Two things yellow play a big part at Mapleline Farm: the sunshine that is harvested for electricity, and the high butterfat in milk from their 112 Jerseys, plus a few Ayrshires. Green plays a huge part, too — it is found in the fields the cows graze, and in the many jobs the farm provides.
“We have a bunch of heifers due to calve in December,” said Paul Kokoski, a fifth-generation farmer and milk processing plant manager of the Hadley, MA operation. By Jan. 1, they expect 130 milking cows. Prized for their high butter fat, Jerseys’ other non-fat solids, like protein, also rank higher than other breeds. Jerseys are the most efficient cow based on the amount of feed you put in for the amount of milk produced, he notes.
Currently, they are buying milk because demand is so high, processing 60,000 pounds a week — just under 7,000 gallons — in their processing plant. The milk is bottled and delivered to homes, plus 140 wholesale customers such as, stores, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and UMass.
Paul has worked at the farm full time since 2002, residing nearby with his wife, Leann Kokoski, and family. He grew up next door when his grandparents, Henry Kokoski Jr. and his wife, Genevieve, lived there. The farm was started in 1904 by his great-great grandfather Stanley Kokoski, who spotted a farm-for-sale ad in the local newspaper. Milk was delivered from the farm via horsedrawn wagon to the train in Cushman Village in North Amherst for transport to the dairy.
Paul’s father, John Kokoski, owns the 120-acre farm, taking over in 1980. Renting more land allows them to farm 285 acres in a somewhat suburban location. Paul’s brother-in-law, Chad Dizek, takes care of crops and equipment, and assists with wholesale customers.
John focused on herd improvement, and in 1995, started trucking milk to Ware where it was bottled in glass, brought back and sold at their dairy’s farm store. Demand was so high that in 2004 they bought the plant, and relocated it to the farm. This move required a sleight of hand in timing during the interruption to have product available. Initial estimates came in at three to four months. Vermont’s Unique Mechanical did it in 14-18 days.
In 2006, they built a milking parlor and 100-stall freestall barn where cows winter over, fed farm-grown hay and corn. The farm’s feed salesman checks feed samples for nutrients and supplements it with whatever they need. They average seven to eight years in milk production.
“Because we pay really close attention to our cows’ health, our cows may last longer than other cow herds our size,” said Paul.
Herdsman Zach Woodis has taken care of the cattle for the past three years. “When he came, we weren’t as big as we are now,” said Paul. Woodis’ efforts increased herd size from 60 to 70 to its current 112. Woodis resides on site, as do his three assistants, in two houses. They help with all milking, feed mixing and cattle care.
“They treat it as if it’s their own farm,” Paul’s sister, Jessica Dizek, adds. “We’re grateful for that.”
The freestall barn supports 44 solar panels producing 9.7 kw of electricity, only a fraction utilized by the processing plant, plus many coolers. A barn addition is planned for the spring, plus a 137-kw system installation costing about $450,000 through a farm credit lease-to-own program through Pioneer Farm Credit. This will increase their capacity to milk almost 170 cows, and allow them to process more milk.
Managing the plant, Paul said, is, “something I’m good at. I wish I could spend more time working with the cows. The farm has grown so large, everybody has a job to do, a section they’re in charge of. This has proved to be a good business model, and a way for everyone involved to not have to be experts in all aspects at once.”
Inside the plant, his three other full timers include a couple drivers who deliver on days when they’re not processing. Nor’easter Cato proved no problem as drivers had completed deliveries by 11:30 a.m. The cows were inside, and back-up generators were at-the-ready.
Because so many other places carry their milk, they discontinued the farm store. But they do give school group tours by appointment, and three times a year, the farm hosts tours for UMass’s animal science class, since the college no longer has their own dairy. The professor knows his way around so well, he gives the tour himself — with Paul’s blessing.