On the farm - DFM

Mangin Bros. Dairy Farm

A proud family of 3rd generation farmers run the Mangin Bros. Dairy Farm, which dates back to 1969. It all began with Laurent Mangin who owned 11 milking cows. He passed his humble dairy farm on to his two sons, Rick and Florent, and by 1985, the herd grew from 11 cows to 26. Eventually, the brothers would build an addition to the barn, expanding the herd to 56 cows. 

With the next generation taking an interest in dairy farming, Rick and Florent were inspired to grow their farm. Together, they built a new barn in 2003. The first of its kind in the area, the barn incorporated new technology that came with a learning curve, but the Mangin brothers took it in stride. Afterall, a day doesn’t go by when you don’t learn something new on the farm. Because of this, the Mangin family has always valued and prioritized education when it comes to raising the next generation. 

After high school, Florent’s son Jamie studied Agribusiness at Assiniboine Community College and took a position as an Agronomist in Shoal Lake. Not a day went by when he didn’t call home to check on his family and the farm.  

In January 2008, Jamie returned home to take his place and make his mark on the family farm. That first month back home led Jamie to a new understanding and appreciation for his family’s dedication, love, and passion for the farm. A few years later, his brother Steven followed the same path as his brother completing his Agribusiness Diploma and spending some time working away. Then in 2011, he returned home to farm alongside Jamie, his parents – Florent & Judy, and his uncle and aunt – Rick & Lucy. 

 

 

“It’s like getting a chance to relive your childhood watching your children tackle the same chores you did at that age”

 

When Jamie was in college, he caught the eye of Sheri – a cattle farm girl – and stole her heart. In 2010, they married and a year later they started their family with the arrival of Alivia in 2012, followed by Cole in 2014, Maddison in 2015, and Brayden in 2016. Four children in the span of 4-5 years may sound like a lot, but Jamie & Sheri wouldn’t have it any other way! 

Alivia and her siblings can be found in the barn at various times of the day, especially when Grandpa and Grandma (Florent & Judy) are in the barn lending a hand. “Grandma and Grandpa have a special way of making chores fun,” Alivia recalls with a smile. “You’re working and giggling at the same time, and you don’t even know it.”
To Alivia, dairy farming means family – and the farm is where most of her memories are made, just like her dad when he was a child.  

“It’s like getting a chance to relive your childhood watching your children tackle the same chores you did at that age,” Jamie reminiscences. 

At a young age, Jamie and his siblings learned the ins and outs of a dairy farm. And like everything else, dairy farming comes with good times and hard times. 

Always looking for innovative ways to ensure cow comfort, in 2020 Jamie and Steven installed two automated milking systems, which allows cows to choose when and how often they get milked – on average 2 to 3 times a day.   

Two years later, the Mangins lost their dairy barn to a devastating fire. Driven by their love of dairy, it took Jamie and Steven less than 24 hours to agree that the only option was to rebuild. “When you’re born into dairy farming, it’s something you can’t shake,” Jamie explains. “I really can’t see myself doing anything else. I knew my heart was in it the first time I remembered my dad taking me to the barn for chores.” 

 

“I owe it to my grandmother”

A stone’s throw from Holland, Man., is a quaint 200-herd dairy farm run by sisters Marianne and Isabelle Parvais. Their farm, Parmarisa, is a mashup of their names and a testament that sisters are a mighty force. The pair has worked on the dairy farm since it was formed by their father Raymond, upon relocating to Canada from Halle, Belgium, in 1978.

Marianne Parvais’ passion for dairy farming was instilled at a young age and she took great inspiration from her paternal grandmother Madeleine Lemercier-Parvais, who farmed until age 85.

“She was such a strong woman,” says Parvais. “Her whole life she was independent with her cows.”

Similarly, Parvais took an immediate shine to the dairy world. As a young girl, she would be attached at her father’s hip, completing whatever tasks needed to be accomplished. At night she would verbally translate agricultural newspaper articles into French to him. Non-stop reading instilled a strong business acumen in Parvais early on.

By 13, she knew so confidently dairy farming was her future that she applied to have a share of the family farm. According to Parvais, she is grateful how the dairy industry has afforded her non-stop security and predictability.

“You know what you are working for and delivering,” she says. “I like that stability.”

Despite formative years during the harrowing interest rates of the ‘80s, Parvais remained committed, absorbing everything she could about dairy farming.

“You keep learning every day on a dairy farm,” she adds. “Technology is always changing; it’s an ongoing process and I love learning.”

In 1994, at age 19, she began her own farm with 15 dairy cows near the family farm. That experience gave her the confidence in 2001 to amalgamate with sister Isabelle, who also ran an independent dairy farm. Their biggest technological leap was in 2013 when they acquired two automated milking systems. With these systems in place, cows can come and go to the milking station as they please.

“I thought, ‘there has to be a more efficient way,” says Parvais. “I was a bit scared, and it was such a huge investment. Dad said, ‘I trust your instincts.’ He always believed in me.”

Since then, the farm has added an automated calf feeder – and data is monitored electronically, which helps Parvais with caring for her herd.

Today, married with two children, Parvais takes her role as a mother and leader seriously for her two daughters. As she continues to farm, Parvais knows one day her girls may be the next generation of sisters to operate the dairy farm.

“I’m working so there is a land base ready for them,” she says. “I will be there for my girls, even if they want new technology, just like my dad was there for me.”

Each day as Parvais prepares for her daily chores, she admits with pride how grandma Lemercier-Parvais continues to serve as an ongoing mentor.

“I’m proud to be a dairy farmer and produce a nourishing food for people,” she says. “That’s what keeps me going. I owe it to my grandmother.”

Photos by Marianne Parvais

 

Finding the balance

Kristy-Layne & Richard raise kids and cows on their Manitoba farm. Operating a dairy farm is time consuming work. They milk three times a day, 365 days a year – no exceptions.

Add to that raising four kids who are involved in sports, 4-H and other extra-curricular activities, and these young parents are as busy as it gets.

Learn more about their story and how they balance the needs of a growing family while managing the well-being of their herd, the success of their farm, and their desire to produce the highest quality milk possible.

 

 

Looking to the sun to see the future

There is no question that farmers, and dairy farmers especially, are passionate about the animals in their care and making a living from the land. That passion extends to making sure that land is sustainable for future generations.

So, when Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Solar Energy Program provided an opportunity to pilot a large solar energy project, Optimist Holsteins leapt at the chance.

Within months of applying for the program, the 130-cow family-owned dairy farm near Otterburne – a farming community 50 km south of Winnipeg – flipped the switch on 540 solar panels with a capacity to produce 175 kilowatts (kw) of electric power per hour. They made history by becoming the first dairy farming solar energy project of its size in Manitoba.

Albert Gorter and Chelsea Enns

“The decision to move to solar technology was an easy one for us,” remarks Hans Gorter, who farms with his wife Nelleke, son Albert, and daughter-in-law Chelsea. “As farmers we are in tune with the land so it’s natural to implement sustainable operating systems when and where we can.”

Solar energy is a sustainable resource that is easy to access and creates very little carbon footprint to produce. It’s a clean form of energy that is renewable at no extra cost for the life of the solar panels, which can be up to 25 years.

Optimist Holsteins’ solar energy system sits on land that was only good for growing grass. Two and a half years later that space is now among the most productive pieces of land they own.

“The farm on average will use about 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) or more every day. The average solar production is around 750 kWh daily, year-round, which is equal to about 75 or 80 percent of our electricity needs,” explains Gorter. To put that in perspective, the average home in Manitoba uses less than 2,500 kWh of energy every month.

Optimist Holsteins’ environmental leanings are also influenced by Gorter’s European roots. Gorter and his wife moved to Canada from the Netherlands in 1987. He has many friends in Europe who use solar technology.

Optimist Holsteins’ system uses the same type of panels as many of Gorter’s European farming friends – but here in Manitoba, he is getting 20 percent more solar production.

“On average, we in Manitoba have more bright sunny days, making Manitoba an ideal place for solar energy systems,” Gorter adds.

While they aren’t the largest solar energy system in the province anymore, Optimist Holsteins is looking forward to the next big movement in solar technology – the day when solar-powered cars will be the norm and it’s their plan to be the first farm in their area to own one.

Photos by Cric Studios.

First generation dairy farmer

Many of us spend our entire life wondering what we will be when we grow up. Not Owen Fijala, though. The young man from Manitou loves rural life and all that it affords.

He knew early on that agriculture was his life’s calling. However, which area of the industry did not become clear until his teenage years.

He grew up working on the family grain farm before he ventured out as a teen at a neighbouring cattle farm. Following this, his third agricultural experience proved lucky as he began to work at a nearby dairy farm in Notre Dame at just 16. He immediately fell in love with the animals and the work.

“I just enjoyed it right from the beginning and continued to enjoy it more and more,” says Fijala, now 20. “It is very challenging and interesting to continue to learn about herd health.”

It did not take long for Fijala to begin to aspire to have a dairy farm of his own. Luckily, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba (DFM) is keen to invest in those interested in pursuing dairy farming. Fijala applied to DFM’s new entrant program in the fall of 2017, a springboard to help Manitobans become part of the dairy industry. Fijala proved to the board of directors why he would be a great candidate to begin a dairy farm, and it did not take long for the board to sense his passion and green light the application and thorough business plan.

To help him as he began his journey into dairy farming, DFM matched his milk production allocation.

Fijala now has 55 cows on his farm, which are a mixture of young and mature. Today, his cows all produce milk on a predictable, routine schedule.

For Fijala, working on his dairy farm and helping with his family’s grain farm keeps the young entrepreneur busy from dawn ‘til dusk. The barn itself is also high-tech, as cows are milked in an automated system, which allows cows to come and go to the milking station as they please.

Fijala has long-term plans to double the size of his herd and add a second automated milking system.

He enjoys being in the community, as well, and recently participated in the Agriculture in the Classroom – Manitoba program, where he spoke with children at the Manitou Elementary School about dairy farms.

“I got to go in and talk to all the students about how the operations work and how cows are taken care of and the quality of milk,” he says.

Thanks to the new entrant program, Fijala is excited to be part of an industry that places a high priority on animal care and producing high quality milk for Canadians.