Tag Archives: calves

Meet Six Women Making a Difference in Dairy Farming

We’ve heard the old adage, “If you ate today, thank a farmer.” But who do you picture, when you think of a farmer? In today’s age, they are far from the stereotypes you learned about through nursery rhymes.

So today, we take a moment to recognize six of the hardworking women dairy farmers in Oregon.

Collman

Melissa Collman was raised on a dairy and, fourteen years ago, committed to continuing her family’s legacy as a fourth generation dairy farmer. She says, “I take care of all the books for our dairy. I also do just a wide range from driving the rake, helping build fence, relief milker, relief calf feeder, cow mover, you name it. If there is grunt work I’m usually a part of that.” Melissa also advocates for the dairy industry through farm tours and events.

“The best thing about working on a dairy farm is the family time! It is unique in this day-and-age to get to spend so much time with your family and it is something to be treasured. Beyond that, we are a part of something bigger. We get to produce an extremely healthy and quality product for other families to enjoy. We get to take care of these beautiful, funny, goofy animals and do our best to give them a quality life.”

Read more about Melissa’s family farm in this article.

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Donata Doornenbal works alongside her parents on their organic dairy, Thomas Valley Farm. “I was born on a dairy, and at six years old I started helping with calf feeding. My dream is to continue on the dairy and share the joy with my future family,” she says. “My tasks include feeding calves and general calf care, milking, and a little office work. In the summer I also move, wrap, and stack silage bales, (those big white marshmallows that you see on farms) and do a lot of weed control.”

Donata views her role in the industry to be a rare privilege. “We work on the dairy because we want to. Every dairy farmer I know has so many skills and is continually learning in order to have the best business possible and farm in the best way possible.”

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Bobbi Frost is the fourth generation to work and live on her family’s farm, Harrold’s Dairy. She became a full-time farmer after graduating from Oregon State University in 2011. “Some days I am working with the cows and calves, and others I am cleaning barns or maintaining equipment. During harvest seasons I run the forage harvester,” she says.

“Not every day in Oregon is sunshine and blue sky … and neither is everyday spent working with three generations of your family, but I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything other than being a dairy farmer.”

Learn more about Bobbi Frost in this article.

Poland

Deanna Poland farms with her husband on their organic farm in central Oregon. “My first and most important role in the industry is to help our family run a smooth successful dairy.  I have many hats here on our dairy.  I am book keeper, calf feeder, tractor driver, CEO and educator. As an organic dairy farmer there is so much more book work and record keeping to be done.

Deanna became involved with the dairy industry when she was eight years old when her dad purchased an 80 cow dairy. “It was an extremely snowy cold January, and I was the one in charge of feeding calves. The calves were housed in individual hutches that were placed outside. We did not have bottle holders at the time and I had to stand and hold each bottle individually until it was empty. I think we had 8 calves when we took over the dairy. Let’s just say this little city girl had to get tough real quick!”

In spite of the long hours and inclement weather, Deanna says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I truly love is the wholesomeness it brings to our family.  We teach our children the value of working hard and that there are no cutting corners in life if you want to be successful.  We like to consider us as, ‘Team Poland.’  We all have an important role on this dairy and if we all work together we can have a very wonderful life.”

Samek

Karen Samek is an Area Field Manager for Northwest Dairy Association, the co-op that owns Darigold. She grew up on a dairy in the Willamette Valley. “I remember driving a loader while my dad pulled off three tie hay bales in the dark at a very young age. Probably six or seven. I started feeding calves around age seven or eight.” She started working as a field manager for the dairy industry in 2011.

“I work with a group of 90 farmers on most issues/needs that happen between the co-op and the individual farms.  I am also visiting farms on a regular basis. I really enjoy being able to do something different every day. I also like going to different places every day. But, the aspect that enjoy the most is the people. We have a great group of people working in this industry. This includes the farmers as well as the allied industry folks.” 

Although the dairy industry isn’t always easy, Karen says. “It’s hard to watch our culture trend towards becoming less appreciative of their food and also less aware what it really takes to produce food. Farmers are some of the most resilient people that I know, and that’s what I love about them. They love what they do enough to weather the storms.”

schoch

Casey Schoch has been working alongside her husband on their family farm, Schoch Dairy and Creamery, since 1991. Located near Portland, Schoch Dairy is a third generation dairy farm, and is home to 40 cows. The milk from these cows is pasteurized, bottled and sold right on the property in their own creamery. 

Casey cares for the financials, and orders supplies for both dairy and the creamery, along with marketing, and customer relations. “Living and working on a dairy farm is such a unique way of life. It is a daily commitment to take care of the cows and the facilities. They depend on us every day, but they give a lot in return.

My family and I have a lifetime of wonderful experiences that come from the cows. I have learned a lot about myself over the years on the dairy farm. Some days are full of laughter and others are filled with tears, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.”

Read more about Casey Schoch in this article.

Funny Questions, Serious Impacts on Dairy Tours

Fresh off of the school bus, wide-eyed youngsters set foot on a dairy farm for the very first time. They’re taking in all of the sights, and yes, the smells.

WATCH VIDEO

The farmer welcomes the students to her dairy and asks, “Do you know where milk comes from?

”Their most common answer? “The grocery store!”

This response shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that 98% of the U.S. population are generations removed from the farm. Tours are an excellent way to better inform and educate students about something that directly affects them and their families every day: where their food comes from.

“Most of the kids have never been on a farm. They have never seen farm animals in person,” said Melissa Collman, a dairy farmer in Boring, Oregon. “And even though our dairy isn’t very far away, we are miles apart as far as what they have experienced in life.”

As you might imagine, dairy farm tours can also be a source of humor, so we asked several Oregon dairy farmers and tour guides to tell us about some of the funny things they’ve heard or experienced while leading a tour.

JAMIE BANSEN, FOREST GLEN JERSEYS

Jamie and her dog, Olive, recently hosted a large group including students who had never set foot on a farm, let alone a dairy farm. Like a quick draw in the Old West, these middle schoolers quickly reached for their smartphones to snap photos and video along the way.

Students were amazed that manure is beneficial as a source of energy, bedding and fertilizer. “So wait, cow poop can make electricity and be sold for money?” a student asked. His serious question quickly devolved into laughter as a cow demonstrated the first step of that process.

After one of the girls expressed surprise about how quiet and happy the cows seemed, she decided, “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to pet cows all day.”

STACY FOSTER, RICKREALL DAIRY

“They love to tell me stories about their mom’s, cousin’s, friend’s cow that they saw once,” said Stacy.

Kids have told her they want to live at her dairy and become a farmer. They also want to bring calves home … until they’re reminded that they soon turn in to large cows.

“Some are amazed that we only have cows on our farm, since the only other farmer they know is Old McDonald,” she said. When the kids ask to see the other animals, like chickens, her answer makes the parent chaperones laugh. “Those animals don’t like to be milked, so they live on a different farm.”

CASEY SCHOCH, SCHOCH DAIRY AND CREAMERY

“On one of our tours, a little boy told me a cow joke,” said Casey. “What do you call a cow that has had her baby? De-calf-inated!

”Many of the kids ask to see the brown cows that make the chocolate milk, she said, but followed that it isn’t just the kids who ask funny questions.

“I actually had a mom ask me in all seriousness why we don’t milk the bulls,” said Casey, “I then tried to explain that similar to human females, only female cows have the correct parts for producing milk.”

MELISSA COLLMAN, CLOUD CAP DAIRY

Beyond the innocent and funny questions like whether boy cows make milk, Melissa expressed concern that students often echo some bizarre myths about dairy farming spread on social media and blog posts.

A student approached Melissa on a tour about rumors he heard about strange ingredients in milk. “So I milked a cow in front of this little boy, and he got to see for himself,” she said. “He was shocked.”

“It’s really important that we as farmers help educate consumers and future generations,” she said. “The funny questions and comments I hear on farm tours just reaffirm that any time we spend with the kids is time well spent.”

Catch a glimpse of some children discovering a dairy farm for the very first time in the video below.

 

Eight Questions for an Oregon Dairy Mom

Mary Chamberlain is a dairy farmer alongside her husband, Jason, and in-laws Warren and Lori, at Dairylain Farms in Vale, Oregon. Mary and Jason have three boys between the ages of one and seven, and she coaches a cross country running team at the local high school. We asked Mary eight questions about her life as a farmer, community volunteer, and a mother.

Why do you farm?

It’s a family tradition that goes back to our great-grandparents. I was raised on a dairy farm, and I married a dairy boy. It only made sense to work on his parent’s dairy and raise our kids to love dairy cows as much as we do. Raising calves, fostering them to cows, and giving them what they need to produce wonderful milk — that is the pretty basic description of what we do. But in reality it’s so much more.

When our first born arrived, I tried to stay home, but the farm needed an extra set of hands. I found myself pushing a stroller along as I fed calves, vaccinated cows, or checked heifers. Now on our third child, we start our mornings by heading to the barn to get milk to feed the calves, and end our day checking on the robots (we added robotic milkers last July). I’m very proud to have my boys working with us every day.

What’s life like for your kids on the farm?

They all have different levels of love for the farm and our way of life. My one-year-old just loves to watch the cows, and of course, sample their food.

Dairylain_2017_2048My four-year-old plays for hours with his farm toys in the sandbox. Every once in a while we catch bits of his make-believe land, where he is the ‘dad’ and he drives his loader and feeds the cows. We even get hints of a girl he likes as she makes an appearance in this pretend world to feed baby calves. When he isn’t in the sandbox, he loves to follow his dad around or ride along while I check on the heifers.

Our seven-year-old is starting to connect the dots that feeding animals and taking care of them is essential for them to not just survive but to helps us survive. When an animal is born, he is one of the first to let us know, and then help his dad move her to the barn. He helps with every task on the dairy. Some he hates (he thinks feeding calves is too boring) and others he loves (like picking out animals to train for fair).

And you’re also involved in your local schools?

Yes, I’m the local cross country head coach, and I substitute teach when I can (which is a bit rare these days with a one year old). Before my boys, I ran marathons and did triathlons all over the country. These days, it’s important for me to stay fit for my sanity and my health. Coaching running is great way to give back to the community and teach kids a way to deal with their own stress and worries.

With a master’s degree in dairy science and a love for running, I’m a bit of a quirky sub. I encourage getting outside to do work. I believe there is this huge connection to moving and learning that we don’t utilize in the classroom.

How important is nutrition to your family and your cows?

Dairylain Farms Chamberlain jerseyAs a three time mom in her 30s who still runs and bikes when she can, what’s in my food and my boys’ food is a concern. We all burn a lot of calories. I don’t want any food around that is just going to give a quick energy high and then leave me with a headache and cranky kids. Protein, carbohydrates, digestible and usable sugars, vitamins and minerals: that’s what I look for in all my food, and I try to balance the levels based on what we need and when we need it.

Good nutrition is also important to our cows. They are sort of like a pro-athlete; they will burnout if they don’t train and eat right. We feed the cows to increase milk supply naturally by giving them the correct amount of energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals (and plenty of water). We have to make sure their nutrition allows them to milk plenty but doesn’t deplete their bones and body.

Do you use antibiotics or hormones?

Out of 375 milking animals, we have only one that’s getting antibiotics right now. We use antibiotics on our dairy according to the label, and no antibiotics are allowed to enter the food supply. If she gets an antibiotic shot, her milk gets dumped.

I think there is a misconception that as dairy farmers we are constantly giving shots for sickness. Really we give very few. My one year old has received more doses of antibiotics for ear infections this winter than we gave the entire milking herd for the same four months. We all work hard to give our animals the best chance to fight colds and viruses on their own. When they can’t, we call the vet and get the medication they need.

As for hormones, cows don’t need additional hormones to make them give more milk, they have enough natural ones.

How do you take care of your cows and calves?

Dairylain calf feedingWe feed them, ensure they are safe, healthy and comfortable, and we provide clean homes and bedding. We give the calves blankets and warm water in the winter and cold water in the summer. Sometimes when my kids are sick, it’s hard to leave the house to work at the dairy. But the cows and calves need us too.

Cows are not humans, and sometimes they can hurt or neglect their calves. So to the calves, we are their foster parents. They depend on us to understand their language, like a wagging tail and licking tongue means ‘I’m good!’ — droopy eyes and not getting up right away means something doesn’t feel right.

How do you care for the environment?

Improving the land around us is a big priority. Since we grow our own crops for the cows to eat, there is always plenty of land that could use more nutrients. We sample the soil to decide where nutrients are needed and that’s where we spread manure from our pens and barns. It’s natural, organic fertilizer.

We ensure that the water used in our barns for cooling milk is recycled, so the cows can have plenty to drink. We are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste in all forms and recycle what we can. We use solar powered electric fences to keep the heifers in, and solar powered pumps to run our pivots to keep the fields watered and the grass growing.

Are there any parting thoughts that you’d like people to know?

Dairylain_2017_1972Just as none of us are perfect parents, there are no perfect farmers. But we honestly do the best we can do on this day, and hope for the same or better tomorrow. Every day is another chance to do even better. I trust what we do, what my neighbors do, and what our fellow friends and dairy farmers across the country do. We are proud of the quality foods that we help bring to your table and ours!

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