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       Milk, forever at the heart of a Healthy Community
  BC Dairy Association staff
 BC Dairy had the opportunity to interview
Chris Von Hardenberg from Hardenberg &
Sons Farm, located in Dewdney, BC. Chris and his
family have recently built a new barn, and he shared
his perspective on how their day-to-day practices exemplify cow comfort and care. Like
all dairy producers, Chris and his family strive for the best care for their animals and worked hard with the BCDA proAction team and their herd veterinarian to ensure they were proAction compliant while moving into their new barn and preparing for their proAction validation.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family’s background in dairy farming?
Myself, my son Derek and my son-in-law Nick, along with two employees (one full- time and one part time) run the family farm. I’ve been farming at this location since 1989; we’re on 360 acres and milking 200 cows. The milking system we use is four DeLaval robots.
Before you built your new barn, what were you doing to ensure cow comfort?
Cow comfort has always been very important for us, so we had deep bedded stalls, and scraped alleys as often as possible. Going through the barn at least six times a day, cleaning and maintaining the stalls, was always a priority for us.
What issues did you identify with your infrastructure, and how did you resolve them in the years leading up to the decision to build a new barn? We knew that we needed wider alleys and bigger stalls to provide the cows more room and bigger crossovers. We’ve been able to do that with the new barn and we’re now scraping alleys on the hour, every hour.
When building the new barn, what were your top priorities when it came to the health of your herd?
We wanted additional room for pack space as well as more room to accommodate cows who have special needs, so that was a key focus of ours when building the new barn.
What resources do you use to assess animal cleanliness, comfort, and welfare on your farm?
We’ve found that observing the animals and using our experience over the years as dairy farmers has been the best answer. We do use the Holstein Canada guidelines as a starting point, but usually go a little further based on the situation and conduct
our own research. We’ve also sat in on a few proAction seminars regarding cattle care and assessment. We’ve found those to be helpful over the years.
Do you ask neighbours or peers for help with a down cow, or seek advice from any experts?
Yes, we do on occasion consult with a vet to get professional input as well as seek the opinion of fellow dairy farmers.
Culling cows is a hard decision. How do you make those kinds of decisions on your farm?
Making those decisions has a lot to do with udder health and mastitis-related issues. We also look at the mobility of the animal, as we want to ensure we aren’t keeping cows that are visibly uncomfortable.
When did you first install cow brushes? What is the value that you see in them?
We first installed cow brushes in the year 2000. Physical health improvements are definitely the most visible value because they are cleaner. And if one stops rotating, we can easily fix it within the day ourselves.
Can you talk a little bit about the calf housing, feeding methods and colostrum testing?
We have individual box stalls for calves with 4L of pasteurized milk. We test for colostrum, and our colostrum is not pasteurized. We really pay attention to detail, that is key on our farm.
Last question - why is animal care a priority on your farm?
It’s a priority on our farm simply because we want to look at healthy, happy and comfortable animals. One way we do this is by keeping things as clean as possible. Cleanliness has always been an important aspect of our barns and cow health.
(L-R) Chris, Nick and Derek.

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