Competing at the state level is much more challenging than county-level shows; however, for the Marshman family representing Marshman Farms in Oxford, NY, this year’s New York State Fair was a good year.
Lily Marshman, 15, won first place in her class for her fall heifer calf at the 4-H Show and her fall yearling was named Honorable Mention Grand Champion. In the Junior Show, she won Intermediate Champion Red & White, Grand Champion Red & White, Intermediate Champion Black & White and Reserve Grand Champion Black & White. In the Open Show, she won Reserve Intermediate Red & White.
Though Lily puts plenty of effort into preparing the animals for the show ring, show season is a family affair. Her mother, Sheila A. Marshman, Ph.D., works as an associate professor in the Division of Animal & Plant Sciences & Agricultural Business in the School of Agriculture, Business & Technology at SUNY Morrisville, yet finds time to offer her daughter pointers and support in caring for her show animals.
Lily’s dad, John, is busy operating the family’s 1,100-acre crop and dairy farm with 400 mature cows and 350 young stock, selling milk to DFA.
In addition to the NYS Fair, the family also shows at the Chenango County Fair, the Cooperstown Livestock Youth Show, the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, PA, and World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI.
“There’s camaraderie in the industry,” Sheila said. “Everyone at the state fair watches out for each other. I’m still working while Lily’s there and different people will bring her breakfast and laugh and say they’re her DoorDash. It’s a great way for kids to build lifelong friendships.”
Showing starts with selecting the animals, which simply relies upon pedigree and looks. “We bring the best ones from our herd,” Sheila said.
The show cows are in separate housing by the end of winter and have a different diet than the TMR of the milking herd. The show cows also receive regular “hair appointments” with Lily.
“You have to do a lot of work at home,” Lily said. “I try to wash my animals three times a week and walk them every day. Every day after I wash them, I blow up their topline hair with a blow dryer and brush. I train it to stand it up better so it’s easier on show day.”
The farm is a free-stall parlor operation, with the majority of the cows in loose housing under fans with misters. They all have regular hoof trimming, water mattresses for resting and rubber flooring to augment other cow comfort measures.
“Everything’s routine because cattle like routine,” John said.
Their cow care measures keep the milk’s somatic cell count around 80,000. Every other day, the farm makes a full trailer load of milk for DFA, which typically goes to yogurt superstar Chobani.
“It’s very close and it’s done very well for the farmers in our area,” John said.
The farm takes back some of Chobani’s whey to add to the TMR, providing both a cost-effective element to the ration as well as recycling a byproduct from the yogurt maker.
The farm’s most recent upgrade is smart collars on the cows to track their behavior, including feeding, movement, rest and rumination time. The farm has used this technology for a year.
“We know if she’s having a problem and we can do well at treating quickly,” John said. “They do a really good job at helping us figure out what’s going on with each cow.”
He believes that the smart collars help him keep the herd healthier, as he can more quickly spot a sick animal. It’s also labor-saving, as he doesn’t have to look at every cow every day. The farm employs 15 – “an all-American workforce,” Sheila said. “We try not to go over 40 hours in the workweek.”
Paying overtime has added to the farm’s expenses, as had increases in other inputs. “With costs so high, we’re looking at growing more so we don’t have to buy so much,” John noted. “Growing soybeans is economic in New York. We have really good consultants and support people because of our large dairy industry.”
Currently, the farm grows all its own corn, purchasing only canola, soybeans and minerals. John also wants to add more equipment that can replace laborers to increase the farm’s efficiency.
“We’re all learning to be good human resources and organization resource managers,” Sheila added.
John’s business partners are his brother David and David’s son Corey, the seventh generation on the farm.