40 cows, 40 acres and 40 000 broilers. That was what Peter and Nicole Tuytel of Elmbridge Farms in Chilliwack, British Columbia started with in 1996. The problem with this small farm was the fact the Tuytel’s didn’t see any land near by coming up for sale, the dairy barn was out of date and couldn’t be expanded on because of their small land size. Even the house they lived in was in need of some tender loving care. Something had to change. Six years ago that change happened with the purchase of another farm. It allowed for 120 cows on 75 acres and already included many upgrades they wanted including a drive thru barn and milking parlour, alley scrapers and even a newer house. The chickens were gone, but it meant the Tuytel’s could focus on their true passion, and that is milking quality cows.
Since that move, the Tuytel’s have obviously found their strengths. They have been named the 2012 Outstanding Young Farmers in British Columbia and the Yukon, and are the youngest recipients of a Master Breeder shield in BC. That shield comes from Holstein Canada as recognition of at least 15 years of breeding superior dairy cattle. “Becoming a Master Breeder at such a young age has been very exciting,” says Nicole. “It had always been one of our goals. Good genetics make our cattle more valuable and profitable. Seeing improvements in our breeding program shows we are headed in the right direction in terms of our goals. We like good cows with good pedigrees.”
However, just breeding superior cattle isn’t their only strength. Cows that are top producers are also a priority, moving the herd from producing 24.5kg/day in 2000 to 43.6kg/day in 2011. The top producing cows come from three priorities that Nicole identifies: cow comfort, producing quality forages and improving genetics. All of them relate to one priority says Nicole, “They are so important because they make the farm much more profitable.”
On top of focusing on their three priorities to improve their profitability, working together has meant a big learning curve as well. When asked if Peter and Nicole ever have conflict around the operation, Nicole answers, “Of course! We have had to learn how to keep business conflicts out of our marriage. It isn’t always easy to work together and live together!” Their solution though is pretty straightforward. “We usually talk things through and work out a compromise.”
So how does a young couple with so much success early in their careers plan for the future? Constant improvement. “Now that we have a young family, our time has become more valuable and spending time with them is a priority,” says Nicole. It is why they want to continue to invest in new technology that helps them ‘farm smarter.’ That could include alley scrapers in the heifer barn, or even a robotic milking system down the road. According to Nicole, “Making improvements like this requires some big upfront costs, but means long term labour savings down the road.” Nicole and Peter also point out that supply management is helping them achieve their goals. “Especially in the Fraser Valley, where we have some of the highest land and labour costs in the industry, being able to project our income and plan for the future is a big help.”