When sleet or snow approaches, farmers make sure the herd has a clean and dry place to rest. Thanks to their thick skin, hair and natural insulation, cows actually prefer temperatures between 40 and 65 degrees. As long as they’re well fed and have dry bedding, cows don’t mind the cold and will stay warm and comfortable outside or in their barns. Calves are given extra straw bedding and calf jackets to keep them warm and cozy in their hutches.
Farmers also increase the amount of their feed along with the vitamins and minerals. This supplements the extra energy that cows are expending in keeping their body temperatures up. Farmers make sure that food is available 24/7 to make sure they are well-fed.
Wind chill has the same effect on cows that it does on people. Creating wind breaks with hay bales or earthen berms helps to protect their herds from harsh winds during the winter. Wooded areas also provide shelter from the wind. Farmers also monitor the temperature inside their barns and close the sides if needed.
In Oregon, where winters are usually mild, cows typically stay comfortable year-round. When a cold snap appears, farmers and animal care teams are ready to spring into action to take care of their herds.
In 2018, when temperatures hovered around zero and high winds created large drifts of snow, the animal care team at Threemile Canyon Farms worked hard, aided by the warmth of winter hats from ODNC, to take care of the 30,000+ milking cows on their farm.
At Poland Dairy, the family worked around the clock when winter weather descended on their farm in 2018. As snow fell thick on their farm, two calves were born. Dairy farmer Deanna Poland remarked on facing challenges during this time, “…it’s what we love and it’s our passion- in good times and bad times!”
Oregon farmers care about their animals, and they know that paying special attention to their cows, whether it’s snowy or sunny, helps them to create a healthy herd.
As we leave 2020 in the rear view mirror, we look back at a year that was unpredictable and exasperating for many. Time and time again, Oregon dairy farmers, processors and those in the dairy community proved to be resilient and rose to challenge after challenge. Among them; the pandemic, temporary supply chain disruptions, increased hunger, and historic wildfires. Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers proved they were there for their communities while working to provide nutritious dairy products – all without skipping a beat.
March abruptly impacted any previously made plans for the year. With the beginning of a statewide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, toilet paper made headlines as Oregonians began stocking up on supplies, but they also started to clean grocery shelves out of butter, cheese, milk and ice cream. Stores, and all those throughout the supply chain, quickly adjusted to meet the increased demand for milk and dairy foods. As restaurants and retailers closed their brick and mortar locations to the public, people were advised by government officials and medical professionals to Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Healthy.
As the shutdown continued, restaurant and retail closures unfortunately followed throughout the year, with notable Portland establishments like Toro Bravo, Beast and the much-loved Cheese Bar closing permanently. The closures impacted dairy and many other locally produced foods that supply restaurants and food service companies.
More people took to making their meals at home, using pantry staples like butter, milk, yogurt and cream. Stacy Foster, from our own team, joined in with her daughter, creating a delicious recipe from Food Hero.
Although though most summer events, like the Oregon State Fair, were cancelled due to the coronavirus, ingenious solutions were created to keep traditions going. The Oregon Dairy Women celebrated the 51st year of their Red Barn Ice Cream event by taking it on the road with the help of Wilco. By the end of the summer, they had visited five cities in Oregon and served hundreds people their famous cones and shakes.
Free summer meals were extended throughout Oregon through the year, resulting in nutritious food boxes and assistance programs that helped kids and families across the state.
And some farmers gave to their communities personally, like Rickreall Dairy, which celebrated the farm’s 30th anniversary by donating several hundred grocery bags full of food and milk to neighbors in need in their community. Tillamook dairy farmer Derrick Josi (aka TDF Honest Farming) bought meals for linesmen following a severe windstorm and for first responders during the subsequent wildfires.
Throughout it all, Oregon dairy farmers have been there, supporting their communities in ways too numerous to count, with delicious and nutritious food, helping their communities and caring for their animals and the earth. In 2020, dairy truly made everything better for a lot of people.
From our families to yours, we hope this next year is a safe, healthy and happy one.
When Louie Kazemier of Rickreall Dairy is looking to make an improvement on his farm, he prefers to do so with his eyes wide open. In the world of dairy, that means checking with others in the dairy industry – others who aren’t hesitant about sharing.
“I put all new stalls and stanchions in the barns,” Kazemier said recently, “and before we did that, I visited several dairies with my manager and looked at how they were doing it. And those particular dairymen spent several hours with us answering questions.”
Sharing information, it turns out, is nothing new in an industry that Kazemier describes as “a tight community.” It is a community with a diversity of dairies large and small, organic and conventional, traditional and technologically advanced. Regardless of the size or type, all benefit from collaborative “knowledge transfer” and sharing best practices.
Kazemier said he regularly opens his doors to dairymen, many of whom stop to tour the farm, which is situated on a major Oregon highway.
“We take quite a bit of time to show people around and answer questions,” Kazemier said.
The same can be said of Threemile Canyon Farms, where visits from dairymen are common, according to Dairy Operations Manager Jeff Wendler.
“Probably three to four dairy guys come through in an average month,” Wendler said. “Then we have some other large dairymen in the Midwest, and we’ll go visit their operations to see what they are doing.”
“We are willing to share what we do,” said Threemile General Manager Marty Myers. “It is pretty transparent.”
At Dairylain Farms in Vale, Ore., Warren Chamberlain said he, too, has an open-door policy. Dairylain uses robotics and solar panels in their operation.
“We have a lot of dairymen come out and tour the farm, and we share everything,” Chamberlain said.
The practice is reciprocal, he said.
“I have even gone on road trips and saw a dairy and stopped in there and once they realize I am a dairyman, they pretty much open up and tell me what and how they do things in that area,” Chamberlain said.
At Threemile, Myers said many dairies are interested in the farm’s animal welfare program, and in how the farm handles employee relations.
“We have had folks reach out to us and say, ‘Rather than reinvent the wheel, can you share what you are doing?’” Myers said.
“There are certain things like animal welfare practices that we employ that benefit the entire industry, and that we are happy to share,” said Threemile’s Wendler.
“Dairy is its own family,” Dairylain’s Chamberlain said. “We all have the same issues, and I think we are all pretty willing to help each other figure out what we do that works and how we got there.”
Did you know there are more than 2 billion active users on Facebook, and the average person follows 338? You can follow your hairdresser, your kid’s school teachers and even your post office on social media – but are you following your local dairy farmer? You should.
By following farmers on Facebook, you can get to know the families who help deliver nutritious and delicious food to your table. Just like no two farms are exactly alike, their Facebook pages are unique, representing conventional and organic farms ranging from 20 cows to more than 20,000. Some include stories, behind the scenes videos, humor, answers to your questions, beautiful photography and even invitations to visit.
Here are ten Oregon dairy farmers you should be following on Facebook (in alphabetical order):