by Lorraine Strenkowski
The 2013 New England States Holstein Convention was held in Connecticut Oct. 25-27 and was hosted by the Connecticut Holstein Association. The event was geared toward the junior members and graced with superb weather for the farm tours. The Holiday Inn in Norwich, CT provided the home base for the convention, which included the annual meetings for the New England Holstein Association as well as the New England Junior Holstein Club. The 2013 New England Fall Classic Tag Sale was also incorporated into the event.
A highlight in the farm tours was visiting the 170 acre River Plain Dairy in Lebanon CT, a second generation operation owned by Jeff and Alexis Cone. Together with their four young children, they hosted a heartwarming tour.
Nine-year-old Jacob, the oldest of the clan, rounded up the herd that dotted the pasture along Cone’s 800 ft. driveway. It was a perfect showcase for the Holsteins, as the front yard was full, guests parked convoy-style out to the road. Jacob paraded the cows in front of more than 70 guests. Cider, coffee and donuts was served and Jeff answered questions as his registered Holsteins passed the crowd to the barnyard below.
Jeff and Alexis milk their 45 cows twice a day in a stanchion barn with pipeline, quite a contrast from today’s side-by-side or floating parlors. They have recently installed a loose housing facility for shade and comfort. Cone sows and harvests all his crops with family help. They work the fields during the growing season to provide the herd with corn silage and hay for the winter. Approximately 40 acres are set aside for rotational pasturing.
The property was purchased in 1968 by Cone’s father and was expanded and improved upon throughout Jeff’s childhood. The development rights were sold to the State of Connecticut to insure a lifetime of agricultural use. Jeff started out by renting the farm and was awarded the Connecticut Dairy Farm of Distinction in 2002. He and Alexis became the proud owners in 2008.
Cone and his wife take the breeding of their herd very seriously.
“Preserving the integrity of the breed is extremely important. In keeping with the look of a true dairy animal in our Holsteins, we breed for type,” says Cone, “a term used when udder, feet and leg, dairy and body composite are all considered at the time of breeding.”
Jeff and Alexis have each of their milkers individually classified every year according to type standards, a universal scoring available to all registered Holsteins. Two examples of Cone’s herd were featured at the 2013 New England Fall Classic Tag Sale. This sale of exquisite Holsteins was held in conjunction with the New England Holstein Convention.
Over 40 animals were presented from New England and New York. Housed at the neighboring Gasparino Farm for the duration of the event, they were cleaned and clipped in preparation for the sale.
The Cone family spends time promoting their Holsteins. They own cows with Grand Champion status, and continue in the tradition of presenting their animals in breed and showmanship classes at the local fairs. “Our kids are 100 percent farmers!” Cone says of his crew. “All four are interested and active in every aspect of the farm; from milking, haying, corn chopping, to collecting eggs. Nothing stops them!”
Jeff and Alexis couldn’t be happier carrying on the family tradition. “We are establishing a solid base for our future generations to build on.”