Playing leading role throughout Dairy Learning Centre project< More Stories
“I don’t usually go for these types of positions, but I decided to try it and learn what I can. I think it’s paid off,” says Bikker, a 2017 graduate of the animal science technology dairy major. “It’s definitely helped me to grow.”
Bikker and her team of six tackled a number of projects including heifer fertility, purchasing embryos and introducing corn silage into the diets of lactating cows. But the highlight was being a part of the planning process for the much-anticipated Dairy Learning Centre.
“It’s so cool to be able to experience working on this project from the ground level,” says Bikker, who grew up on a dairy farm near Barrhead, Alta. “There are some students in our group who may return home and build a new barn, so it’s great that they get to experience all of this.”
The 47,000 sq. ft. Dairy Learning Centre will feature a traditional milking parlour and a robotic milking system, among other state-of-the-art features that focus on cow comfort for higher output production, animal care, safety and transition cow management.
Bikker and her team played a leading role throughout the project. They were involved in consultations during open houses earlier in the year, shared input during equipment planning meetings and then, finally, being on hand for the ground breaking in April.
“We were given the blueprint designs to review and critique, and some of our input was taken into consideration, including stress-free calving, the big straw pack, some of the classroom designs, and bio security,” says Bikker, who’ll continue her education at the University of Saskatchewan this fall as she works towards becoming a veterinarian.
“With all of these opportunities it makes you feel like you’re a part of this project and that you’ve accomplished something.”
Bikker is excited for future students to learn about the dairy industry at Lakeland.
“With the new facility and all of its technology, I think more people will be interested in coming to Lakeland to expand their knowledge,” she says, adding she plans to return to the campus once the project is complete.
“Since there’s going to be a robotic and traditional parlour, students are still going to learn about the cow itself, how to milk it and (identifying) the physical signs of the cow. But with the robotics side, I think that’s the future of the industry. It’s important that students are going to learn both. They’ll gain a lot of great experience in the new facility and I think they’ll learn a lot more from a cow than they ever thought they would,” says Bikker.
The total cost of the Dairy Learning Centre is $9.5 million of which $8 million is in place. This includes $3.5 in federal funding through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The remaining $1.5 million will be raised through Leading. Learning. The Lakeland Campaign. The campaign goals are to modernize our Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland, expand student success, and grow applied research at Lakeland.
Alberta Milk has been instrumental in the success of the project, providing the use of additional milk quota as well as input into the design and future courses.
Photo: Top – Maryje Bikker with a Holstein calf. Bottom – Lakeland's dairy unit members with shovels at the sod-turning ceremony on April 26, 2017. From left to right are Sydney Fox, Jeremy Kramer, Jan Werner Slomp, Quinn Rogstad, Bikker, and Alex Moes.