Tour highlights innovative farms in district

BARWICK—About 25 district farmers and agricultural enthusiasts gathered at Mark Husser’s farm in Barwick on Tuesday morning for the start of the Rainy River Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s annual farm tour.
“The purpose is to share information and see if we can pick out some farms across the Rainy River District which are doing interesting, innovative, and different things,” noted local agriculture intern Eric Busch.
“It also gives non-farmers and other farmers a chance to get new ideas,” he added.
Husser spoke to the group about his free-stall dairy barn—one of two of its kind in the district—which takes a more modern approach to milking.
He showed the area where he is able to milk eight cows on one side while preparing another eight to be milked on the opposite side. The space is designed specifically for ease and efficiency.
“There’s no bending down,” Husser explained, demonstrating the process. He added he can milk about 60 cows in one hour and 15 minutes.
As well, he noted the angled feature on the automatic doors of the stalls help to fit any size animal.
The tour group also was able to check out the cattle in an adjoining area, where they spend time lounging and eating.
Husser explained his facility was expensive, but well worth the costs, especially when milking twice a day.
(Later in the afternoon, the group was able to contrast this method with the traditional tie-stall system at Bernie Zimmerman’s farm. Of course, the size of herd and the farmer’s preference play a part in housing decisions).
The second stop on the farm tour was Peter Stewart’s farm, also in Barwick.
“One of the biggest problems for young farmers is capital costs,” Busch told to the group. “And [Stewart] has managed to lower his capital costs quite a bit.”
Stewart explained he moved to the area in 1992 with about 19 years’ farming experience and 240 acres of land.
“There were no fences,” he recalled. “There were big stones still on the fields. The rest was bush.”
He started out with a small herd of cattle and now raises his own replacements, which are suited to his farm.
He also keeps the animals out in the fields year-round—beginning his calving season in late April—and retains everything within the few fields.
“I don’t have to load up bales to move around, which would take a lot of time,” Stewart noted.
And he said he maintains his low operating costs by having older machinery that he’s able to fix himself.
Although Stewart conceded it took time and effort to become established, he now runs a profitable farm.
“I ran the numbers because I want young people to understand there can be profit in cow-calf operations,” he remarked, noting he makes about $76.85 a day after expenses based on a 40-hour work week.
In comparison, the tour group continued to Amos Brielmann’s Pine River Ranch in Pinewood—a “highly capitalized” farm. They checked out his cattle over-wintering area and discussed nutrient management regulations.
They also observed a solar watering system, manure composting, grassed waterways, and water way crossings.
A tour of the tree-planting from the Greencover Canada project also took place while there.
The fourth and final stop of the day was at the Zimmerman farm. Not only was the group able to view a tie-stall system for his dairy operation, but they were invited to check out his—and his neighbours’—corn silage crop.
“It was really well-attended,” Busch said of Tuesday’s tour, noting just a small group went last year. “It’s great—we got to see innovative dairy operations and the profits in cow-calf operations.
“The information gathered will provide a better outlook for farmers in the Rainy River District,” he remarked.
(Fort Frances Times)