Daughter-to-Daughter Dairy Plans for the Future with DeLaval VMS

The old tale of the son taking over the family farm is just that – outdated! For Alona Farms of Millbrook, Ontario, the family’s daughters have represented the next generation in the farm’s succession plans…twice!

In 1954, Allan and Leona Hutchison started dairy farming. After a fire destroyed their milk barn two years later, the couple built a new hip-roof tie-stall dairy barn that would support their young family.

In the 1980s, the Hutchison’s daughter Kathy, along with her husband Rick Carl, made the commitment to purchase the farm. “I wanted to be here to raise a family, and being on the farm made the most sense,” Kathy said.

Kathy and Rick raised their family of two sons and one daughter while milking 40 cows in that same tie-stall barn. In 2007, their daughter, Melissa, decided to work full-time on the farm in the same year she and her husband, Mike Harrigan, were married. “It was a big year for us!” Melissa jokingly said.

In 2016, the farm began working on plans for a new dairy barn as Melissa and Mike wanted a facility that would suit the future of their own growing family. “The tie-stall barn grew to be a dark barn to do chores in, plus the feeding system was labour intensive,” Kathy said.

Melissa and Mike looked at both parlours and robots as they wanted to build a free stall barn to be efficient while handling cows. After working closely with DeLaval dealer Norwell Dairy Systems, the Harrigans opted to purchase a DeLaval milking system VMS™ citing advantages in lifestyle and labour.

The new barn sits beside the old tie-stall barn but in sight line from the house so Melissa can see it and view the barn that will hold their family’s future. In August 2018, their 46 cows moved over to the new VMS barn. “The Norwell staff were amazing!” Melissa said. “Great to work with and always available to answer any questions that we had regarding the VMS robot.”

Since that time, the herd has taken well to the new barn, and the biggest change is the amount of milk that the cows are producing. “We would always have a hard time filling our quota in the old barn let alone filling incentives,” said Rick and Melissa. “Now, on a monthly basis, we are shipping 20 percent more milk with currently seven less cows than what we moved in with.”

Melissa enjoys monitoring herd information with DeLaval DelPro and relies on the Activity System to give her accurate information on cow health. “I can find cows not doing well when they have low activity and be able to treat them before they get too far along,” Melissa said.

It will be awhile before the Harrigan’s four children – Alyson (10), Benjamin (8), Joshua (6) and Isaac (2) – decide if they will become dairy farmers, but the family has set up a great amount of groundwork for it to occur. “We have set up the barn so we can put a second robot in and be able to extend the barn,” Melissa said. We think we are in a good position to grow over the next 15 years, so it is a good viable business for our children to join.”

“For now, with having a robot milking the herd, it gives us more flexibility to be with our four children at important moments,” Melissa concluded. “We are proud to have a chance to pass the farm along to another generation.”

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