At Joyce Farm, third generation 4-H’ers, Katie and Shellie Joyce, of Glen, NY, are continuing with an agricultural legacy begun by their paternal grandparents in Dutchess County in 1967.
Katie, 14, and Shellie, 12, have an agriculture breeding program that experienced adult farmers would envy — thanks to their mom Dorraine and dad Gus’s support and background in the 4-H.
Joyce Farm originated in 1967, when Martin and Horty Joyce established a Jersey dairy. Gus’s mother, Horty Joyce, was a 4-H leader at the time.
Although Dorraine’s parents did not farm they were involved in agriculture in other ways, which included trucking produce and fruit for local farms. Gus and Dorraine met when they were teens, through local farming events.
“When farming dried up in the Hudson Valley, we relocated to Oregon,” Dorraine explains. “We farmed there on a small scale until 1999.” Horty, at 86, still lives in Oregon.
Gus moved his family back to New York State, bringing some of their animals back with them, this time moving to the Mohawk Valley, where they now farm on about 45 acres. “Our primary harvest is hay,” says Dorraine. “We practice rotational grazing, which allows us to hay our pasture.”
Most of the livestock on the farm are raised for meat, including beef, pork, lamb, goat, rabbit, duck and chicken. “We also do dairy.”
Katie owns and breeds the cattle, which include Aberdeen Angus, Limousin, Hereford and Jersey.
The Angus cattle are naturally polled and Katie has both solid red and black.
Katie’s Red Angus heifer, Baby Ruth, which she bred for and calved out herself, won Best in Show in both 4-H and Open classes in 2012 at the County Fair. She also won Best Beef out of the show barn.
Katie was awarded a Black Angus calf through the Fulton-Montgomery CCE 4-H scholarship program in the fall of 2011. “I had to write an essay,” Katie said. “The essay had to tell how well I would take care of her. That is what the judges were looking for. I’m going to raise her up and get a calf out of her.”
In 2013, she took Best in Show for 4-H with the heifer.
The first heifer calf produced will go back into the scholarship program, giving another 4-H’er the chance to participate in the scholarship program.
The flock of registered Border Leicester sheep are also Katie’s.
“They are primarily a wool breed, Dorraine says. “Their wool is sought after by all the spinners, for the lustrous fleece and for the crimp of the fleece. Their wool is very curly. Spinners pay a high price for the fleeces. They also grow out great carcasses.”
Katie got her first ewe in 2007 and her first ram in 2008. Since then she’s kept the best lambs to build her flock. “We bought another ram in 2011 to breed up.”
The farm has two flocks, Katie’s and Dorraine’s. Dorraine’s flock consists of about 40 commercial crossbred for raising meat lambs. The rams service the both flocks.
Lester, their ram, took Best in Show for 2012, 2013 and 2014, out of about 45 in the show.
“Depending on the year, we have had about 40-60 lambs, up to 40 piglets, 12 plus goat kids, five plus calves, 50-70 ducklings and 35 rabbit kits.
“I used to raise a lot of rabbits back when I was a boy in 4-H in Tivoli,” Gus laughs. “Way ‘back when’. We raised rabbits for meat. We milked 40 head of registered Jerseys and back then it was a typical farm.”
Now Katie raises rabbits — mostly the New Zealand breed — and she started with a buck and a doe in Oregon when she was just a youngster.
She also raises Californians, another meat rabbit. “We sometimes cross the two breeds for hybrid vigor, to grow out meats also.”
Katie won Best Rabbit Display at the County Fair in the rabbit barn out of about 100 head.
Katie builds her own rabbit hutches, designing them to hang instead of building them on stands, so the rabbits are cleaner and it is easier to keep the hutch area clean.
Although she breeds, raises and shows pigs, goats, chickens, ducks; Shellie’s interest lies primarily in Embryology. She has two incubators that she keeps busy.
“She will hatch out anything that lays fertilized eggs,” reports Dorraine. “Chickens 21 days, buff ducks 32, Muscovy 35 days and guinea hens. She has done experiments to see differences in air circulation, 2 or 3x day turning, whether by hand or with the auto turner, high or low humidity. She first started this as a Clover Bud with one incubator borrowed from the extension. Now she has had two for the past two years, that’s how she can experiment.”
Shellie has received awards for embryology and Best Poultry and Best Waterfowl Display at Fonda Fair for different years. “That is really doing something, since the poultry barn has lots of birds!” said Dorraine.
Both girls hope to pursue college and careers in the large animal veterinarian business.
“Party Pets” is another aspect of the farm. “Sometimes we get people that do parties,” Dorraine explains. “Instead of bringing a clown or a magician, they take livestock pets for kids that don’t own any animals. It’s a big hit. Bottle babies are very people friendly, so they make excellent party pets.”
Dorraine reports the winter was very difficult on the girls between the harsh weather and their dad being out of town with his full time job with National Grid. “Now that spring is here we are still trying to play catch-up.”
Dorraine says although the hard work takes a lot out of them, it also gives a lot back.
“It shows through in the animals, at the shows, and it is in the pride; a blessing given back to us for all our hard work.”