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Let’s eat! Visiting a four-generation Manitoulin dairy farm

Oshadenah Holsteins was started by Alex Anstice’s great grandfather, and he continues to carry on that tradition today

It’s the largest dairy farm on Manitoulin Island, supplying milk to Farquhar’s in Espanola and beyond.

The Anstice farm, Oshadenah Holsteins in Tehkummah, south Manitoulin, has been around for four generations, with Alex Anstice and his young family at the helm now.

“It started as an Old MacDonald hobby farm when my great grandfather arrived from England. When my father returned from Veterinarian School in Guelph in 1975, we began shipping fluid milk, creating the full-fledged dairy explosion,” Anstice said.

Currently, there are about 60 Holstein milk-producing cattle that visit the milk parlour twice each day.

The best producer is Thyme, No. 265. The cow has been producing milk for 13 years and is on her 11th lactation. She has produced 130,000 litres in her lifetime.

“We have had a number of cows that produce more than 100,000 litres, but Thyme is by far the biggest producer. She’s our trophy cow,” Anstice said.

Alex Anstice attended the same veterinary program as his father and has added some of his own tricks to the trade over the years. He produces a quality feed in house believing firmly that “you are what you eat”. He names each cow, which leads to better milk production. He’s also trained a future generation of dairy farmers – wife, Caroline Black, and two daughters, Emily and Chloe.

There have been some high-tech upgrades in recent years, too. Frank, a large-scale heavy robot, is programmed to push feed towards the cows in the barn several times each day to keep them well fed. An automated brush helps massage the cows keeping them happy. The milk parlour pumps are all automated allowing for 10 cows to be pumped at one time, and a new barn paves the way to allow for an even bigger operation.
Every year, the Bank of Montreal and the Ontario Plowmen’s Association recognizes farmers for their exceptional contributions. In 2018, Oshadenah Holsteins Dairy Farm won the Family Farm Award for the Algoma region.

There is never a down day on the family farm with cows needing to be milked when their udders are swollen and full. That happens twice per day, but it is something Alex has always been accustomed to from a young age.

“I honestly cannot remember when I started helping out my father as I was so young,” he said.

Trucks arrive every second day, driving away with about 4,300 litres of milk. It’s delivered to Espanola for testing, pasteurization and shipment from there.  

Somehow Anstice finds time to mountain bike and play his guitar – two of his other passions.

He is also the vice chair of the Manitoulin West-Sudbury Dairy Producers, or MWSDP and is featured in the milk producer magazine this month to discuss cow nutrition. He’ll also appear in the 2024 Milk calendar.

Last week, Ron Anstice, Alex’s grandfather passed away at the age of 95. Up until a few short years ago, Ron would still milk and aid in the development of feed on the farm.  

Ron was born on the family farm, served as the township councillor and reeve, along with the Manitoulin Planning Board and several agricultural committees.  

Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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