Ikendale Farms – Kuntz family
By Lisa McLean
Cow comfort leads to dairy farm success
There’s a universal truth that every dairy farmer knows: the more comfortable a cow is, the more she will reward you. At Walkerton, Ontario’s Ikendale Farms, Tyler Kuntz knows this to be true.
During milking time, Ikendale staff guide each cow to her place in the barn’s 30-stall rotary milking parlour, which Kuntz likens to a merry-go-round. Each cow stands in a stall and begins her slow spin on the parlour, first to a staff member who cleans her teats, and then to another who hooks her up to the milking machine.
“Holsteins are predictable, calm animals with a quiet demeanour and a low stress level,” Kuntz says. “They like routine. They enjoy chewing their cud. And they hate heat.”
Kuntz houses his 300 milking cows in a clean, modern dairy barn that keeps them comfortable in all seasons. He points out the automated alley cleaner that scrapes manure from the floor, the rubber and foam bedding that makes standing easier, and large spinning brushes that offer back scratches to any cow that leans against them.
“There’s always room for improvement. Preventing conditions like mastitis require clean and sanitary conditions – that can be difficult on a farm,” Kuntz says.
In Canada farmers also need to build barns that deal with temperatures ranging from minus 30 to plus 40. Kuntz says it’s costly to heat barns in winter, and they also need fans and proper ventilation systems in summer to keep cows cool.
Ikendale’s new barn was built when it became clear that Kuntz, the youngest in his family, would join his brother in becoming a partner on the farm. Kuntz is proud to be a third-generation farmer. He points out that although the farm is larger than average, it’s still family owned and operated.
“300 cows is a lot, but the farm is run by five family members and one partner and we gain efficiencies working together,” he says. Kuntz’s grandfather, father, uncle and brother also have shares in the farm.
In addition to the Holsteins that are milked each day, the farm also has a “drying off” barn where cows that have been milked for 305 days go to rest for two months. Another barn houses young stock – cows that are under two years old and too young to breed.
“We let the calf stay with its mother for one day so she can clean her placenta naturally. She’ll also dry the calf so it doesn’t get cold,” Kuntz says. “But a 100-pound calf can’t live in the same environment as its mother. It has different needs and wants.”
A cow has a calf every year at Ikendale. The mother’s colostrum (her first milk after birth) is given to the calf, providing essential nutrients and immunities.
“Each calf gets its mother’s colostrum,” Kuntz says. “I can mess up anything on this farm, as long as I don’t make a mistake with that.”
Kuntz notes that while most Holsteins in Canada leave the farm in less than five years, some of the cows on his farm are up to twelve years old.
“When we breed cows we always try to improve the next generation,” Kuntz says. “We try to emphasize nice feet and legs and mammary systems. We make decisions that will lead to longer-living, healthier cows.”