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10 BC HOLSTEIN NEWS a FALL 2020
 WOMEN IN DAIRY
Proudly sponsored by Scotiabank
By Tars Cheema
"You don’t have to know everything on day one – passion, work ethic and make the effort to ask and learn.”
“It’s not been easy, but it’s what we wanted
to do. If you want to dairy, you need an amazing passion for
it! And money! If you have the desire, and have faith in yourself, you will overcome the obstacles."
Lower Left photo:
Gord and Barb have earned their farmer stripes the old fashioned way – with sweat, debt and determination. And they still love what they do – especially with their family!
Lower Right photo:
Having a beautiful new calf barn makes raising great heifers very rewarding for Carly and Barb – who take this job personally!
When it comes to Agriculture, we get it.
For information on our complete suite of services, visit: scotiabank.com/ agriculturalservices
  Barb Truswell (and family)
Starting Below Scratch
  The Truswells of GT Farms – farming like they’ve never known anything else! (L-R) Tara, Lucas, Barb, Gord, Carly holding Brylie, Keith holding Bauer.
  As I turned up the gravelly, tree-shaded road in Cobble Hill that I was well- familiar with, the memories started to drift around me just like the road dust. I eased over to one side to make room for the on-coming Agrifoods bulk milk truck – there’s only one dairy farm up Thain Road – GT Farms. In a distant, past faded life, the farm was famously known as Heatherbank – prominent breeders of pedigreed Jerseys and Holsteins. It was also the farm where my parents dairied for the last four years of their career. This was a little like ‘going home.’
Pulling up to their farm entrance, I was not expecting the eight foot high fence and gates. Meant to keep out elk (and possibly agile salesmen), dairy farmers on Vancouver Island have been plagued by the Roosevelt Elk herds – growing in numbers and belligerence for 30 years, devouring vast acreages of expensive farm-forage. I soon learned the impressive fence encompassing the entire farm
set them back $100,000 for which the government shared 50% (but no longer). “We lost an entire corn crop to them here a few years ago, and at the Hillbank farm a few years before that,” explains Barb with less irritation than I expected. Carly (Barb’s daughter) calls them ‘complete squatters’ since they take over a field like they own it – devouring and trashing it before moving on without paying their bill. There are two herds now – about 30 and 40 head each.
Starting from Below Scratch
Gord Truswell grew up on the Saanich Peninsula working fields for a local dairyman – he liked land, crops and equipment. His thriving excavating business scratched his itch for an equipment-based career, but land was his dream. The newspaper ad he read on the ferry became GT Farms in 1981 - 100 acres, with sprawling buildings, 95 cows, and endless work! Barb was raised a Nanaimo city girl but loved the farming
exposure she got with her grandparents in Olds. Though working for government in Victoria, she shared Gord’s dream of farming – “We were so naïve,” she admits with a smile. (Despite the extensive work my family had done over four years to clean up, improve and make the farm very functional, two years in the hands of disinterested farming brothers had undone it all....and made it so much worse.) “We had no idea how bad the herd was at first – so much mastitis, SCC over a million, high bacteria counts, manure everywhere,” Barb recalls of the shocking starttotheirdairycareers.“Wedidn’tstart from scratch...it was below scratch,” she says wryly. Not to dwell on the disaster, but they faced a steep hill from day one to clean up, clear out many of the worst cows and bring the mess under control. Their vet, Jim Decker, was invaluable in helping Barb (who took full charge of the dairy operation) learn and get ahead of the challenges. After a daunting start, they
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