KEMPTVILLE ó A number of Ontario dairy produces are stuck with recently expanded six-figure barns and no legal way of filling them to capacity with additional milk cows because available production quota has effectively dried up.
Albert Harbers of Glen Stewart acknowledged to the AgriNews earlier this year that his familyís operation was among those caught in the quota bind.
Harbersí new free-stall barn at Fredwill Farms went into service in July 2009. His business plan called for a doubling of the milking herd size to 100 animals by Christmas of that year, still leaving some room in the 120-stall barn for further expansion down the road.
But Harbers said they havenít grown beyond 70 cows since then, picking up less than half a kilogram of quota each month after the quota exchange rules changed in August 2009, severely curtailing the amount of quota available to any one bidder.
"We knew the new system was coming into effect, so we did buy some quota before [under the old rules] in April, May and June" of 2009, he explained, adding he didnít buy all of the quota in advance in an attempt to split the risk.
While emphasizing that he didnít want to sound too negative, he said the situation has meant that his partnering son must hold an off-farm job. It also means his younger son has been told thereís no opportunity for him to join the venture at this point in time, he said.
"Itís tight and it doesnít make sense for the next generation if we canít expand," Harbers said.
Yet, at the same time, he pointed out, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario has a program to make 25 kg available to new farmers, which he suggested was unfair for excluding the offspring of existing dairy farmers attempting to get their own start in life.
Harbers estimated that there are probably 100 to 150 dairy producers in Ontario with new barns that canít be filled with cattle to adequately pay for them.
To help make ends meet, he said heís considering getting into Omega-3 milk production ó for the extra premium. "And weíre looking at the possibility of boarding up to 40 heifers."