Jan and Jony Roos from Roos Dairy Goats were the recipients of the 2019 Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers award.
The couple, with their four children, Julian (eight), Joanna (six), Janine (four) and Jessica (three), are first generation dairy goat farmers milking 2,000 to 2,500 goats in a state of the art, 100-stall rotary parlour in Culloden, Ont.
Why it matters: The Outstanding Young Farmer program encourages young farmers to excel in farm innovation and production.
Both Jan and Jony grew up on farms and they knew they wanted that same lifestyle. Goats were their best option with no quota required.
“The idea of goats was always in the back of my mind but never really took off (until 2007),” says Jan Roos, who did custom work with his brother for a number of years before starting this path.
Jan and Jony began milking 200 goats over 11 years ago after purchasing a milking parlour and building a new barn to house 500 goats. Since then, the herd has quickly expanded, with additions onto old barns, new barns and a new rotary parlour in 2017.
Jackie Fraser with Fraberts Fresh Food in Fergus was one of the judges for this year. She said their success after starting from scratch was what impressed her.
“They have had to learn everything they needed to know about dairy goats — they are completely self-taught and self-made; in just over a decade the Roos family went from starting a dairy goat farm from scratch to being one of the biggest in the province.”
The supreme management and innovation on this farm is factor that made it outstanding to the judges.
Seasonal kidding in the winter months requires the Roos family to hire five to 15 employees throughout the year, as needed. This inspired Jony to create an app so all employees feeding kids understand the status of each kid.
“We have different shifts and different employees so (it’s important) everyone knows what’s going on,” says Jony.
The app, which they have been using for four years now, allows those feeding the kids to track multiple data points on an iPad — kid number, such as if it drank, if the animal was a difficult drinker, required tubing or if it needed medication. Jony can view all this information at any time on her desktop computer in the barn office.
“Before we built this new (kid) barn, we worked with chalkboards and it was easy to wipe things out and things would get messed up pretty fast, and I felt something had to change. I kept thinking, I put everything down on paper and sent it to my friend who creates stuff like this, I asked ‘can you do this’ and he said yes.”
The couple was nominated last winter by a past full-time employee, Ron Bowker.
Once nominated, the Roos family, along with other candidates, had to complete a lengthy application covering the following areas of their operation:
- Progress in agricultural career
- Environmental stewardship
- Production history
- Financial and management practices
- Contributions to the well being of the community, province and nation
- Financial progress
In addition, the Roos family, along with two other finalists, had a 20-minute interview with the judges and delivered a 15-minute presentation on their operation at the 2019 Canada’s Outdoor Farmshow.
The other two finalists included Kendra and Steve Bloomfield of Bloomers Family Farm and Ben Tomory of Pefferlaw Creek Farms.
The Bloomfields operate an on-farm store, northwest of London in Ilderton, selling beef, chicken and eggs which are all home-grown on the farm. Pefferlaw Creek Farms holds a rich tradition of maple syrup production near Uxbridge, on 40 acres of their 200-acre farm. The family hopes to continue to grow the business to the largest maple syrup producer in the province.
The Roos family will now compete for the national award at the beginning of December in Fredericton, New Brunswick. They will be competing against the other regional winners from BC/Yukon, Saskatchewan, Atlantic, Alberta/NWT, Manitoba and Quebec.
“I hope they can continue to learn and innovate. The OOYF program provides a terrific opportunity for networking and sharing with similar innovative and hard working farm families. I hope they find support and inspiration from past winners,” says Fraser.
2020 nominations for the program open in January. To be eligible, the nominees must be between the ages of 18 and 39, be farm operators, have an investment in the business and derive two-thirds of their gross income from the farming operation.