Tag Archives: family

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.