The New England Green Pastures Committee honored their 2014 Outstanding Dairy Farms at the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) on Friday, Sept. 12. One farm from each New England state is chosen by committee and awarded each year for their pasture quality and forage management, production, herd/milk quality, financial stability and community involvement.
Each of the winners were asked to put together a 10 minute PowerPoint “tour” that introduced themselves, their farms and their farming techniques and specialties. Winners were also awarded an engraved silver pitcher and barn sign.
Jeff and Alexis Cone of River Plain Dairy in Lebanon, CT were first to present. This 50-cow Holstein herd is milked in the original 41-cow stancion barn that was there when Cone’s father Ted purchased the property in 1968. After acquiring a Bachelor’s degree, Jeff returned to the farm with his own purchased herd and revived the milking barn, which had been dormant since the 1986 Whole Herd Government Buyout. Jeff won the “Dairy Farm of Distinction” award in 2004. Ted Cone officially sold the farm to his son in 2008. As Jeff evolved as new owner, cow comfort became a priority and Cone added a freestall arena which aided in higher milk production. Cone experimented with a millet/brassica mix this past year, and says he is always willing to try new approaches to crop management.
In 2013, Cone and his family hosted one of the New England Holstein Convention’s Farm Tours. Cone feels it’s important to have support and interest from the community. “I’m proud to keep my farm small.” he admits. “It sends a good message to the next generation who want to stay in agriculture.”
Wrights Dairy Farm & Bakery in North Smithfield, RI is a fifth generation dairy. The timeline can be traced back to 1896. In the 1930s, pasteurization and home delivery service were implemented. In 1972, pies were baked and sold by Claire Wright. This part of their farm grew into today’s bakery where 65 percent of the farm’s income is generated; 80 percent of the heavy cream produced is utilized and it accommodates 30 of the 75 total employees on the farm. This bakery also produces a full line of muffins, cookies, brownies, chocolates and custom decorated, special occasion cakes by Ellen (Wright) Puccetti.
Their retail store offers approximately 200 products, including whole and low-fat milks, creams, flavored milks, ice cream and cheese. Milk is processed and sold on site. The Wrights Dairy is fully equipped for pasteurization, homogenization and bottling. Eighty to 85 percent of land is rented locally, and the Wrights work very closely with an independent nutritionist. “Natural feeds and caring about milk flavor are a top priority.” The “double 10” state-of-the-art milking parlor was built in 2009 with a window that allows the public to view the 130 cows being milked daily from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
In an amazing video production, Carter & Stevens Farm of Barre, MA displayed their heartfelt values and ideals. Throughout the presentation, the very humorous Phil Stevens guided the audience through his 1,000 acre pasture-based farm, of which 200 acres are strictly pasture land. This family milks 110 cows, harvests 130 acres of corn, 400 acres of hay/silage and 10 acres of vegetables.
Being innovative and diversified has been key for their economic survival. With four outdoor furnaces, the farm utilizes and sells their own wood and any waste heat is captured by an attached greenhouse. The farm sports a 15kw wind turbine and combined with solar panels on the milking barn, they generate enough electricity to milk the cows and cool the milk.
In 2005 the family, using a rescued 1700s post and beam frame, built and opened a farm store. They are proud to feature their own raw milk, ice cream, vegetables, grass fed beef, maple syrup, homemade breads and pastries along with a myriad of locally produced cheeses, beers and wines. The store is equipped with a daily lunch deli as well. In July and August, Friday and Saturday nights are set aside for the “Bar-B-Que Grill;” a farm-to-flame restaurant that showcases Carter & Stevens’ famous grass-fed beef.
Mike and Heidi Dolloff own and run their 160-cow dairy farm in Springfield, VT. Heidi, in her presentation filled with pictures of gorgeous green pastures, explained Dolloff Acres’ small start and how they have sustained a successful business for the past 17 years.
With close attention to milk production, the Dolloffs work with Dairy Nutrition Specialist Diane Norris to balance the feed ration. With rented land combined with acreage of their own, the Dolloffs grow 80 acres of corn, harvest 150 acres of haylage and 25 acres of dry hay annually. Mike and Heidi also work with Tom Beaudry to ensure they are making the best use of on-farm nutrients. Pulling samples from the soil and comparing them with samples from the manure pit allow them to apply the correct amounts of manure to the fields.
Their 80-cow dairy has an impressive rolling herd average of 24,000 lbs, due not only to the quality feed but to selective breeding as well. “She picks out the bulls,” Mike says of Heidi. All breeding is done on the farm and they keep 30-40 sire selections at all times.
Founded in 1902 and currently owned and operated by third, fourth and fifth generations, the Forbes Farm of Lancaster, NH is located along the fertile Connecticut River Valley. As a member of the St. Albans Creamery Cooperative, this family farm has received numerous awards including “Dairy Farm of Distinction,” for the high quality of its milk.
The double-20 parallel parlor handles the approximate 1,150 milking Holsteins. Thirty full-time employees manage the 3,100 total head, 1,200 acres of corn and 1,600 grass acreage. In 1998 a computerized ID system was installed, followed by a pasteurizer in 2009. In 2011, Forbes Farm began doing their own crop spraying.
The Forbes family continues to make improvements to their operation; new calf and heifer barns, enlarged calving pens, a heating system to improve calf and employee comfort, two additions to the barns and two new feed storage facilities. A separate location houses a double -6 herringbone parlor to milk hospital and fresh cows. The milk from this secondary facility is pasteurized and fed to the calves to economically eliminate milk replacer.
In addition to the dairy business, the Forbes family taps 2,700 trees for maple sugaring.
Silver Valley Farm was started in the 1940s by George and Clara Davis in New Sharon, Maine. Their son Richard and his wife Cathy bought it in the early 1960s. They developed a high quality Holstein herd and received this same Green Pastures award back in 1974. In 1985 Richard and Cathy’s sons, Rick and Jim, took over the farm and still operate it today.
Silver Valley Farm transitioned to organic in 2005 and started shipping milk to Horizon Organic in 2007. They maintain a 60-cow herd of Holsteins with a few Brown Swiss sprinkled in. Genetics is a top priority. The farm classified this past July and has nine EX Holsteins, one EX Brown Swiss, 26 VG Holsteins, two VG Brown Swiss and 16 GP. Their milking barn is a comfort tie stall with pipeline.
Thirty to 40 acres of organic corn are grown each year for silage and rotate to new ground every two to three years. Past corn fields are then seeded with a mix that includes barley and/or oats. Chicken and cow manure are the only fertility influence on the land, and a forage analysis is done every year. Eighty percent of their income is derived from their milk, 10 percent from feed sales and 10 percent livestock sales.