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Gezinus Martens finds fulfillment in serving the industry

Alice Guthrie for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 February 2019
Gezinus Martens (right) and his sons, Ronny (left) and Johan (center).

Gezinus Martens is an innovative thinker, always looking for better ways to accomplish things. “My drive is always being innovative and being progressive,” he says.

He is passionate about training young people and says he feels a responsibility for the success of the next generation. One of the best ways to help them succeed is by education – not just hands-on, in-the-field training but by teaching management skills.

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He says colleges should reflect the industry, teaching those skills so the students they turn out become the managers of the future, not just stable help. Technology and innovation are big drivers of industry – the next generation seems more willing to come home to the farm now that technology has made life easier, and they no longer have to work the same hard way their parents did.

Martens is constantly thinking, planning and asking himself questions: “What have you done for others? For your industry?”

He answers those questions with actions. From assisting with a new church building project to taking active roles in his industry, this man keeps busy.

Bea and Gezinus Martens

Martens and his wife, Bea, emigrated from the Netherlands in 1998 to provide better opportunities for their young family – two sons and a daughter. They purchased a small farm in the Calmar, Alberta, area, building a new facility for 80 cows. The business quickly grew. In 2005, he built a new barn, doubling his capacity.

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In 2014, he added two automated milking systems, setting a goal of reaching 40 litres per day average production per cow from the 37 litres he was producing at the time. This goal was reached within a year. The second-year goal was to increase to 1.6 kilograms of butterfat per cow, which was also accomplished.

Heifer production runs at 10,000 kilograms with a total herd average of 12,000 kilograms. At this time, there are about 128 milking cows, which is maximizing the robots. All are registered Holsteins.

Martens is in process of building another new barn, which will allow him to increase the milking herd to 300 cows. This is a guided-flow freestall facility, with four more robots and an in-line milk analyzing system. He expects it will be finished by June.

Because of limitations from the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB), Martens had to make a choice: He could keep 240 cows plus youngstock or 300 cows with no youngstock. He figures it is more cost-efficient to keep 300 cows, so he no longer raises his own heifers. Instead, they are sent to a heifer-raising facility run by his daughter and son-in-law. Heifers come home about one month prior to calving, which works well for them.

Martens says being proactive is key to good herd health. “Our goal is to control the risk that cows don’t get sick; being proactive is key to having a healthy herd. Most important is lifetime production, not only high top per lactation. Other goals are to improve longevity and lower herd turnover,” he says.

Martens and his sons, Johan and Ronny, work 600 acres, growing wheat, canola and barley. Straw from the canola is used for bedding in the dairy barn. He does not grow hay; instead, he purchases high-quality hay from the Lethbridge, Alberta, area. They also grow corn for silage, allowing 1 acre of corn for each milking cow.

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Johan is in charge of the fieldwork and also does custom work. He helps in the dairy as needed. The business has been incorporated since 2008 under the name Triple M Dairies Inc. They are in process of succession planning to bring the next generation on board.

To Martens, success of the entire industry trumps individual success. After all, if the industry fails to succeed, individuals will also fail. He follows this philosophy with activity designed to assist his industry’s success.

He is part of Lakeland College’s advisory committee, has been a board member of Alberta Milk for six years, is involved with Alberta Dairy Congress and the Holstein show in early June at Leduc. He is involved with milk transportation and research in the dairy industry. This year, he is chairman of the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar (WCDS), which will be held March 5-8 at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta.

This seminar was launched in 1983 and combines all sectors of the industry. The board consists of representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Alberta Agriculture and Forestry; Alberta Milk; Alberta Veterinary Medical Association; Animal Nutrition Association of Canada; University of Alberta; University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine; equipment, financial institution, pharmaceutical and processor companies; as well as representatives from British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. There is a full-time seminar coordinator to keep things running smoothly.

This year’s theme is “Knowledge is Power.” Speakers from across Canada and the U.S. will present on many topics. It is expected about 900 people will attend, based on past years’ attendance. For more information on the seminar, go online (Western Canadian Dairy Seminar).

Martens has been involved with the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar on many levels – from his role as the producer representative from Alberta Milk to planning the farm tour part of the seminar and arranging for the producer panel. For the farm tour, he searched out places where innovation, newer barns and new ideas are presented. He sought out progressive producers to share their knowledge with seminar attendees during the Thursday morning panel presentation.

With his busy schedule, Martens has little spare time. “What’s that?” he jokes when asked about extra activities. He does like to travel and has a goal: “to travel more and see how other farmers operate in different countries all over the world.” He recently returned from a trip to the UK organized by WestGen. He has some involvement with his church, but otherwise his time is spent with family and work.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Gezinus Martens (right) is working on transitioning the 130-cow and 600-acre farm to his sons, Ronny (left) and Johan (center).

PHOTO 2: Bea and Gezinus Martens immigrated to Alberta in 1998 to provide better opportunities for their young family – two sons and a daughter. All of whom are involved with their farming operation in some capacity today. Photos provided by Gezinus Martens.

Alice Guthrie is a freelance writer from Hagersville, Ontario.

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