ABBOTSFORD – The BC Milk Marketing Board has selected five producers to participate in this year’s New Entrant Program.
The board chose four producers from a shortlist of seven candidates selected by random draw earlier this year to enter conventional production. One producer was chosen to meet the demand for organic production out of a pool of 10 applicants, with a further three placed on a three-year waitlist.
“It was good to see such strong interest from potential new dairy entrants during these challenging times in the sector, as we grapple with rising costs and weather conditions. We are seeing moderate growth in organic dairy, so opened up a dedicated stream for the first time this year,” says BC Milk general manager Rob Delage. “The review committee identified one farm that can start right away and three others it recommended for a waitlist in the event additional organic production is needed in the coming years. We don’t have any immediate plans on that front but will wait to see how the market evolves.”
The successful candidates, who formally accepted the opportunity August 18, include conventional producers Adrian and Kelsey Oosterhoff of Telkwa; Jessie Weststrate of Delta; Melissa Schalin of Armstrong; Peter and Hertha Muller of Langley; and organic producer Brad Bennik of Langley.
The organic waitlist includes Scott Syme, Andrew Johnson and Jeremy Goosen.
Conventional producers will have until December 31, 2024, to start production and meet the requirements to receive incentive quota from BC Milk. The new entrant in the organic stream will have until September 1, 2026, to commence production.
Conventional producers receive 15 kg of Continuous Daily Quota (CDQ) at startup, plus up to 8 kg of matching CDQ provided on a 1:1 ratio basis during the 10 years of the program.
New entrants under the organic stream will receive an initial 19.5 kg Specialty Continuous Daily Quota (SCDQ) as well as up to 8 kg of matching SCDQ on a 1:1 ratio over the 10-year program. Additionally, organic candidates receive a 30% organic bonus on first-year matching quota purchases, bringing their total potential quota to 40.3 kg.
As a third-generation farmer, Adrian Oosterhoff and his wife Kelsey look forward to diversifying their operation and continuing the legacy of dairy farming in the family as new producers.
The path towards milking cows full-time has been more like a roller coaster, Oosterhoff says. He was raised on a dairy farm on Round Lake, about 10 kilometres southeast of Telkwa, but his father sold the farm in 2000, when Oosterhoff was 12. But then in 2012, his father started up the family dairy farm again and Oosterhoff came home to help with operations.
“For probably about five years, I was much more involved. I was taking on the cow nutrition part of it, did a lot of field work and milking,” Oosterhoff says. Then, his father was ready to retire from milking but Oosterhoff was not in a position to buy the cows and quota and they were sold.
A year later, in 2017, Oosterhoff bought the family farm and started a beef operation which now has about 120 cows under the name Lacroix Ranch, a slight change from his father’s Lacroix Acres. Returning to dairy was a long-term plan, but an initial bid in 2021 wasn’t successful.
This year’s success gives Oosterhoff a chance to continue work his grandfather started after World War II, originally raising broilers on the family homestead before entering dairy production.
Kelsey also comes from a farming family. She grew up on a beef and cash crop operation in the Bulkley Valley. She completed a degree in environmental science at UNBC and now works in the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.
“She had her own beef herd along with her dad’s and she always came back every summer [during university] and was very passionate about being involved,” Oosterhoff says. “That was kind of the start of our beef herd when we got married.”
The couple plan to run the beef and dairy operations side by side.
“We feel in our location that they complement each other quite well. We have a lot of non-arable land up here in the north,” Oosterhoff says, “and so we have access to a fair amount of grazing which works well for the beef and the dairy then would take most of the arable land right around the house here and the barnyard.”
However, the drought has greatly reduced forage production this year. In anticipation of being chosen as a finalist, the Oosterhoffs started securing feed early this year.
“We pretty much realized as soon as we started cutting our own crops that the yields were way down,” Oosterhoff says.
While the couple didn’t know for sure if they would eventually need to feed two herds, they were confident in their application and planned for success and reached out to forage producers from Telkwa to Prince George.
“We don’t want to go backwards on the hard work we’ve done in our growth so far,” Oosterhoff says. “It may be tough but we’re committed to growing and doing this for the long term.”
The Oosterhoffs plan to purchase the full 23 kilograms of quota and hope to be up and running by the end of November.
Oosterhoff has kept the dairy barn in good shape and has secured a new herd from a retiring dairy farmer in the region.
“What we’re looking forward to most is simply being at home and working with animals. We both absolutely love agriculture and we’re quite passionate about it,” he says.
Mullers come with dairy background
Finalists Peter Muller and his wife Hertha of Langley also grew up in the industry.
Peter’s parents had beef cows and horses in Cloverdale, and he often worked on his uncle’s dairy farm in Maple Ridge and aunt’s farm in Duncan. Hertha is from a dairy farm in Agassiz.
Muller is renting a dairy facility in Fort Langley, which he hopes to fill with 30 cows in the first year and work up to between 40 and 50 animals in the second year of operations. The couple, along with their three adult children and grandchildren, look forward to getting started in the dairy sector. Muller plans to be milking by the end of January 2024.
Bennik transitions from water buffalo to Jerseys
Organic stream finalist Brad Bennik is shifting from milking water buffalo to Jerseys, thanks to the New Entrant Program. The absence of supply management drew him towards water buffalo over a decade ago but supply management has drawn him back to dairy cattle.
With water buffalo, Bennik needed to do everything from scratch, including marketing and securing retailers. Now, he looks forward to a milk truck showing up, taking away not only his milk but his responsibility for marketing and selling the product.
Bennik milked water buffalo in Langley Township for 11 years but has now sold most of the milking herd and is renting a dairy barn on Barnston Island. Bennik is ready to start organic production by September 1, pending milk inspector approval.
“We hope to get the total 40.3 kilograms,” Bennik says. “I’m going to be milking mostly Jerseys because the facility I have secured is designed for 1960 Holsteins, not 2023 Holsteins.” The Jerseys’ smaller stature is a better fit for his barn.
Conventional finalists Schalin and Weststrate and were not available before deadline. Schalin mentioned that she was busy with barn renovations.
On Facebook, Weststrate wrote, “Well, my dreams just became reality. I was accepted into the New Entrant Program through the BC Milk Board. I’m so thankful to be able to start farming next year, and I’m even more thankful for everyone who’s helped guide me here.”