by Annie Ciampaglia and Yianna Rhodes (University of New Hampshire)
Earlier this year, students and professors from the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maine and the University of Massachusetts met at UNH’s Fairchild Dairy to begin a five-day tour of several Vermont dairy farms.Luckily, the previous week’s record breaking cold snap had finally broken and we were able to enjoy moderate weather during our time in Vermont. We all traveled together via charter bus that was supported by a very generous grant from Northeast Farm Credit’s AgEnhancement Program.
On our way to Burlington we stopped at Conant’s Riverside Farm in Richmond. This seventh-generation family dairy farm milks about 400 Holsteins twice a day. Every year the Conant’s grow hundreds of acres of corn, hay and alfalfa to feed their herd. This dairy had an interesting triangle herringbone parlor that owner Ransom said is a unique design but not particularly efficient for the number of cows they milk. The Conant family also grows sweet corn and other seasonal vegetables and sells them to the local community.
Our first stop on Tuesday morning was St. Albans Creamery where we got to see firsthand how milk is separated, processed and marketed. Everyone was given coats and hairnets before we began our tour of the facility which handles over one billion pounds of milk each year. Along with the facility tour we were also shown the on-site lab where technicians test each sample for antibiotics, DMC/SCC components, bacteria, protein and fat.
Our next stop was the nearby Manning Farm where they recently celebrated their 100-year anniversary. This family dairy consists of about 500 Holsteins and Brown Swiss cattle which are milked three times a day in a double-12 herringbone parlor. One of the major challenges the Manning family faces is the competition for local land. This seemed to be a common challenge that many Vermont farmers we spoke with are having.
We continued on to Bakersfield where we stopped to tour a small Jersey dairy called Paul-Lin Farm. The Stanley family recently switched to follow non-GMO guidelines which has worked well for their small herd and has raised their premiums. The spotless registered Jerseys are strictly on hay/grain, pastured in season and are milked in their stalls through a pipeline system. The cows are kept much cleaner by having their tails gently tied by a string to help keep them out of the gutter.
For our next farm, we traveled to Richford on the Canadian border to visit Borderview Genetics. Borderview currently stands as the fourth most elite herd of its size in the country and prides themselves on their top-notch IVF and ET program used to multiply their top females. They currently milk between 40 and 60 cows but their main source of income is dairy genetics.
On Wednesday morning, we crossed state lines into Chazy, NY to visit the Miner Institute. Miner operates as an educational research institution that runs both an equine and dairy herd. Miner offers three diverse internship opportunities for students interested in agriculture. Their current dairy herd has 400 Holsteins milked three times a day in a double-12 parallel parlor. They also harvest about 900 acres with most of it being made into silage.
On Wednesday afternoon, we headed back into Vermont and stopped at Green Mountain Dairy in Sheldon. This dairy milks over 900 Holsteins three times a day and has over 1,900 cattle on the property, making it the largest farm on our trip. They own over 1,500 acres of tillable land and grow 850 acres of corn each year. They have an impressive methane digester on the property used to produce energy. All power generated is fed onto the grid and the farm buys back what they need to run the farm.
When we reached Shelburne Farms we were given an introduction on the vast history behind the huge tourist attraction. After the introduction, we all tried the different cheese samples as the “cheese man” described each type of cheddar which is made right on site from their Brown Swiss herd. Shelburne has a 120 cow, non-GMO milking herd used primarily for their cheese making. The cows are milked 10 months out of the year in an interesting midline swing parlor.
On Thursday morning, we headed south and east to visit Fairmont Farms in East Montpelier. This farm has 1,400 milking Holsteins and crops 3,600 acres of land. This farm does genomic testing, some embryo work and does genetic sales for supplemental income. The owners said they are always in growth mode and aim for efficiency throughout each aspect of their farm. Here again, maintaining an adequate land base was challenging.
Our next dairy was Lucky Hill Farm in Danville owned by UNH alum Jennifer McReynolds and her family. This family farm milks 176 Jerseys and owns 300 acres of tillable land, 30 of which they use to grow corn. They do their own culturing, they genomic test all cattle and they participate in genetic sales as supplementary income. Lucky Hill milks in a double-12 parlor and sells to AgriMark Cooperative.
A stop at Hill View Farm in Danville was the last of the farms that we visited on Thursday. Henry and Allison Pearl run a 50-cow certified organic Jersey dairy. They currently have 60 heifers and do a heifer sale twice a year as supplemental income. The cows are fed while being milked twice a day in their unique dry side opening parlor. They own 50 acres for pasture and use a rotational grazing system. Their brand-new heifer barn was well planned and constructed and had great ventilation as well as a sloped floor to help with drainage.
Friday was the last day and consisted of visiting two farms: UVM and Billings. Two UVM Cream students
joined us on Thursday for the farm tours and then on Friday toured us through their new facilities on Spear St. in South Burlington. Their dairy is primarily run by the 15 student CREAM class where students are given school credit for running the dairy. The students milk 48 Holsteins in a double six herringbone parlor and milk is picked up every other day.
On the last stop of the trip we visited the historic Billings Farm in Woodstock, VT. They’re milking 26 Jerseys twice a day in a tie stall barn with a pipe line milking system and they breed for pedigree and type. In the summer time the cows go out at night to graze. Along with their award-winning Jerseys they have a menagerie of other farm animals including oxen, draft horses and sheep, all of which are open to the public to enjoy.
Thank you to all the farms and businesses for taking the time out of their day to share with us their wonderful facilities. We would also like to thank the AgEnhancement Program for the grant used to make this tour possible. We are most appreciative of everyone who contributed to the success of this fun, educational and memorable trip.