From a farmer to you – a series of real stories about real people.
Alex Anstice is 28 years old with a degree in Agriculture from Guelph University. He enjoys biking, playing the guitar and drums, and is a full-time dairy farmer in partnership with his parents, Dorothy and Jim Anstice on a 275 acre farm in Tehkummah, Ontario
If you ask Alex why he farms, he smiles, and will tell you that his love of farming started when he was a little boy who often fell asleep on the back of his dad’s tractor. “By nine years-old I was driving the tractor myself and by 12, I was helping with the milking.
My dad never told me I had to work – I took the initiative. I’d carry grain to the heifers every day and help him and my Grandpa fix fences and repair stuff.”
Alex will attest that dairy farming is a rigorous full-time job with no days off. Cows need to be milked when their udders are full – twice a day, every day. “I roll out of bed at six in the morning and go right into the barn to milk the Holsteins. Our cows are quiet, gentle animals with their own distinct personalities.
“The first thing I do is chase them into the holding area. You can tell the best behaved ones because they move into formation right away. Then I load up the milking parlor with five cows on each side.”
As a third generation farmer who thrives on the challenge and independence a career in farming offers, Alex is knowledgeable of animal biology, genetics, nutrition, animal behavior and welfare, mechanics and technology. “I’m using my degree and scientific knowledge everyday on the job. Our industry is always changing, and the Ag program taught me how to stay up-to-date with what’s going on.”
Alex is fortunate to not only have discovered his life’s passion, but to also have been presented the opportunity to farm.
The number of young people in farming is going down – only 11.5 percent are under the age of 35. And a major challenge for those wanting to begin a career in dairy farming is the Milk Quota System. The average dairy farmer in Ontario is 47 years old with a herd of 54 milking cows. Expanding a dairy herd may require servicing a large amount of debt as the cost to purchase one cow for the purpose of selling milk in Ontario is $30,000.
“I love working for myself, but I also know I’m lucky. It would not have been impossible for me to milk cows if my family wasn’t already into it. I never wanted to do anything else but farm!”
By Deb Cripps