TestimonyVolume Number May 17, 2019

How did Ferme Drahoka Inc rise to the top of the HPI ranking in Canada?

Comment la ferme Drahoka inc. s’est-elle hissée au sommet du palmarès des IPT au Canada?
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In addition to ranking in the Top HPI 99 for a fourth year, Ferme Drahoka sets the bar even higher by stealing second place in Canada (HPI) and topping the list for tie-stall farms. That success reflects many years of decisions, changes and new practices implemented with one goal in mind:  to always do better. The Drapeau brothers take a keen interest in genetics, and their entire herd has been genotyped, making it easier to select the top animals to get that little extra that makes a big difference. The numerous awards and certificates they have reaped over the years speaks to the wisdom of those choices.

A little history

Francis and Sylvain Drapeau acquired Ferme Drahoka from their parents, Jean-Luc Drapeau and Gilberte Deschênes, in 2000. Maxim, Sylvain’s son, has been working on the farm since 2018, when he finished his technical degree in animal production at the ITA in La Pocatière. He is now following in his elders’ footsteps and clearly shares their passion for good-looking animals.

After purchasing the farm, the brothers extended the barn to accommodate 100 milking cows. In 2007, the adjoining hay barn was converted into housing for yearlings, and a milk pipeline was finally installed in 2017. With an annual average of 12,318 kg in 2018, and a BCA of 278-320-288, they have much to be proud of!

Up-to-date information and good day-to-day management

Jérôme Blais-Dionne works as a dairy production technician for Valacta. He appreciates the energy of the Drapeau family and sees them as good managers, on top of their game. “There’s nothing left to chance here,” he says. “The dates are entered daily in their DSA Laitier software; they don’t miss a thing.” Because they’re able to access their data via the Valacta Mobile app from anywhere on the farm, they get immediate answers to their daily management questions. Says Sylvain: “When it comes time to inseminate, we can quickly find out the age of the heifers. Because once we get going, it’s tempting to do them all, especially when the size is there!” They breed their heifers at 11-12 months to calve at 20-21 months, for an average age of 21.8 months.

The brothers make all of their management decisions together, but don’t hesitate to follow the advice of their service providers. Dr. Justin Rousselle, from Service vétérinaire des Vallées au Fleuve, has helped them out a great deal since 2010. He makes a preventive medicine visit every two weeks and has implemented a number of protocols for both milk quality and reproduction. He has certainly contributed to the success of the operation.

Cleanliness is a priority as well, and it has a direct impact on the quality of the milk they produce. “In the morning, we clean all the stalls before milking and fill them with a mix of wood chips and straw. After the milking is done, the cows can return to a clean bed”, says Francis. The cows are divided into two feeding groups, with a TMR fed six times a day by a robot. All the forages are farm-grown, as is the straw.

A fishing net in the barn for the heifers and dry cows!

The latest innovation at Ferme Drahoka is the new bed-pack cold barn, built in October 2017. A beautiful, functional building that provides a comfortable, well-lit environment for the heifers and dry cows. The feed alleys are cleaned once a day and the rest area, once a year. The ceiling is lined with a custom-made fishing net to avoid any bird issues. Clearly an innovative idea! 

étable froide taures Ferme Drahoka

Open housing makes it easier to detect heifers in heat. Climbing up the pile to lie down is a small expedition in itself, and keeps the dry cows in shape!

Perhaps an automatic milk feeder for the calves?

 “We would really like to try an automatic milk feeder for the calves. Right now, they’re fed three times a day, outside! We’re thinking about our own comfort too, and it might be nice to work inside”, states Francis.

Never give up

The Drapeau family exudes the serene contentment of people who are passionate about what they do. But under this serenity lies a great motivation that drives them to relentlessly pursue their goals.

 

Profile of the Drahoka farm:

Owners: Francis and Sylvain Drapeau

One employee: Maxim Drapeau

Farmland: 200 ha

Main crops: alfalfa, silage corn and barley

Total number of heads: 260, including 92 lactating cows

Tie-stall housing with rails

Bed-pack free-stall housing for replacement animals and dry cows

Herd classification: 2 multiple EX, 35 VG, 62 GP and 4 G

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