Value-added family dairy

CM-MR-1-Value addedby Tamara Scully
MARYLAND — The Kilby family has been dairying for over 100 years. The current dairy was established in 1961, and has been growing ever since. The family sells their milk directly from the farm to local customers. They also make their own dairy products, and even offer home delivery. They sell at farmers markets, and have wholesale accounts.

“We love that Kilby Cream is able to provide local, farm fresh products to our customers’ doors,” Kilby representative Stacy Stearrett said. “It is an affordable alternative to purchasing from the chain markets.”

They welcome visitors to their farm and ice cream shop to get a taste of dairy life, firsthand.
“Inviting the public to our farm is part of our ongoing effort to educate the public about where their food comes from. Plus, we just like to share our farm with the community,” Phyllis Kilby, who along with husband Bill and their children, own and operate the dairy.
Cow Care

The Kilby’s have continually strived to raise the healthiest dairy cows. Their milking herd consists of 500 head of Holsteins, Jerseys and crosses. Three times per day, one half of the cows are milked. They are divided into five groups for milking purposes.

Originally built in the 1970s, their facilities have been modified as the farm’s needs have changed. They continue to rely upon a double 12 parabone milking parlor with rapid exit, which has “worked well for use over the years,” Kilby said.

The farm has its own breeding program.

“By raising our own replacements we are able to select for needed traits and insure that the animals receive the best care possible,” Kilby said. “Through an excellent breeding program we have been able to grow all of our replacements, with some extras to sell.”

With such a large herd, the farm is classified as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). The family farms on over 900 acres of land, most of it devoted to corn, both for silage and high-moisture corn. The cows are on a grass-based diet, supplemented with the corn as well as the barley, oats and hay, all grown on the farm for feed. Canola and wet brewers grain, a well as minerals, combine with their homegrown feed to create a TMR, monitored by a nutrition consultant. Both bunker and upright silos are used for feed storage.

Improving through Technology

The animals are housed in a free stall barn with sand bedding, both for health benefits and for its ability to be reused. Manure is flushed from the alleys using recycled water, and gravity-fed through a pipe into a 200 ft. separation area, where the sand is deposited along the alley, and moved into a sand settling area. Here, the sand is separated out and allowed to dry for reuse in the alleys.

The manure-laden water from the alley is piped to clarification cell, where it is scooped out and moved to a recently installed walled concrete solid waste storage structure. Here it de-waters before field application. The structure also includes an area for mortality composting, where wood chip and manure are used for on-farm composting.

Liquid waste water is moved from the clarification cell to a 2.5 million gallon lagoon, where it is pumped out and used on the crop fields. It is also used to feed the 680,000 gallon methane digester installed in 2009.

Land Conservation Efforts

“Our serious conservation efforts started in 1993 with Alan Heft, a DNR employee that encouraged us to put in a riparian buffer along our trout stream,” Kilby said. The buffer would reduce the water’s temperature, once again allowing native trout to reproduce. They added 12 acres of forested riparian buffer.

From there, the family began continual conservation improvements. The stream was fenced to keep the cows out, a grass buffer was added outside of the riparian buffer to decrease runoff, and two wildlife ponds were constructed. The farm uses cover crops to prevent leaching from excess nutrients, and to provide added forage for the cows.

Wetlands filter runoff. Terracing and contour planning are also practiced, and corn stalk nitrate tests are taken annually. The farm has also placed an easement on some of their land, insuring that it remains agricultural land in perpetuity.

Value-added Dairy

The dairy’s milk is bottled on-site, using reuseable glass bottles. The milk is pasteurized, but the whole milk is offered without homogenization, allowing the cream to settle on top. Milk is sold at the dairy’s ice cream shop, or via their home delivery program.

Their ice cream is made from non-homogenized milk, with over 21 flavors. Local ingredients are used whenever possible, and help to create an additional line flavors, such as strawberry cheesecake, black raspberry and caramel apple.

“Getting started in on-farm processing requires manpower and money — in other words, family members and a good banker,” Kilby said. “The regulations are sometimes difficult to work through, but not impossible.”

The family began making ice cream in 2005, and built a new bottling and processing plant in 2010, enabling them to expand the business. Over 6,000 lbs of raw milk are used each week to make ice cream, butter, and for cream and milk bottling. It only takes two days to get the milk from the cow to the ice cream scoop: it’s that fresh.

The farm hosts special events. A haunted Halloween maze, fundraisers for local non-profits, and birthday party hosting all keep the dairy in the public’s eye. Their “MooMobile” travels to schools and business events, and the family offers home delivery services. Home delivery is not only for Kilby Cream products. They’ve added other local farm products, including meats, eggs, bread and cider.
“Producing and selling your product to the public requires a different business skill set from basic farming,” Kilby said. “Working with the public can be trying, but very rewarding.”

At Kilby Cream, preservation, conservation, community giving and farm viability are all important parts of the puzzle, connecting together into a farm enterprise which not only protects and improves the land, but insures that the family farm can continue to operate successfully for future generations.

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