The dairy farmers milk 120 cows in Spruce View, Alta.
By Diego Flammini
Alberta has its representatives for the 2020 Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers competition.
Roelof and Mary van Benthem, owners of Van Benthem Dairy in Spruce View, Alta. received the provincial distinction during the Alberta regional event in Red Deer.
“We were very proud, excited and honoured to receive the award,” Roelof told Farms.com. “It wasn’t something we were expecting.”
The couple farm a total of 840 acres that include alfalfa and wheat fields along with 120 milking cows and 150 young stock.
Roelof’s ag journey started in the Netherlands where his parents operated a dairy farm. The farm was located in a nature preservation area and wasn’t allowed to expand.
Roelof’s father, Evert, also wanted to move out of the Netherlands.
Evert was a high-profile speed skater who won the Dutch Elfstedentocht, a 200-kilometre race, two years in a row in 1985 and 1986.
The first victory brought uninvited visitors to the family farm.
“It happened to all of us, after the first victory of (the race) in 1985,” Evert told deVolksrant, a Dutch newspaper, in 2012. “We thought we would just drive home with our car, take a shower, watch some TV images and then go to the ceremony in the village house.”
Before they could even return home, police stopped them to warn the family that a group of thousands of people were at the farm, Evert said.
So, Evert and his wife Jannette moved to Canada with Roelof and his brothers Merein and Jos in 2000.
After finishing high school in Canada, Roelof spent the next decade studying kinesiology, embryo transplantation, agriculture production and agriculture management at Olds College while also pursuing a career in speed skating.
While on a winter speed-skating trip back to the Netherlands, Roelof worked with a veterinarian to learn how to do his own embryo recovery and transplantation work. He’s been implementing those practices on his own farm for almost 20 years.
The embryo recovery and transplantation helps with “quicker genetic gain in your herd,” he said. “You take one of your best cows and stimulate her with a follicle stimulating hormone, so she releases more eggs. When she’s in heat you (artificially inseminate) the cow and about a week after, all those eggs should be fertilized.”
The next step in the process is to flush the embryos out of the cow and implant them into a cow that may not have as good genetics, van Benthem said.
“The calf that’s born has all the genetics from the donor cow and can lead to better milk production and other benefits,” he said.
Roelof and Mary will represent Alberta at the national event in Saskatoon, Sask. in December.
The couple married in 2010 and have four children: Lars (8), Noah (6), Finn (3) and Toby (three months).
Kevin Van Bussl of CIBC presents Roelof and Mary van Benthem with the Alberta Outstanding Young Farmers Award.
Outstanding Young Farmers of Alberta photo