by Enrico Villamaino
Cowles Family Farm is one of only 16 dairies in New York State to receive the Supermilk award every year since its introduction 30 years ago.
The Empire State Milk Quality Council (ESMQC) has been bestowing the award since 1989. Honorees are recognized for maintaining high standards of herd cleanliness as well as keeping their milk’s somatic cell count (SCC) below 200,000 cells per milliliter. A lower SCC means that there is a lower chance of milk contamination.
“To be fair, my dad, Thurlow Cowles, was running things for a lot of those years,” laughed Jonathan Cowles, who has been the herdsman at Cowles’ farm for the past 25 years. “I think that half of the credit should go to him.”
Together, Jonathan and his brother Stephen are the fourth generation of the Cowles family to run the farm, originally founded in 1917 in Marietta, NY. The Cowles’ operation sits on 1,000 acres on the eastern border of the Finger Lakes and milks a herd that has grown from 90 to 285 cows, most of them registered Holsteins.
Jonathan credits his family’s foundational principles as a key component of its success with the Supermilk program. “We believe in being consistent and clean. That has always gone hand in hand with producing a quality product,” he said. He also touts the contributions of his staff. “We’re fortunate to have two excellent milkers working with us. Having good people around you really makes a difference.”
The Cowles family ships their milk to Byrne Dairy. Byrne, based in Montgomery, NY, distributes dairy products throughout Central New York.
“We face challenges to producing Supermilk through a longstanding focus on cleanliness, not only in our barn and the milking parlor, but also throughout all of our farm facilities and property. Maintaining a clean operation has been our family’s priority for decades. To accomplish this, we use sand bedding and groom it daily in our cow barn. We take great care to keep the barns scraped down and cleaned in a timely manner,” Jonathan said. Stall size and fans for cooling add to cow comfort. In addition, fresh straw bedding is provided for the young stock in the calf barn. “From birth to milking age, cleanliness has been an emphasis of our business model. All of these efforts enhance cow comfort and protect milk quality. Keeping up with this daily makes producing outstanding milk less of a challenge.
“I think that the comfort of the cattle leads to better production. That leads to more success and profit for the farm,” Jonathan said.
Today, Cowles Family Farm’s cows continue to produce some of the best milk in the state – and the farm continues to be recognized for that.