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June is Dairy Month - Duschee Hills Dairy Farm

Fri, Jun 3rd, 2011
Posted in Agriculture

By Abby Stocker

Got milk? June is officially dairy month, a time for everyone to acknowledge how much they enjoy milk. And cheese. Don't forget yogurt. Or ice cream...dairy products play a big role in keeping stomachs full and happy. If it weren't for dairy farmers and their cows, these delicious products would never make their way to our tables. But before running out to drive to the nearest dairy farm to thank the owners, read on. Listed below are a few of the things that stand out about running a dairy after getting a brief, early-morning glimpse into life at Duschee Hills Dairy, owned by Chris and Pat Troendle and Ben and Darla Taylor.

D: Dedication. Dairy farming is a business that requires a lot of attention to detail. Not only do farmers have to keep track of where different groups of cows are, who has been milked when, and how much feed to prepare, but they also have to keep records of when each cow has given birth, how much milk each one is producing, and what to put in feed for different cows. Computer systems do help, but once farmers have recorded and sorted through all of this information, they still have to actually carry out the daily operations of the farm. Add twice-daily milking duties to keeping 200 cows fed and happy while growing and harvesting the crops to feed them, and you'll get a job description that requires serious dedication.

A: Adequate hydration. According to Pat Troendle, the most important factor in producing high quality milk from healthy cows is "water, water, water." Nutrition is also important, as cows in different life phases have nutrient requirements. For instance, a "pre-fresh" cow, one who is about three weeks away from delivering a calf, might not require the same exact amount of protein as a cow in the "early lactation" stage, which comes some three weeks after giving birth. At Duschee Hills, Pat regulates the diets of different groups of cows, while Ben Taylor, his brother-in-law, is in charge of mixing the feed and distributing it to the animals.

I: Initiative. Farmers need initiative to be willing to adapt to whatever happens on a given day. Sure, the cows are always going to be milked, but what happens if the three hours of crop harvest you were planning to finish don't happen because your machinery breaks down? Chris Troendle, who grew up on the farm that is now Duschee Hills Dairy, relates that while the winter doesn't always have a lot of variety, the warmer weather always requires dairy farmers to be flexible. Every day is different when it comes to the unique combination of cows and crop harvesting that dairy farmers commit to.

R: Routine. Cows love consistency. They would be happiest if every day were exactly the same: sunny, about 55 degrees, and not too humid. However, as the weather is out of human control, farmers such as the Troendles and Taylors try to maintain a high degree of consistency when they milk and the process they use to get the cows ready for milking. Brush the dirt off the udder, strip 2-3 squirts of milk from the teats, clean off the udder, hook up the milking equipment, and do it all again for the next cow...for each of their nearly 200 cows, in fact.

Y: You. Dairy farmers depend on a wide variety of people to keep them in business, from state inspectors and veterinarians to milk haulers and delivery people. Support from people within the industry as well as community support makes a lot of difference. Chris notes, "You can't dairy farm in isolation." The next time you enjoy a cold ice cream cone on a hot summer day, thank a dairy farmer.

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