Farming practices are typically passed down, from one generation to the next. Milking, breeding, birthing, handling calves, working with various equipment, and keeping the farm running smoothly are all taught slowly through time, as working dairy families grow.
But with the size of dairy farms ever increasing, the need to hire outside help is more and more important.
Then there are those who dream of working with animals, but don’t have the luxury of growing up on a dairy farm.
Now, a new partnership between the B.C. Dairy Association and UBC Dairy and Education Research Centre is hoping to entice more young people into the world of dairy farming. An apprenticeship program is being piloted through the busy research centre, in an effort to increase the capable work force.
Last week, a group of about 60 Chilliwack students, teachers and parents spent a day touring the Agassiz facility and hearing about the industry’s needs. They also learned a bit more about the program, Dairy Production Technician Level 1.
The program is available to students prior to graduating high school, and focuses on maintaining farm sanitation, feeding the herd, milking the cows, monitoring cattle health and breeding, and operating a variety of farm equipment to support a dairy farm.
Seventeen students participated in the pilot program from November 2010 to March 2011, through Greenbelt Veterinary Services/ Dairy SMART Management.
Now the program is being opened up to Chilliwack high school students, with a “flexible delivery method” that works into regular schooling.
John Dick, DVM, said the partnership with UBC is a critical component of the program’s success.
“This facility is really important to the program,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff going on here in the research field that will benefit the students as they learn, and I appreciate that.”
Nelson Dinn, Dairy Farm Manager at UBC, said the addition of students in the centre is mutually beneficial.
“The more students we put through, the more research we’re able to do,” he said.
UBC is a key research centre for cow comfort — one of the most important factors in any dairy farm’s production. They house 250 cows on about 350 acres, and grow almost all of their silage. As one of B.C.’s 566 dairy farms, it is a self supporting operation.
In addition to being an operating farm, the centre is also open to the public, with interpretive signs placed around the centre, and tours available.
“I consider us to be the public face of the Canadian dairy industry,” Dinn told the group as they toured the barns.
“We see thousands of people a year here,” he said.
Classes will start in September, with two full days planned between September and November. Those will likely take place on district professional days. Students will also have to complete several workbook assignments during that time.
Students will attend two weeks of school at UBC in Agassiz instead of regular classes, in early and then late February.
And in April, they’ll head back to UBC for a final third week of classes at UBC.
Tuition for the program is free, and graduates will be eligible to continue with Level 2 certification.
For more information, visit www.dairysmart.ca or www.dairyprobc.ca.