Motivated in part by good friends who’d established a farm in Manitoba, Les and Karen deLeeuw decided to start their own dairy and moved 63 cows nearly 1,000 miles across Canada, from Les’ parents’ dairy in British Columbia to a farm outside Elm Creek, Manitoba.
Although Les grew up on a dairy farm and still helps with the daily milking when he’s available, cows were never a particular passion for him. Nearly 20 years after moving to Manitoba, he primarily focuses on fieldwork (barley, alfalfa and corn) and trucking for a neighboring farm while Karen, daughter Lindsay and son-in-law Jason Breukelman handle most of the 70-head dairy operation work.
The four rely on a compact loader to transport feed into bunks, remove manure from the barn, clear snow and complete other general farm upkeep. In other words, the dairy’s loader is a must-have machine. So when their non-Bobcat-brand loader stopped working unexpectedly, the family began shopping for another loader to quickly remedy the problem.
“We weren’t even thinking about buying a new machine as much as about needing to make feed that night to feed the cows,” Karen says. “A friend of ours had bought a skid-steer loader from Bobcat Company and told us he really liked it.”
Delivered in a Day
The day their loader malfunctioned, Les and Karen spent most of the afternoon calling compact equipment dealerships to inquire about renting a loader until the family could purchase a new machine. After speaking with sales specialist Corey Banman at Bobcat of the Pembina Valley, “chop-chop the machine was in the yard the next day,” she says. The deLeeuws ended up purchasing that machine, an M-Series T590 compact track loader.
“The biggest reasons were the location of the dealership and their friendliness,” Jason says. “They let us test a loader and weren’t finicky about what we did with it. They said, ‘use it however you would.’ The other guys said, ‘only put an hour on it, don’t get it muddy.’”
The improved visibility of the Bobcat® loader was a deciding factor during the evaluation phase, Jason says. In their previous machine, he had trouble seeing clearly when reversing because the machine’s engine location limited his view out the rear window. Karen says the family was also drawn to the T590’s comfortable controls and ease of maintenance, citing convenient access points and the simplicity of cleaning the tracks.
“The accessibility to the routine service parts in the back is amazing,” Karen says. “We can open our tailgate, and everything is right there.”
Although skid-steer loaders are traditionally the most popular compact loader in the agriculture market, the family purchased a compact track loader because of its ability to work on varying ground conditions.
“We have the most amazing mud here; it swallows things whole,” Karen says. “We needed a track machine to float on top to avoid a lot of frustration and to get in and out of the messy manure.”
At 133 inches long, 68 inches wide (with bucket), and 77.8 inches tall, the compact size of the machine allows for easy maneuverability in the barn aisles when transporting feed and cleaning out manure. Daily feedings require Jason to create a feed mixture of corn and straw. Using a bucket with an industrial grapple and the T590, he adds each ingredient into a large feed wagon to mix the feed, which he then transports into the barn’s bunks with the loader. Later in the day, Jason carefully cleans out any leftover feed by lowering the T590’s bucket into the cement bunks and meticulously scraping the feed into the bucket. Les also helps with the feedings during the winter months.
A Farm for the Next Generation
In the meantime, the dairy remains a two-generation operation, providing the family with a rural lifestyle and opportunities for family togetherness.
After moving to British Columbia for some time, Lindsay returned to the family farm, found herself really enjoying working with the cows and soon took charge of the herd.
“It became very clear that Lindsay has a passion for cows,” Karen says. “I would never make her stay with the business, but we’ll see what happens. She can stand and look at these animals and tell you who they are from their back legs and the backside of their udders. She has cow sense.”
“It’s fun to do it as a family; I really love that,” Karen says. “You’re tied down, but it’s also flexible. I love living in the country. I like sunsets. I like hay bales. I like cows. It’s a peaceful life. We have been richly blessed.”
Want more dairy stories? Read how this 3,000-head California dairy uses modern technology and machines to keep it running smoothly.