Corey Bloder and Maxi Biederstadt not only credit Lakeland College in Vermilion, Alta., as the place where their romance blossomed, but also the place of incredible learning and networking.
Bloder grew up on a mixed farm near Unity, Sask., with a focus on Simmental cattle. Biederstadt came from Edmonton and although she did not grow up on the farm, had a connection to agriculture through her grandparents.
The couple both say the learning opportunities they had on the Vermilion campus’s Student Managed Farm (SMF) and the incredible number of people they met, with whom they are still connected as both friends and business resources, had a major impact on where they are today. Their exposure to management strategies of fellow classmates was also significant.
They both attended Lakeland College in 2014 in the two-year animal science technology program. Biederstadt stayed on an extra year to complete her ag business diploma, as a combined degree. Both were in the purebred unit of the Student Managed Farm and Bloder was the general manager.
A couple of areas stand out for Bloder in what he brought back to their own operation. One was the nutrition feeding component and the other was embryo transfer. They feed test and analyze the nutrition aspects of what the cows are getting using Alberta Agriculture’s CowBytes program, which they used at school. Biederstadt says the way they run their on-farm bull sale now was influenced greatly by their learnings at Lakeland. The direct involvement they had with Lakeland’s Vermilion Bull Sale helped them decide to transition their own sale to their farm. Their sale on March 12, 2021, will mark the fifth year they have had the sale at home, offering 40 bulls and 10 to 15 purebred heifers.
In addition to the 250 purebred cow herd and growing feed, they also grain farm. The feed includes hay, corn and, more recently, annual forages. They try to match the varieties of the forages with the differing soil types. Bloder likes turnips, forage canola and the rye grass species in their mix. He says the costs are about one-third of the corn and they get more grazing days.
One factor affecting corn growth in their area is the heat units. Whether they silaged, baled or swath-grazed the annual forages, they have been impressed with the regrowth for grazing and how it can fit into their crop rotations. Other benefits include the cleanup of the plants, feed quality and distribution of manure by the cattle. The cows also like the annual forages.
One of their former classmates works at Bow Valley Genetics, where they are currently flushing their best cows in an embryo transfer program. This year they hope to implant 40 to 50 embryos. They also use AI on the cows and usually try to AI about half on the first cycle. It does depend on the year and what the weather conditions are like. The AI course at Lakeland was another learning element for Bloder. He and his dad do the AI’ing.
The couple are farming with Bloder’s parents and Biederstadt also has an off-farm job with Cargill, which she is currently mostly doing from home. Biederstadt says her Lakeland experience helped to get the Cargill job.
One of Bloder’s highlights at Lakeland was “going to college and getting to be able to go to cattle shows for a month straight.” Bloder had always been involved in the showing aspect and was glad to be able to continue, as well as share his knowledge with the other members of their SMF purebred unit. Members came from across the country with a wide array of background and experiences. Leading that group was also a valuable experience for Bloder in the area of managing people.
Biederstadt adds the experience of showing also pushed many of the students out of their comfort zone, but that was a good thing. The element of working with a mixed group of individuals and how to communicate effectively are also tools that they have found beneficial. Bringing new ideas back home to the farm and his parents is due in large part to the college experience.
The couple stress the great, close relationships they have with former classmates as friends but also business associates. They appreciate learning what some of those friends are doing on their dairy and sheep operations, as well as other experiences they are having as next-gen farmers.
“The learning does not stop after graduation,” says Biederstadt. An important highlight for her was being able to have her horse with her at school.
Lakeland instructor, and dean of agriculture and environmental sciences, Geoff Brown has stayed in touch with the couple and is impressed with how they are developing their operation.
“Both Corey and Maxi were great students for us and they added a lot to our program and the purebred unit of the SMF. They are great representatives for youth in agriculture.”
As with many in agriculture, life on the farm goes on despite the COVID-19 pandemic. At time of writing, they were preparing to start calving in January and working on the March 12 bull sale. The sale had already been online with DLMS, so they will continue with that strategy.
“We wanted to plan ahead and be resilient,” Bloder says. “We try to be innovative and grow the operation.”
In fact, Biederstadt just bought her own set of bred heifers to add to the Blushrose Simmental Farm herd. The enthusiasm they bring as young people in the ag industry bodes well for their operation and future.
Kelly Sidoryk ranches with her family just west of Lloydminster, Alta. She consults in a number of areas including succession planning and holistic management.