by Elizabeth A. Tomlin

On Aug. 28, 2011, David and Denise Lloyd’s Maple Downs Dairy of Distinction, Middleburgh, NY, was devastated by Hurricane Irene. With more than 7-feet of water in their barn and torrents of rushing water suddenly sweeping their livestock away, the Lloyd family was left defenseless.

Cows, crops, their home and equipment were destroyed in a matter of minutes.

“When that water came in, we had like zero time, we had like 20 minutes,” David recalled. “In 20 minutes we went from nothing in the barn to 7-feet. It was just unbelievable.”

“Everywhere you looked it affected every part of our lives,” explained Denise. “It wiped out our farm, our business, it wiped out our home, my car was totaled, trucks were totaled. Even worse, we lost 47 of our cows.”

Denise said afterwards, when they were able to return to the farm and assess the damage, her brother asked if they would rebuild. “Of course, I told him. The thought of not doing so never crossed our minds.”

Since the flood, the family continues to endure some long-term effects including with the equipment and in the buildings.

“Repairs are still being made from time to time as a result of water and mud that was in places it should never have been,” Denise reports. “After living through a nightmare from Mother Nature, it has instilled a strong sense of humanity in our farm family as we witnessed our family, friends, neighbors, and farming community flock to lend a helping hand. We realize in tough times how important it is to support farmers in need when tragedy hits. We have been able to give back hay, feed, and a helping hand to others who have suffered tragic losses on respective farms.”

When David and Denise began renting the property in 1974, they had just 46 milking cows.

Today, they milk about 160, maintaining a total stock of about 325 of mostly registered Holsteins.

Maple-Downs Farm has won a number of awards over the years, including Milk Quality Awards, Dairy of Distinction Award, and a Farmer Conservation Award.

“We are proud AgriMark Cooperative members where our milk is processed under the World’s Best Cabot Creamery label,” said Denise.

While traditional dairy farming is still the core of the Lloyd family’s operation, they are reportedly known worldwide in the registered Holstein trade for their heritage breed animals.

“We began focusing on genetics and selling embryos and cattle as a means to diversify our business,” said Denise. “We market our herd’s genetics across the country, and have even sold to farmers in Canada, Germany, Brazil, and England.”

Son Jason, who became an official partner in the farm in 2001, oversees many aspects of the herd health and breeding program, while his brother Greg also works full-time on the farm, managing crops, machinery, and feeding.

Greg and his long-time partner, Sheri Boardman, operate Maple-Downs Hay & Straw, where they market not only Maple-Downs hay, but commodities from across the northeast, including a mixture of crops, dry hay, haylage and corn silage.

Maple-Downs Farms II has been an icon at dairy cattle shows for well over a decade, with Jason and his fitting and showing crew working diligently preparing cattle of all ages for show.

This year, the Maple-Downs string at the prestigious NY Spring Dairy Carousel featured cattle from Ontario, New York, and Massachusetts.

Spatz Joel Lily, bred by Spatz Cattle Co., Lititz, PA, and now owned and shown by 7-year old Russell Prins, Pryme Farms Inc, Brighten, Ontario, is an example of the animals taken care of at Maple Downs Farms. She was awarded 1st place Jersey Winter Heifer Calf at the 2019 NY Spring Dairy Carousel in conjunction with Maple Downs II.

Highcroft Absolute Lily-Red-ET, who was awarded 1st Place, 5-yr old, Senior Champion, and Reserve Grand Champion of the Red & White Holstein Show at the 2019 NY Spring Dairy Carousel is another example.

“Jason Lloyd is one who is sought after to take top-notch care of show cattle at shows with the help of one of his fellow cattle partners, Anthony Crothers from Pitcher, NY,” remarked Sheri Boardman, who is the High School Agricultural Science Teacher and FFA Advisor at Fonda-Fultonville Central School.

“Our string has cattle who tie in with us at all of the national shows. At Maple-Downs we also board show cattle for people locally, who either do not have facilities for their cattle, or who are striving for the show-ring success.”

Individualized care is one feature the farm provides for show cattle.

“Maple-Downs markets registered Holsteins at various sales and offers private sales for anyone interested, locally and internationally,” Boardman said. “Beyond the registered females, we also have breeding age bulls available year round from proven cow families. Several times a year, some of the prestige cattle will be on embryo transfer programs or donors for in-vitro fertilization, which allows the superior progeny to progress on the farm.”

A focus on youth and encouraging young farmers is a priority for the entire family, and Maple-Downs Farms II works with local youth through a Schoharie Co. Dairy Experience Program, with FFA, 4-H and the Schoharie Co. Jr. Holstein Club, sponsoring show heifers for youth to show at the county fair. Jason, Sheri and Greg all work with youth; providing training and teaching skills, so they are able to exhibit competitively in showmanship and confirmation classes.

Both Jason Lloyd and Boardman judge cattle and work with youth at shows. Both will be judging at the 2019 All-American Dairy Show this fall in Harrisburg, PA.

Boardman said since she has been attending the NY Spring Show there has been an expansion of involvement throughout the U.S. and Canada. “The NY Spring show is always an exciting time as it’s the first show of the year for many, and a time to gain the momentum for the remainder of the year,” said Boardman. “It was an honor to work with the youth this year as I sorted through the showmanship classes.”

Boardman said she believes there was an increase this year in showmanship competitors, with approximately 100 competitors.

“With the current state of the dairy industry, it is important to encourage our youth to stay involved,” said Boardman. “Showing cattle teaches our youth so much — responsibility, determination, and sportsmanship.”

“Everyone here is very passionate about the dairy cow,” said Denise. “We have a love of farming, a love of the field work, and a love of showing and caring for the animals. Having a passion for the lifestyle is very important if you’re going to truly be successful as a farmer.”

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