(Tracey Roberts Photo)
COVID-19 rule followers are not suckers

Cassidy Dankochik’s column from the Jan. 20 paper

A dust advisory is in place for Quesnel. Residents are asked to be careful near heavy traffic areas. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel under dust advisory

High levels of dust in the air can be dangerous for people with COVID-19

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Most Read