Just like dog owners, certain farmers show favoritism toward certain breeds. It might be for strong genetics, or aesthetics, or production ability. Sometimes, it’s just a love affair.
For Melissa Bovey, it’s been a lifelong love affair with Guernseys.
Today, she and her family – husband Tom Poro, sister Caroline Rousseau and nephew Kyle Rousseau – run Otter Meade Farm in Florence, VT.
“My parents bought the farm in Florence back in 1968,” Bovey explained. “My father and mother both grew up on dairy farms in Dorset, Vermont, and they wanted to raise their family on the farm.”
She said her parents always raised Jerseys and Holsteins, but when her sister, her brother and she started with 4-H as children, they all started showing Guernseys. “My brother made the choice” to stick with the breed, she said. “He fell in love with them. It just stuck with us.”
Bovey described the Guernsey as “such a docile, loving breed, and they’re beautiful.” The farm has continued to raise them because of their temperament, easy care and the fact they have a high protein count and high butterfat content in their milk – hence the nickname “the golden Guernsey.”
“When you make cream or the butter it’s also that golden yellow,” Bovey said. “And a lot of them are A2A2, which is a very big thing now.”
While the milk production is important, Bovey has never lost the show bug she caught when she was in 4-H. “The long-term goal has been to have a herd for showing. I love showing,” she said. “This is my passion. This is where I excel.”
She said her goal when she really got into showing was to compete at World Dairy Expo – which she has done several times. “Then I had my son, and my two nieces came along, and they picked it up,” she said of showing. “I want to get them to that level.”
Bovey’s son Thomas Poro and nieces Braylin and Bailey Bowen take their showing seriously. The family has competed at NAILE in Louisville numerous times, and were set up at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA, right after returning from AADS in Harrisburg, PA.
“We did very well,” Bovey reported. “Bailey was in the junior division and placed eighth out of over 120 kids. We’re very happy with how we did in Harrisburg.”
Otter Meade Farm has been attending the Big E for about 30 years. At the New England Guernsey Classic Show, held Sept. 26 at the Big E, Bovey said all their heifers were middle of their classes, with their fall yearling winning her class.
“The kids had a great time and as always worked hard and played hard,” she said. “In my mind, my goal is to get the girls to World Dairy Expo, showmanship-wise, and to have the animals to go.”
Back home in Vermont, the operation is split between two farms. “It just happened I stayed on the home farm,” Bovey said. “We did not have enough land to farm. It happened that our neighbors down the road were selling their big farm. My nephew bought it.”
The show cows stay with Bovey, and as they freshen they use a truck and trailer to move them just a mile down the road. “Any cows he wants us to baby along get sent to us,” she said of her nephew. “We work in conjunction.”
When the heifers and dry cows are at Bovey’s place, they’re fed dry hay. Kyle feeds TMR down the road and the calves grow up on grain.
Unfortunately, Florence was one of the towns heavily affected by the heavy rains earlier this year. “We lost over 160 acres of corn to the flooding this year,” Bovey reported. “Our hay crop – we knew the rain was coming, so we hurried up and got second-cut chopped up for haylage. But we haven’t been able to touch any of the fields the floods hit. We’re just waiting for the insurance. To lose all that corn … it’s a worry in all our minds what we’re gonna feed. But it’s one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.”
For milking, the operation has an eight-by-eight parlor. They sell their milk to Agri-Mark.
“My nephew and I are always talking about what he wants to do on his farm, and he’s tossed around the idea of robots,” Bovey said. “We’re always looking into new stuff, trying new stuff. We’re not opposed to staying one way if something works, though.”
The family tradition is one thing that works. Bailey, 11, said she plans to stay on the farm. “I really like to show the cows, and just hang out on the farm, milk the cows,” she said.
“A big aspect of it is we’re all together doing it, as a family,” Bovey said. “It’s our background. It’s what we grew up doing.”
by Courtney Llewellyn