Tag Archives: family

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.

X Doornenbal.JPG

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.

Wow Your Holiday Guests with These Cheese and Chocolate Pairings

This holiday season, we recommend you introduce your friends and family to a new power couple: cheese and chocolate. That’s right, two individual favorites combine to give you an unexpectedly compatible taste that is sure to impress at your next holiday party. If you’re in a hurry, skip to the bottom for suggestions on pairings.

But, why pair cheese and chocolate together?

You have heard the saying that opposites attract, but in this case it’s the similarities in cheese and chocolate that make them pair well together.

1. Both are indulgent.

Typically cheese or chocolate are among the top snacks Americans will reach for when they want some decadence. Pair them together and you get a luxury hors d’oeuvre perfect for special occasions.

2. Both flavor profiles can be sweet.

Typically, cheese is considered to be a savory treat, and chocolate a sweet snack. However, depending on your cheese type, it can have a sweeter aftertaste and the darker the chocolate the more savory the taste.

3. Both chocolate and cheese are fermented.

Most people understand the cheese making process of fermenting milk, but did you realize the cacao bean must first be fermented in order to make chocolate? The fermentation process makes cheese and chocolate a winning combination much like our traditional preference to pair cheese and wine.

4. Both cheese and chocolate can contribute to your health.

Cheese has the nutritious benefits of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, along with vitamins A and B12. And although chocolate isn’t always known for its nutritional benefits, the main ingredient in chocolate, cacao, is abundant in the antioxidant flavonoids and theobromine.  Now, we aren’t suggesting that cheese and chocolate can replace your greens at dinner, but we are saying the combination can be part of an overall healthy diet.

cape mears_dk cherry almond_h

Make the most of your tasting experience.

Turns out there is an art and science to pairing foods, however, there are no rules when it comes to pairing cheese with chocolate; it’s a matter of personal preference, so feel free to experiment! And, if you are wanting to pair like the professionals, here are a few tips:

1. Smell both the chocolate and cheese before tasting.

Did you ever wonder why sommeliers smell the wine before tasting? It’s because aroma and taste combine to create a flavor profile through the nose and mouth that is interpreted to the brain for a more thorough tasting experience. When you smell your chocolate and cheese combination, it will give you a more complete flavor.

2. Resist the urge to chew the chocolate.

We recommend tasting the chocolate first, and make sure to release the flavors slowly by pressing a small piece to the roof of your mouth and running your tongue along the bottom of it, allowing it to melt. This will help you appreciate the texture of the chocolate, along with the specifics of flavor. With many chocolates, the flavor will change as it melts in your mouth. Once you have enjoyed the taste of chocolate on its own, add a small bite of cheese and notice the flavor change again.

Setting up your tasting

You can try any number of combinations to determine your favorite flavors and textures, but here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Choose high quality cheeses and chocolates.

Although it may be tempting to reach for your leftover Halloween candy and your regular cheddar for a pairing, we recommend thinking outside of the box. Consider buying your cheese from a cheese counter, or a local creamery. For the chocolate, look for chocolates made with high quality cacao and fewer ingredients. You may be surprised to find quality, local chocolates with a simple search.

2. Bring the chocolate and cheese to room temperature.

Once you have selected your cheeses and chocolates, cut them into bite sized pieces and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. This will help you appreciate their aromas and taste.

3. Offer a palate cleanser.

Be sure to offer crackers or fruit in between pairings to give your guests’ taste buds a rest.

4. Organize your pairings.

Order the pairings from mild in flavor to bold in intensity.  This will help you guide the tasting and prevent taste buds from being overwhelmed.

Now you’re the expert.

That’s it! You are well on your way to becoming a cheese and chocolate connoisseur at your next holiday party. However, if you are need of some inspired combinations, here are some our favorites to get you started.

monterey jack_chili chocolate

Monterey Jack with Milk Chocolate

Both the milk chocolate and the Monterey Jack will bring out the other’s soft and creamy texture to create a classic and delicious pairing.

vintage xsharp white_dark chocolate raspberry

Vintage Extra Sharp with Dark Chocolate Raspberry

This specialty aged cheeses are known for robust flavor, creamy and buttery with a bite, so it pairs with the tartness of the Dark Chocolate Raspberry. The brightness of the raspberry balances the slight bitterness of a vintage white.

smoked black pepper_sea salt chocolate

Smoked Black Pepper with Sea Salt

This paring is a tribute to the classic salt and pepper pairing. Did you know salt is the only rock that we eat? And, the enduring popularity of black pepper may owe itself to one picky eater, French King Louis XIV who preferred only salt and pepper, to the extent that he banned all other seasonings.

cape mears _salted almond

English cheddar with Salted Almond Dark Chocolate or Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond

English cheddars tend to be a slightly sweet and creamy cheddar. See what chocolate pairing your friends prefer! Whether they go with more sweet or savory, the almonds will add texture and bring out a nutty flavor to the cheese.

hot habanero jack with milk chocolate

Hot Habanero Jack with Milk Chocolate

And end your tasting with a paring where opposites attract. Milk chocolate is chosen to pair with a habanero in this Monterey Jack cheese to cool the spice on your tongue, while still bringing out the creamy texture in both the chocolate and the cheese creating a classily delicious pairing.

When it comes to pairing chocolate and cheese, it is all about personal preferences. Doing some “research” with family and friends can bring some fun and tasty pairings to your next holiday get together.

RELATED LINKS:

Cheese and Chocolate Pairings | Cabot Creamery

Tasting Chocolate | Ghirardelli

How to Pair Flavors, According to Science |Tasting Table

Cheese Pairing with Chocolate: a Winning Combination | The Wisconsin Cheeseman

How to Pair Chocolate with Cheese | wikiHow

Girl Scouts Earn Dairy Patch at TMK Creamery

Photos by Joy Foster

For the second year in a row, Girl Scouts from Oregon and SW Washington gathered for a day of fun and education as they earned their dairy patch. And for many of the Girl Scouts, this was the first time they had ever visited a farm or seen a cow up close.

The Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum was designed by the Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. With a focus on hands-on learning, it encourages Girl Scouts to visit a dairy farm, discover how milk is transformed into dairy products, explore dairy nutrition, and learn about careers in the dairy industry.

On September 29, TMK Dairy and Creamery invited the Girl Scouts to earn the dairy patch at a special “Dairy Day” event. Through four different station experiences on their farm, 100 eager Girl Scouts and their families had the opportunity to learn about dairy products from start to finish.

TMK Creamery is a small family farm that began 30 years ago when the owner Todd Koch purchased his first Holstein cow. “It all started with a 4-H project that went too far,” he says. In 1997, the milking herd had grown, so the Koch family built TMK Dairy, and in 2018 they opened a creamery where Koch’s sister Shauna and brother-in-law Bert Garza began making farmstead cheeses.

The Koch family is passionate about agriculture education and have designed their farm and creamery accordingly. Interested parties can schedule tours of the farm, or visit on Saturdays when the farm and creamery is open to the public.

For the Dairy Day event, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, in partnership with Oregon Aglink, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Dairy Women and TMK designed the stations to follow the Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Curriculum.

At the first station, TMK’s herdsman Marc Koch taught the Girl Scouts about the milking process. They watched a cow be milked, and even had the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. At this station they also had the opportunity to see calves and learn that they are fed with bottles, their bedding is clean and dry, and their pens are spacious and warm.

Station two, led by OSU Extension representative Jenifer Cruickshank, was all about how farmers care for their cows though nutrition, bedding, barns and pasture. They discussed the difference in dairy breeds and even had the opportunity to pet TMK’s “cowlebrities.”

At station three, Shauna Garza from TMK explained how milk from their cows gets made into delicious cheese. The Girl Scouts were able to look into the creamery through the windows of TMK’s boutique tasting room, where they learned about the importance of keeping the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities clean. Then, Mallory Phelan from Aglink and Tillamook County’s Dairy Princess Ambassador, Araya Wilks, led the group in a fun game designed to demonstrate the many career opportunities in agriculture.

The Girl Scouts were able to finish their patch requirements at the last station, led by the Klamath County Dairy Princess Ambassador, Jaime Evers, as she talked about the importance of dairy in a well-balanced diet, and then the Girl Scouts were able to “taste test” delicious cheese that was made right there on the farm.

“The Oregon Dairy Patch program is a great opportunity for girls to discover the local food chain. It encourages them to be curious about where their food comes from, and what it takes to get it from the farm to the factory to their table,” said Lisa Gilham-Luginbill, Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. “We hope they’ll learn something new along the way, and perhaps discover an interest or future career in the process.”

RELATED LINKS:

Oregon Dairy Patch curriculum

Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington

New Girl Scouts Dairy Patch Unveiled at Oregon Dairy Day Event

Who’s Who: Careers in Food

Until the Cows Come Home: A Poetic Tribute to Dairy Dads

Until the Cows Come Home
by Josh Thomas


It’s the dawning of a new day,
The sun rises on the farm.
A farmer holds his infant child
Bundled in his arms.

The father speaks the same words
That his dad spoke years ago.
He says, “Son I’m mighty glad you’re here
And there’s something you should know.

This dairy’s more than milking cows,
It’s about our family’s love,
And I’ll always be there for you
Just like the stars above.
When days are rough and times are tough, wherever you may roam,
You’ll find me right there by your side until the cows come home.”

As he grows up, dad teaches son
Everything he knows.
That little helper’s by his side
In heat and bitter cold.

But then one day son breaks the news
He’ll leave if he’s allowed,
With plans to go to college and
Dad just says, “Son I’m proud.

This dairy’s more than milking cows,
It’s about our family’s love,
And I’ll always be there for you
Just like the stars above.
When days are rough and times are tough, wherever you may roam,
You’ll find me right there by your side until the cows come home.”

The years go by so fast and now
The boy is fully grown.
Graduation, marriage,
And the son has come back home.

Dad’s tired eyes look to the skies
As the sun is getting low.
The son says, “Dad I’m glad you’re here,
And there’s something you should know.

Our dairy’s more than milking cows,
This I’ve come to know.
And dad we just found out
We’ll have a daughter of our own.
Though days are rough and times are tough, we’ll call this dairy home.
You’ll find us right there by your side until the cows come home.”


Splish Splash If You Don’t Do the Math: The 2019 Milk Carton Boat Race

Will it float? That question typically gets an immediate answer at the Milk Carton Boat Race when kids, adults and entire teams of people climb onto handmade boats whose buoyancy depends entirely upon recycled milk jugs and cartons. Surprisingly, most of them not only float but prove to be stable and swift.

Royal Rosarians’ Milk Carton Boat Race
A Portland Rose Festival tradition since 1973
Sunday, June 23; 11 a.m.
Westmoreland Park Casting Pond, SE McLoughlin Blvd and Bybee Blvd
Cost: FREE!

“There’s a tried and true formula — a one gallon jug supports eight pounds and a half-gallon supports four pounds,” said Josh Thomas, Senior Director of Communications for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. “It’s splish splash if you don’t do the math.”

The event is 100% free to attend and compete, and there are awards for speed and originality. While time is getting short to build a boat, it isn’t too late to enter and compete.

“I have even seen people finishing their boats on the morning of the event,” said Thomas. He suggests collecting jugs and cartons from local coffee shops, restaurants, cafeterias, friends and family – and stocking up on duct tape.

While creativity is certainly encouraged, there are rules on size and all boats must be human-powered. Participants who choose not to keep their boats for future years will be encouraged to dismantle and recycle them at their home. For the race categories, rules and registration, visit the official Royal Rosarians’ Milk Carton Boat Race event page today.

The Milk Carton Boat Race is produced by the Royal Rosarians and presented by the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

RELATED LINKS:

Milk Carton Boat Race Rules and Registration

How to Build A Boat

A Fun Aerial View of the Pond

Milk to the Rescue: Addressing an Ongoing Need

It’s a staple of American households and often tops the grocery list, but for many low-income families, having milk in the refrigerator can be a rarity. According to the Great American Milk Drive, people served by food banks receive less than one gallon per person per year on average. In Oregon, that statistic is changing.

Thanks to an influx of milk provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Oregon Food Bank network has been distributing nutritious skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk every week to local families and individuals. So far, this has totaled nearly 160,000 gallons.

While it is great news, this did pose some challenges due to perishability, refrigeration capacity and logistics. In what they described as ‘a flurry of activity,’ Oregon Food Bank staff welcomed the distribution challenge and overcame stumbling blocks in coordination with Oregon’s 20 regional food banks to get the product in and out to communities as quickly as possible.

“This is a highly valuable and needed product across our region, and we’ve gotten really strong support from our partners in adjusting systems and processes that allow us to accept incredibly high volumes of milk,” said Gretchen Miller, Sourcing and Operations Strategist for Oregon Food Bank. “It’s more than we ever have in the past. What we’re happiest about is that we’re able to get fresh, high quality milk into the food insecure communities we serve.”

This milk provides a temporary supply to meet ongoing demand, and there are still long term needs to be addressed when it comes to fighting hunger in Oregon. You can help make a difference by contributing to the Oregon Food Bank and/or the Great American Milk Drive.

Feeding the Need: How the Oregon Dairy Community Fights Hunger

September marks the end of summer, a transition to fall and the start of a new school year. One could say that this month represents a time for change. So, it is fitting that September is Hunger Action Month – a month where individuals and organizations across the country come together to make a positive change for hungry people and families in our communities.

According to the Oregon Hunger Task Force, one out of every eight Oregonians struggle with hunger, including 20 percent of all children. Oregon currently ranks as the 12th hungriest state in the nation. In 2004, Oregon was ranked as the hungriest state. While there is still a long way to go, Oregon is making significant progress thanks in part to the generous donations of dairy foods that have helped nourish hungry families. Here are just a few examples:

  • Just under 2 million pounds of dairy products were donated to the Oregon Food Bank last year.
  • In 2018, the Tillamook County Creamery Association earned a national Outstanding Community Impact Award. It’s donations to the Oregon Food Bank included funds, food, a delivery truck, and funding for research aimed to end hunger.
  • Also in 2018, an Oregon farm and a dairy plant donated 100,000 pounds of shelf-stable milk powder to Oregon Food Bank. This was equal to 1.1 million gallons of milk.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, Lochmead Farms donated 20,000 gallons of milk to their local pantry, Food for Lane County.
  • Beginning in 2008, Threemile Canyon Farms donates 8,000 pounds of beef every month to help hungry Oregonians through the Farmers Ending Hunger program. The donations have provided nearly 1 million pounds of much needed protein to the Oregon Food Bank network and organizations like Blanchet House.

There are more examples, but many go untold simply because helping others is “just the right thing to do.” Dairy farmers and processing companies in Oregon have a deep, often multi-generational commitment to the communities where they farm, work and live. During Hunger Action Month, we celebrate their year round work to fight hunger and thank the Oregon dairy community for their generosity.

On average, people served by food banks receive the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year. You can help address this unmet need by contributing to the Great American Milk Drive or join the 10-Gallon Challenge today.

by Tyler Chase, Oregon Health & Science University Dietetic Intern

If You’re in Business for 100 years, You’re Doing Something Right

Farming is not just a business, it’s a legacy. Passed down from generation to generation, it’s a timeless tradition of caring for land and animals.

On Saturday, August 25, at the Oregon State Fair, this great heritage was celebrated by recognizing twelve farms and ranches from eight different Oregon counties as Century Farms. Two farms even reached Sesquicentennial status, which marks 150 years.

Farms are recognized as Century Farms when the same family has worked the same land for at least 100 years. There are now 1,212 Century Farms and Ranches and 41 Sesquicentennial Farms registered in the state of Oregon.

Two of the farms awarded Century status this year have been dairy farming in Tillamook since 1918.

Wilsonview Dairy was founded by Alfred Josi when he and his brother John, who immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland, made a lease to own agreement with George and Mary Durrer. The farm’s main focus for 100 years has been dairy farming, and is now run by Alfred’s grandson Don, and great-grandson Derrick.

Just down the road, and distant cousins to the Wilsonview Farm, Tilla-Bay Farms was founded by Fred and Gotfried Josi with 24 cows and 34 acres. They added the first free-stall barn and parlor in Tillamook County, and have continued to farm on the cutting edge, also being the first farm in the western U.S. to install robotic milking machines in 2010. The farm is now run by Bart and Terry Mizee and Kurt Mizee. Terry is the granddaughter and Kurt is the great grandson of founder Fred Josi.

 

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At the ceremony, guest speaker and century farm owner Peter Sage said, “The farm begins, not with a deed, but with a family. These families demonstrate the perseverance, determination and providence it takes to create a legacy.”

Dylan Westfall, Vice President for Oregon’s Future Farmers of America, encouraged those in attendance to celebrate their past, while looking toward the future. “We must use the past to change the present for the future,” he said.

While tradition runs deep within the dairy industry, so does innovation, as is demonstrated by both of these farms. Derrick Josi shares his farm life with 22,000 followers on Facebook as a nationally known advocate for the dairy industry, and Kurt Mizee is owner of Priority Robotics in Tillamook, a dairy robotic dealership installing new robotic systems every month.

In addition to the two Century Farm dairies, 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council and Darigold.

Got Robots? Oregon Dairies Embracing Automation

After serving three generations of the Mann family, the old milking parlor at the Abiqua Acres dairy farm had seen better days. So when Alan and Barbara Manns’ daughter Darleen Sichley and her husband, Ben, decided to join the family operation, it was time to upgrade.

And upgrade they did.

The Silverton, Oregon, dairy today is among a small, but growing number of Western U.S. dairies using robotic milking systems. The 95-cow Guernsey dairy installed two robotic milkers in January 2017.

“It was a tough decision,” said. “It is a big investment. But we had to look at going a different direction when my husband and I joined.”

Robotic milking systems are employed on less than two percent of U.S. dairies, said Kurt Mizee, president of Priority Robotics in Tillamook, Oregon, who, with his father, Bart Mizee operates Tilla-Bay Farms in Tillamook. But the technology is catching on rapidly among big and small dairies.

“The adoption is definitely ramping up,” said Mizee, who runs three robotic milkers on his fourth-generation Tillamook dairy, including two he installed in 2011, the first ever installed in the Western U.S.

Dairy farmers choose to go robotic for several reasons, Mizee said. Some, such as the owners of Abiqua Acres, chose robotics primarily for the scheduling flexibility the systems provide.

“When you’re milking cows, it’s always four o’clock in the morning and four in the afternoon,” Darleen Sichley said. “Now you can work around what you want to do. Things still have to get done that day, but it is not so time sensitive.”

She added: “My parents sacrificed a lot when they milked cows for twenty years. Looking at what direction we wanted to go, robotics felt like a really good fit; because there is that flexibility, that balance between dairying and family life.”

Others, like Dairylain Farms, a 500-cow dairy in Vale, Oregon, chose to go robotic more for business reasons. “We couldn’t find labor,” said owner Warren Chamberlain. “It made our decision to go this route pretty easy.”

Whatever the initial motivation, cows, it turns out, by all measurable standards, appear to love the systems.

“If you walk through the barn, the cows are calm and easy to be around,” Mizee said, “and they just do their own thing and really can express their potential.”

“The cow can eat, milk, drink, and do whatever she wants to do whenever she wants to do it,” Chamberlain said. “And the cows like it better. Our components came up, butter-fat protein came up, our milk-per-cow came up, and our health on the animals is better.”

Chamberlain also discovered another benefit since installing the systems in July 2016. “We are actually out with the cows more now that we were, and that is what we enjoy doing,” he said.

Robotics are just one of many ways that modern dairy farmers are evolving, sources said. Automated feeders, solar panels, methane digesters, GPS driven tractors and computerized irrigation are other examples of high-tech influence transforming this otherwise traditional industry.

More than any other single advancement, however, robotic milking systems appear to be generating the most buzz within the industry.

The systems do much more than milk cows. Through the use of software that reads radio frequencies from a sensor attached to a cow’s ear, or, in some cases, to a collar that cows wear, robotic milking systems identify unique characteristics of a cow when she enters the system’s milking area. Systems can then deliver a customized amount of feed based on a cow’s milk-production level, with cows that produce more milk receiving more of the high-protein, grain-based mixtures dairy farmers supply in the milking area than lower-producing cows.

“Because the robot is feeding every cow for her production, she has a chance to really shine as an individual, versus being part of a group,” Mizee said.

Next, while cleaning a cow’s udder, the robot utilizes electronic mapping to locate a cow’s teats before milking the cow with suction-cup-like devices. When milking is complete, the system will re-clean the udder and spray a mist over the floor of the milking area, which signals the cow to move on and let the next cow enter.

Cows enter the milking area by pushing through a swinging gate. “It takes them a little while to realize that there is grain there, and to realize they can get some,” Chamberlain said. After that, left to their own devices, cows push through the gate on their own volition. “There is that feed incentive,” Sichley said, “and they want to get milked, as well.”

In addition to feeding and milking cows, robotic milking systems also analyze each cow’s milk for production elements, such as fat and protein content, and for warning signals of health issues. If the milk doesn’t meet strict quality standards, it is immediately diverted away from storage tanks.

Mizee also has an app on his smart phone that sends alerts when a cow is losing her appetite, resting more than usual, or engaging in other activities that indicate early stages of a health issue. The app, he said, helps him proactively treat cows before they get sick.

“It is all about getting to the point where you can be preventative and proactive, rather than treating for the condition,” Mizee said. “Probiotics and other preventative options can help you avoid using antibiotics.”

Not all dairies are equipped to operate robotic milking systems. For one thing, the cost for a system can be prohibitive. Among several competing brands of milking robots, all of which have unique characteristics, prices range from $175,000 to $250,000, with an expected payback of five to seven years.

Still, more and more dairies in recent years have come to realize the technology can work for them.

“Since we put ours in, in our area of Western Oregon and Western Washington, there has been basically one robot install going in almost all the time,” Mizee said. “We are getting to the point now where there are two or three going in at any one time.

“Part of that growth is that bigger farms have recognized the value of it. They are seeing value not only the labor savings, but in the fact that we are able to treat the cow better, and profit because of that. It is not just about quality of life anymore,” Mizee said.

“The fact that we are developing systems that are better for cows and better for people, I believe is pretty significant,” Mizee added. “That is going to keep generations farming, and that is going to keep our industry viable long into the future.”

Generations Deep: Oregon Supports Dairy Diversity

Dairy in Oregon began back in the 1800s, and there are more than 200 dairy farms of all different types and sizes in the state today. While many of the farms have changed and evolved over the years, most have been in the same families for several generations. These are some of their stories about where they came from and where they are today.

DRAWN TO DAIRY

Darleen Sichley of Abiqua Acres, a 100-cow dairy in Silverton, Oregon, wasn’t sure she wanted to return to the family farm after graduating from high school. Upon further review, however, the choice became obvious.

“I spent a year after high school working odd jobs in town,” she said. “Then I decided I wanted to come back here. The lifestyle – working for myself, and being able to work with my family and with animals that I enjoy – I decided you can’t beat that.”

A similar story played out at Hurliman Dairy, an 85-cow dairy in Cloverdale, Oregon, with Spencer Hurliman taking a year off after high school before deciding to return to the family farm.“I didn’t really know if I wanted to come back to the farm,” Hurliman, now in his mid-30s, said. “Then I spent a year traveling after high school, and when I came back here, it kind of made me realize that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

As a fifth generation dairy farmer, Bob Ross of Lee Valley Dairy, a 280-cow organic dairy on the Southern Oregon Coast, never doubted he was going to spend his life on a dairy farm. He admitted to being a little unnerved, however, after going into debt to purchase his dairy.

Louie Kazemier, who manages the 1,700-cow Rickreall Dairy in Rickreall, Oregon, grew up in San Diego, far from any dairies, but found his way into the industry through marriage.

“I met Lori (Wybenga) on my 18th birthday,” Kazemier said. “We met in August, and by April my father-in-law offered me a job. Before that, I had never touched a cow in my life.” Kazemier has been dairy farming ever since.

Notched into every Oregon dairy are backstories like these that help define an industry built on family values, work ethic and multi-generational sustainability. The stories resonate on small and large dairies, alike, and provide an authentic insight into an industry that is at once traditional and highly evolved.

EVOLVING TO THRIVE

The stories cut through decisions to install solar panels, methane digesters and low-energy lighting systems to generate power and cut energy costs.

“We have a lot of sun over here on the east side of the state,” said Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms, a 500-cow dairy in Vale, Oregon, who has installed two 10-kilowatt solar panel systems. “Solar panels just seemed like a natural fit for us.”

The stories can be found resonating behind decisions to build sophisticated water conservation systems that capture and conserve water for multiple uses, such as a system Kazemier installed at Rickreall Dairy. And they are at the leading edge of decisions, like Ross’s to conserve wildlife habitat on his farm.

“We’ve got some ponds that we’ve developed, some bird boxes, and we just finished a job where we set the fence back 50-feet from the ditch and planted a lot of native bushes, along with some blooming and colorful plants,” Ross said. “The waterfowl love it.

At the 25,000-cow Threemile Canyon Farms dairy in Boardman, Oregon, a full 23,000 acres, or slightly more than one-fourth the total farm, is dedicated to habitat preservation for four threatened species. The preserve, which is managed by the Nature Conservancy, has been used as a model by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and others for how private interests and public agencies can work together for effective environmental preservation.

ALL ABOUT COWS

The backstories can be found behind decisions to install cow comforts.

“Cow comfort is our number one responsibility, and our number one priority,” said Tami Kerr, director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, who also has a dairy farming background in the Tillamook area. “Healthy, happy cows produce a higher quality milk, and Oregon has consistently been in the top five states nationwide for milk quality, which shows we practice good animal husbandry.”

Oregon dairies work with veterinarians and nutritionists, Kerr added, who typically come out to farms twice a month, to ensure cows are healthy and well fed.

Threemile Canyon even hires an animal welfare advocate to stay on the farm for days at a time and issue quarterly reports to help the dairy see where it excels and where it can improve. And the farm hires an independent auditor to score the operation based on USDA animal-welfare standards. The farm, incidentally, consistently scores better than 95 percent, a mark rare in the industry, and recently notched one of the few 100 percent scores ever recorded.

GREAT DAIRIES NEED GREAT EMPLOYEES

The stories are behind decisions to treat employees with respect, provide them with good pay and good working conditions.

“Our producers are paying well above minimum wage, and treat their workers with respect,” Kerr said.

“Without good employees, we would not have made it to where we are today,” said Kazemier.

“I’ve got 300 families that are very dependent on what we do here,” said Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms and fifth generation Oregonian. “They are paid well. They make a good living with living wage salaries. And they are obviously in a sustainable business, so don’t have a threat of losing their jobs because of mismanagement.”

A TRADITION OF HIGH STANDARDS

Oregon dairies are made up of thousands of backstories that help the industry embrace standards of waste management unheard of in other states.

“Oregon is the only state in the U.S. that requires both the CAFO, or Confined Animal Feed Operation permit, and the Animal Waste Management Plan,” Kerr said. “Some states require one or the other, but to my knowledge, Oregon is the only state that requires both.”

“We have very diverse family businesses across the state,” Kerr said. “Some are organic. Some are conventional. Some are small. Others are large. But all are family businesses.”

And all, she might have added, have backstories that resonate across generations.