Milestone reached by Shenandoah Family Farms

BlogShenFamFarms085BlogShenFamFarms-011

By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine March 21, 2014

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – “Every day we reach new milestones, and today is one of them,” said Tom Francis, production manager and VIP / media tour-guide Tuesday, March 18 at the dairy plant where Shenandoah Family Farms Brand milk and cream products are made.

The 142,000 square foot facility in Hagerstown, Maryland was idled by Unilever in 2012, then purchased in August 2013 by Valley Pride LLC, a dairy business owned by 21 dairy farmers from the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. This purchase, and the separate formation of Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative, grew from seeds planted during a 2012 meeting of the five original board members at the Thomas House restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“We are excited to be here and look forward to moving forward,” said Randy Inman during Tuesday’s pre-tour press conference. Inman, a Harrisonburg, Virginia dairy producer, serves as vice president of Valley Pride LLC and Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative.BlogShenFamFarms104

Over the past 18 months, they have developed a media and social media presence as they prepared for the startup of milk and cream bottling operations at the renovated plant February 24. Soft-serve ice cream mix production began last week, and hard ice cream production will begin after new equipment arrives in April.

To this point, Shenandoah Family Farms has used social media to bring farm families, farm life, farm children — even farm calves, cows, cats and dogs — right to the computers and smart-phones of thousands of customers. Brilliant photography of life on the farm and scenes of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley bring a nostalgic feel to the marketing of natural dairy products prized for their quality, flavor and wholesomeness.

“Our web presence will grow in the next three weeks with the launch of a new website with store locators and profiles of our farmers and staff,” said Shenandoah Family Farms marketing director Jennifer Churchman.

The plant is currently just scratching the surface of the demand and production capacity. The equipment has the capability of bottling 32 gallons of milk per minute, and the largest single-day of production they had since Feb. 24 was 6000 gallons. But Francis said this can be doubled with more shifts, workers and equipment as the demand grows.

BlogShenFamFarms063cropped

To-date, Shenandoah Family Farms milk goes to 170 retail and restaurant establishments along the Route 81 corridor from Shenandoah Family Farm Cooperative’s home base in Harrisonburg, Virginia, through the plant location in Hagerstown, Maryland, and north and west into West Virginia and the Waynesboro and Greencastle areas of Pennsylvania.

“We’re adding 5 to 10 new customers per day,” Churchman confirmed, explaining how end-consumers can fill out product request forms at shenandoahfamilyfarms.com and take them to the stores and restaurants they patronize. The product-request forms have also been the key in developing initial leads for the sales team.BlogShenFamFarms110

“The more requests that are submitted, the easier it is to get our product on the shelves,” aaid Inman. He noted they are close to getting their products into the local Walmarts.

“We are beginning to reach out to the Washington, D.C., area, and getting a lot of interest there,” said plant manager Fred Rodes, who has 25 years of experience working for three creameries after jumping the fence from dairy farming to dairy manufacturing in 1988 for health reasons. Rodes also said they would be open to doing private label work, but are focused right now on working directly with customers and through distributors to build their brand.

Hagerstown Mayor David Gysberts and other local city and county officials were on-hand Tuesday showing their enthusiasm for the plant’s re-start. “We are happy to see the Virginia farmers bring jobs back to our region,” said Gysberts. One-third of the 44 full time and 4 part time employees worked at the Hagerstown plant under its previous owner, Unilever, which employeed 400 at its peak before idling the plant in 2012.

“The more the community supports Shenandoah Family Farms products, the more products we can make, and the more jobs we can create here,” said Inman. “It’s a snowball effect.”

He explained that Shenandoah Family Farms products come from a small group of farms. Right now that is 21 farms average 130 milk cows per farm.

“The close proximity of our dairy farmers to our market will give customers assurance of fresh dairy products,” added Inman. “We are focused on high quality milk production and the assurance of best management practices for environmental sustainability, heritage farming practices, humane animal care, involvement in our community and involving our customers in our decisions as we grow.”

Inman said the primary goal of this enterprise is to preserve small family farms for generations to come. “We saw this as a way to take some control of our product by building a relationship with our end-consumers and taking our milk from the farm to the consumer, and to see our farmers rewarded for their high quality production with a steady milk price.”

The investment runs deep here – beyond dollars. Inman explained that the farmers and staff “worked hands-on and side-by-side” to upgrade and renovate the facility over the past six months. USDA loan-guarantees helped the group of farmers get the financing to not only purchase but also upgrade the plant and build awareness for their brand.

The facility’s milk silos, large conveyors, pasteurizer, existing ice cream equipment, coolers, and in-wall freezers were all part of the plant purchase. The owners purchased a separator, homogenizer, bottling equipment and new ice cream manufacturing equipment as well as upgrading computers, software and the ability to track milk from farm-to-store. They also upgraded the coolers and chillers and adding other conveyor capabilities throughout the plant.

BlogShenFamFarms121

“We’ve had some delays with equipment arriving and the challenges you would expect with a project like this, but we’re ready. The word is getting out about our products, and the support from the local communities has been quite encouraging,” Inman said, adding that he’s impressed with how his fellow farmers and the plant staff have worked together.

“I’m amazed by the super commitment of the farmers, and their families, to get this up and going, and by our staff as we’ve worked together,” he said.

To be bottling the Shenandoah Family Farms milk and on the verge of beginning ice cream production was described as “overwhelming” by board member and producer Dennis Trissel. “In any business like this, you always hope to put in place what’s necessary to get the product marketed,” he said. “Our farmers know how to make high quality milk and our plant managers know how to make quality products…”

Now the ball rolls into the consumer domain through product purchases and requests where they shop.

“Our store customers need to see that we are capable of being here five years and forward,” said Rodes. “We have good staff and a lot of experience. I grew up on a dairy farm and I enjoy the challenges of running a creamery. I’m willing to work hard for these guys (the farmers) because I know they care about putting out a quality product. Now the rubber meets the road in sales.”BlogShenFamFarms067

For the sales force Lyndon Jonson and Rich Muldoon, that’s a challenge they are meeting daily – “hitting the road and knocking on doors.”

“The most rewarding thing for me is getting a new account, that’s my high-point,” said Johnson, a former truck driver who is part of the Shenandoah Family Farms sales force.

When hard ice cream production begins next month, the plant will roll out vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and begin adding flavors with 11 flavors planned at this time. They will concentrate on volume packages for grocers and soft-serve mixes for restaurants before adding a line of other types of ice cream products.

“For the most part, our awareness building is getting farmers face-to-face with the end consumers,” Churchman explained how ‘engagement marketing’ is being utilized. “We will utilize all avenues such as radio, television and print advertising, but we are also sponsoring many local events and will have our farmers and staff there. They are important members of their communities and we want them right there with our customers so the customers can be part of how we grow our company.”

BlogShenFamFarms019

The 21 family farm members of Shenandoah Family Farms are all located within a 10-mile radius of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Currently three farms’ milk is going to the plant. Once all 21 farms’ milk is being utilized by the plant, another 12 producers are on-board to be added.

Churchman said they are using “test-market-moms” as an advisory group of moms and families to advise, test, and decide what to put out. “They can use their social media circles to gain additional feedback for us,” she said.

BlogShenFamFarms004

Ice cream lead Charles Evans is glad to be back to work at the plant under the new ownership. Asked what makes the Shenandoah Family Farms ice cream products stand-out in the marketplace, Evans said “the recipe. It was developed by the farmers and Fred Rodes our plant manager. It’s higher in butterfat content, making it rich and thick. Everyone who tasted our soft-serve today enjoyed it and we’re getting very positive feedback from customers.”

Rodes also stressed that the Shenandoah Family Farms ice cream (both soft-serve and hard) is 100% natural and contains no additives. “That’s kind of rare these days,” he said.

Inman said Shenandoah Family Farms is working with other cooperatives on milk supply balancing and they are working with other processing cooperatives and suppliers to combine additional products for their distribution contracts — including cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt, as well as the full line of Turkey Hill teas.

BlogShenFamFarms125BlogShenFamFarms093

###

 

 

 

 

 

ShenFamFarms085

Micah Showalter, 2, is tasting Shenandoah Family Farms soft serve ice cream with brother Adrian, 8, and sisters Emily, 9, and Erica, 6. Micah and his puppy are the stars of the Shenandoah Family Farms Whole Chocolate Milk label, shown here in poster size (left) on the wall above him, and all four children with a newborn calf at the Showalter family’s Sun Dial Farm-2 are subjects of the Whole Milk label, shown here in poster-size above them (right). The Showalters are among the 21 farmers in a 10 mile radius of Harrisonburg, Virginia, who purchased and renovated the former Unilever ice cream plant in Hagerstown, Maryland. They started bottling Shenandoah Family Farms Brand fluid milk and cream products at the plant on February 24. They began making vanilla soft serve ice cream mix this week and will soon be doing chocolate. Hard ice cream production begins in April with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and will expand to 11 flavors over the next several months. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms093 or 106

Shenandoah Family Farms milk and chocolate milk were served with homemade cookies at the tour of the creamery Tuesday. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms063 and 063cropped

After Unilever idled the 142,000 square foot Hagerstown, Md. plant in the fall of 2012, it was purchased last August by Valley Pride LLC, a dairy business owned by 21 dairy farmers from the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. In addition to updating the ice cream manufacturing equipment, they have invested in milk bottling, which started February 24. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms-011

Owen Trissel is “over-the-moon” with excitement as he suits-up for the plant tour with his parents Cory and Charity. Owen, 9, and his brother Ian, 4, are the stars of the 2% milk label. One of the features of the Shenandoah Family Farms brand is to engage consumers in farm life through brilliant photography and larger labels. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms-019

Production manager Tom Francis served as tour-guide Tuesday. He said hard ice cream production begins in April. The Shenandoah Family Farms brand offers chocolate milk is offered in whole milk variety, and ice cream is a higher butterfat, simple recipe made with 100% natural ingredients. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms110

Dairy producers Dennis Trissel (right) and Randy Inman are two of the original five who met in 2012 at the Thomas House restaurant, Harrisonburg, Va., forming Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative and planting the idea-seed for taking their milk straight from farms to consumers. They are pictured with Shenandoah Family Farms marketing director Jennifer Churchman who says “engagement marketing” is the hallmark of their campaign and plant manager Fred Rodes (left), who grew up on a dairy farm, then spent the past 25 years on the other side of the fence in the creamery world. He loves working with people, building teams, tackling challenges and tinkering with ice cream recipes. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms105

Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative vice president Randy Inman welcomed media and Hagerstown, Md. officials to the grand re-opening tour of the plant purchased by the investment of 21 members of the Valley Pride LLC, where Shenandoah Family Farms Brand milk is bottled and made into ice cream. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms-Hagerstown

Hagerstown Mayor Dave Gysberts and Council member Don Munson were among the 35 suiting-up for Tuesday’s tour of the Shenandoah Family Farms dairy manufacturing facility. They are all smiles as 44 jobs have returned to the site of the former Unilever ice cream plant that once employed 400 people. Now owned and renovated by 21 dairy producers from northern Virginia, the plant began bottling milk last month, started making soft-serve ice cream mix this week and will be ramping up hard ice cream production as early as mid-April. Photo courtesy of the City of Hagerstown.

ShenFamFarms121 and/or 125

The 142,000 square-foot plant has been updated to make Shenandoah Family Farms ice cream and fluid milk and cream products. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms067

“Want to see where your milk goes?” That was all the encouragement these children needed to check out the conveyor taking crates of bottled Shenandoah Family Farms milk to the cooler where it was being loaded for delivery to 170 retail and restaurant customers — with 5 to 10 new customers being added daily.

ShenFamFarms095

A year of awareness-building through Facebook and other media brought daily photos of farm children, farm life, and farm calves, cows, dogs and cats right to the computers and mobile phones of thousands of consumers. Photo by Sherry Bunting

ShenFamFarms004

Charles Evans is the ice cream lead for Shenandoah Family Farms. He served the soft-style ice cream to local officials and media Tuesday. (I must say it was tasty!) Photo by Sherry Bunting

Collapsed barn roof reveals get’r done spirit, profound gratitude

Duane and Marilyn Hershey (front right) can't say enough about how their team of employees pulled together to free cows, restore order and keep 600 cows fed and milked in the hours after the roof collapsed Feb. 14 on about three-quarters of the main freestall barn at Ar-Joy Farms, Cochranville, Pa . They are pictured here with adaptable bovines eating TMR calmly under the open sky behind them three days later on Feb. 17

Duane and Marilyn Hershey (front right) can’t say enough about how their team of employees pulled together to free cows, restore order and keep 600 cows fed and milked in the hours after the roof collapsed Feb. 14 on about three-quarters of the main freestall barn at Ar-Joy Farms, Cochranville, Pa . They are pictured here with adaptable bovines eating TMR calmly under the open sky behind them three days later on Feb. 17

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 21 and 28, 2014

COCHRANVILLE, Pa., Feb. 17, 2014 – “The first thing we did was pray. Then we hugged. Then we got to work,” Duane Hershey recalls about the first moments in the wee hours Friday morning, Feb. 14 after he and his wife Marilyn were awakened by milking employees to learn the roof had collapsed on the freestall barn at their 600-cow Ar-Joy Farms, in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

His first thought was that it was a small section, but as he walked up the hill from the house to the barn – wife Marilyn a few steps behind him – a more devastating picture emerged in the dimly lit night sky, and all he could think was that he was facing a lot of dead cows.
All told, the Hersheys say they are thankful and fortunate no employees were in the barn at the time, and the majority of their cows got through the event fairly well.

“Nothing you train for prepares you for the reality of that moment,” said Marilyn Hershey, who has participated in crisis management workshops through DMI. “The truth is, when I came to the top of the hill and saw the rubble, I lost it,” she recalled during a Farmshine visit to Ar-Joy Farms Monday. “Duane reassured me that we would get through this, but that first moment of seeing the devastation and hearing our cows in trouble was horrific to me.”

One of Marilyn’s first calls was to Dean Weaver at Farmer Boy Ag. “We prayed for wisdom to know what the next step is, and we prayed for safety,” she said. “I called Dean at 3 a.m. and he answered. He got my brains started and pulled me out of the shell-shock. He told us to call our insurance company, and three hours later Farmer Boy Ag had their first crew here.”

One of Duane’s first calls was to friend and fellow dairyman Walt Moore at Walmoore Holsteins near West Gove, Chester County and to neighboring friends and farmers Andy Laffey and Tim Barlow.

“Everyone brought gates and chain saws,” said Duane. “We figured we had 50 to 100 cows trapped. We didn’t know what we were facing until we were able to move the tin.”

In order to free the trapped cows, they first had to move the free cows so they could start clearing debris to get to the cows that were still trapped in the original main barn. Moore organized the process of sorting and moving cows.

By 8 a.m., there were four construction crews on-site. Two crews were sent earlier by Dean Weaver at Farmer Boy Ag, the Hershey’s builder. Then Chris Stoltzfus got a call at White Horse Construction from a friend who explained the situation. He also sent two crews over to help. Burkhart Excavating, a local contractor, also came out to help.

“The generosity of people Friday just blew us away,” said Marilyn. “The four crews worked side by side all day, and people just started showing up. They knew what to bring. It was an overwhelming blessing to us.”

It took four to six hours of meticulous work to clear enough debris to free the nearly 100 trapped cows. “It was amazing how calm they were,” said Marilyn.

Walt Moore also observed this, recalling the cows “cacooned” under-tin, chewing their cuds as crews and volunteers methodically worked their way through the debris to free them.

The Hersheys give a lot of credit to herdsman Rigo Mondragon and the team of Ar-Joy employees for figuring out how to keep milking and tending cows, rotating them through the portion of the freestall barn that was still intact so that all the cows would get an opportunity to eat and drink.

“Walt is the one who really organized the work of freeing the cows,” the Hersheys related. “He knew what to do and could do it more objectively – without the emotional attachment we had to what was happening.” Walt’s wife Ellen called Dr. Kristula from New Bolton Center, and helped the vet check cows.

11webRoofCollapse(Ar-Joy)007

“This has been one of the toughest years I can remember, a winter that just won’t let up,” said Moore. “I was taken back more than once to see the community effort at Ar-Joy on Friday, to see how the farming community and their church family cares about each other.”

By Monday morning, agent Sue Beshore of Morrissey Insurance, the insurance carrier for Ar-Joy Farms, said she had heard from close to 10 customers with agricultural roof collapses, but that Ar-Joy was the first to involve so many livestock.

“This is a time for hugs,” she said to Marilyn before explaining the coverages the Hersheys had for the freestall barn their employees work in part of the time and their cows live in all of the time.

“We had 12 to 18 inches of snow the day before the roof collapsed, then some rain that iced over that evening before we got another 8 inches of snow that night,” Duane recalls, adding that there was already a snow pack on the roof from earlier precipitation and frigid temps.

Penn State ag engineer Dan McFarland notes that roof systems “are truly an engineered system. What the design of the roof allows for is the buildup of snow cover as measured by ground cover maps. In Southeast and South Central Pennsylvania, that might be 30 to 35 pounds. A light snow is 5 to 20 lbs per square foot. A snow pack is 30 to 40 pounds, a snow pack with ice can be 40 to 50 pounds, so now we are getting very close to what a lot of roofs are designed for.”

According to McFarland, a roof snow pack will absorb rain, and when that turns to ice, it doesn’t move and take longer to melt. In the short term, people like to get heavy loads off .

But McFarland urged extreme caution. “Be hesitant about going up without safety harnesses and tie-off ropes,” he said. “Metal roofs are slippery, so try to remove it, if you can, with a snow rake from the ground.”

Some ag building roofs are quite wide, which makes snow load removal more difficult. “If you are going to remove it, remove it evenly,” he advised. “One thing to avoid is uneven snow loads. Trusses are designed to carry the load to the load bearing points on the sides, so don’t prop them up in the middle because that can actually weaken the design.”

Good ventilation also helps. Condensation can deteriorate roof systems. Experts suggest evaluating truss systems for bowing and to contact professionals to evaluate or assist.

Drifting of roof snow pack, warming temperatures, additional rainfall getting absorbed, and blocked roof drainage systems all contribute to uneven or excessive snow loads. Strained roofs surviving the weight from this week’s rain bear watching in additional storms later this season. Cold air is expected to return next week, bringing additional snow in some areas.

One week after the roof collapsed, rebuilding is underway at Ar-Joy Farms Thursday, Feb. 20. Farmer Boy Ag carpenters put up wood bracing after 69 trusses were set for the steel roof construction.

One week after the roof collapsed, rebuilding is underway at Ar-Joy Farms Thursday, Feb. 20. Farmer Boy Ag carpenters put up wood bracing after 69 trusses were set for the steel roof construction.

Loss gives way to profound gratitude

COCHRANVILLE, Pa. — Feb. 20, 2014 — The cattle losses at Ar-Joy Farms here in Chester County, Pennsylvania have grown to two dozen in the wake of the February 14 roof collapse over the main 275-feet of freestall barn, which left only the newer 92-foot section of roof standing. But Duane and Marilyn Hershey have not had to handle any of this alone.

By the following Saturday (Feb. 22), 69 new trusses were set and the 600 cows had a new roof — thanks to the efficiency of friends, neighbors, insurance adjusters, structural engineers, and the crews at Farmer Boy Ag.

The farming and church communities reached out to the Hersheys immediately that Valentine’s Day morning, and also had a work day one week later to prepare the site for crews to set new the trusses and raise the new roof in the three-day window of warm weather before the frigid cold and precipitation returned to Southeast Pennsylvania this week.

03webRoofRebuild(ArJoy)018

Friend and business partner in Moocho Milk hauling, Walt Moore of nearby Walmoore Holsteins, West Grove, was the first to arrive on the scene in the wee hours of that Friday morning.

“They were overwhelmed,” said Walt of his friends. He felt like it took him and his wife Ellen forever to load the service truck with whatever they could think of needing and to traverse the snow-covered and icy roads to Ar-Joy Farms.

h-m2

Walt and Ellen Moore got the 2 a.m. phone call Friday morning, Feb. 14 from Duane and Marilyn Hershey that 275 feet of their main freestall barn roof had collapsed upon the 320 stalls and cows below.

“The biggest thing we could do was to bring what we thought would be needed and to help organize the next steps. We have similar operations,” Walt explained. Ar-Joy milks 600 cows while Walmoore milks 850. “When we got there, it was emotional to see, but I was able to be less emotionally-attached in that moment about what to do next.”

For example, Walt immediately saw that the lights were on so he wanted to first secure the electrical situation before proceeding with freeing cows and cleaning up debris.

Marilyn says that a farmer’s impulse in a time like this is to call another farmer. Who else would understand the situation, to know what was needed, and be able to bring clarity of thought?

“Walt was a big help to me,” Duane added. “I was able to bounce ideas off him, and he could be objective and see things I couldn’t see in that moment.

“You are kind of in shock and you lose the concept of time. It’s hard to explain the magnitude of it,” Duane recalled those first moments when the roof collapsed sometime around 1:30 a.m. His first impulse to run in and try freeing some cows was barely forming in his mind when another surge of collapsing roof brought the whole thing down.

What followed was an overwhelming silence, except for the occasional sound of metal scraping metal and cows lowing in distress. The milkers had stopped milking, and they all stood frozen with Duane and Marilyn for a few moments, mulling their options in the pre-dawn darkness.

When Walt Moore, Andy Laffey and Tim Barlow arrived with gates for sorting cows, the race was on. As reported last week, four construction crews from two companies, along with scores of neighbors helped the Hersheys and their team of employees sort, milk and feed cows; clean up wreckage; and restore a semblance of order to the farm.

They had one group of cows that had found their own way through the fallen roof wreckage and were corralled in the middle of the barn with no path out. “We cut a tunnel through the fallen roof for those 200-plus cows to walk through,” Duane recalled. “Everyone kept saying they can’t believe how calm the cows are, but that’s because we had so many farmers come help us. They knew how to handle dairy cows.”

Four to six hours later, cows were freed, some were put down, others were tended by Dr. Kristula of New Bolton, a group of 100 were transported to Walmoore for temporary housing, and the milking had resumed. “We had enough barn cleaned up for the cows to eat and drink,” Duane said. “They couldn’t all lay down, but at least they could eat and drink.”

Employees cycled them through feeding areas in the upper part of the barn that was still standing and the lower bank barn where the Hersheys normally keep transition cows.

Two of the Hersheys four children who live somewhat locally and got to the farm as fast as they could -- given the condition of the roads in the early morning hours following the barn roof collapse on Feb. 14. "The first thing we did was give hugs," said daughter Kacie, who lives in Lancaster County and had been text-messaging her mother Marilyn some reassuring Bible verses. Their son Kelby lives in Maryland. He just returned from his Army tour of duty in Afghanistan two weeks ago. He said it would have been much more difficult to hear of this and be a continent away. He was glad he could be home to help. Stephen lives in New York and Robert attends college in Montana.

Two of the Hersheys four children who live somewhat locally and got to the farm as fast as they could — given the condition of the roads in the early morning hours following the barn roof collapse on Feb. 14. “The first thing we did was give hugs,” said daughter Kacie, who lives in Lancaster County and had been text-messaging her mother Marilyn some reassuring Bible verses. Their son Kelby lives in Maryland. He just returned from his Army tour of duty in Afghanistan two weeks ago. He said it would have been much more difficult to hear of this and be a continent away. He was glad he could be home to help. Stephen lives in New York and Robert attends college in Montana.

Daughter Kacie and son Kelby were able to get to the farm that morning. Kacie had been text-messaging her mother comforting Bible verses. Kelby was ready to dig in and help. He lives in Maryland and had just returned from his Army tour of duty in Afghanistan two weeks earlier. Son Stephen lives in New York and Robert attends college in Montana.

“The first thing we did was hug our parents,” said Kacie, whose text messages had provided the inspiration Marilyn needed to kick down the wall she had hit emotionally.

The Hersheys can’t say enough about their team of employees and how they worked together to keep the cows milked and fed during the ordeal. “It’s unbelievable how back-to-normal they seem,” said Marilyn. “Yes, our production is off, but the cow behaviors are back to normal.”

As for the rebuilding, the Hersheys are thankful how that came together. “Sue Beshore (Morrissey Insurance) always told us to keep that replacement value in our policy even though we were tempted sometimes to drop it,” Marilyn recalls. “We are so glad to have that.”

The Hersheys were also glad the adjuster gave them the freedom and flexibility to immediately tend their cattle and clean up so the roof replacement could be done immediately before the next round of frigid cold and snow in the forecast.

Cows were amazingly calm at Ar-Joy Farms as their new roof went up one week after the old one collapsed under the weight of extraordinary snow and ice pack. Owner Duane Hershey (red shirt) stepped out of his comfort zone to help the building crews who were pushed to get as much done as possible Thursday before the rain and wind on Friday.

Cows were amazingly calm at Ar-Joy Farms as their new roof went up one week after the old one collapsed under the weight of extraordinary snow and ice pack. Owner Duane Hershey (red shirt) stepped out of his comfort zone to help the building crews who were pushed to get as much done as possible Thursday before the rain and wind on Friday.

The bottom line in this story is how important it is for people to “hold each other up when facing a disaster,” said Duane. “To have friends and neighbors like that, just to see them there, it’s something I can’t explain. A lot of them left their own farms on a snowy morning to come here and help us. What can I say that really expresses our gratitude?”

The couple also received calls from dairy farmers in New York who had been through roof collapses. They gave advice and suggestions.

“You learn how important friendships are,” added Marilyn. “This is a tight farming community. I can’t tell you how thankful we are.”

Click here for more photos

‘Hope’ travels west from Virginia

Photo caption:   40 bred heifers were donated, commingled, preg-checked, and readied for travel by the Rockingham Feeder Cattle Association. They left Virginia last Thursday, Feb. 6 from Rockingham Livestock for the first leg of their journey. With the freezing temperatures and sub-zero windchills in the East this winter, they’ll be ready for western living. The Heifers for South Dakota Project strives to make a difference delivering “Hope with the hide on” and operating by the tenets of Galations 6:10. Photo by Jessica Koontz

Photo caption: 40 bred heifers were donated, commingled, preg-checked, and readied for travel by the Rockingham Feeder Cattle Association. They left Virginia last Thursday, Feb. 6 from Rockingham Livestock for the first leg of their journey. With the freezing temperatures and sub-zero windchills in the East this winter, they’ll be ready for western living. The Heifers for South Dakota Project strives to make a difference delivering “Hope with the hide on” and operating by the tenets of Galations 6:10. Photo by Jessica Koontz

*** Hope is sometimes a fragile thing, yet it can be as durable as the land and the people who are sustained by it.  Heifers for South Dakota has a beautiful facebook page where stories of hope are told. Their latest post is about the recent delivery of the last of the heifers featured in the story below. One by one, people — and heifers — are making a difference.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 7, 2014

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Ever lay in bed at night and get hit with an idea? That’s what happened to Virginia cattleman Lynn Koontz of Spring Valley Farms, Harrisonburg, after hearing and reading about South Dakota ranchers devastated by Storm Atlas last October.

“I read about the number of cattle lost and about the Heifers for South Dakota project. I got to thinking how really blessed we’ve been the past two years here,” said Koontz in a phone interview with Farmshine this week. “We’ve had super crop years, marvelous corn and cattle prices. What better time for us to take advantage of good times to help ones who fell on hard times?”

He recalled how years ago, he and his dad had dry years, “and those boys out West would load hay on rail cars and ship it East,” said Koontz, wanting to return the favor.

So Koontz, who serves as president of Rockingham Feeder Cattle Association, talked to Ty Linger, founder of the Montana-based Heifers for South Dakota project.

“There’s some desperation out there, and they would take anything with a heart beat,” said Koontz. “But we wanted to give of our best. What they really need right now is pregnant bred animals because they need something that will put money in the pocket — this fall — right away.”

The window of opportunity was short because spring calving gets underway in both regions this month. In late December, Koontz put the word out to fellow cattlemen that he was organizing a western cattle drive of sorts. He and his children donated some of their own bred heifers and asked others to do the same.

Koontz received donations of 40 bred heifers and cash from more than a dozen cattlemen in Rockingham and Augusta counties, and local businesses gave toward transportation costs.

“People told me it couldn’t be done — moving heifers out there from the East,” he said. “But I’m a little stubborn and made up my mind to do it.”

He recalled the days when he and his father still had dairy cows — milking up to 120 before getting out of the dairy business. “We used to ship heifers from here to Florida all the time,” Koontz recalled. “I’m just glad we’re able to do this.”

The 40 heifers have been commingled by Koontz at his farm near Rockingham County Fairgrounds. They were preg-checked last week and readied for transport. At dawn on Thursday, Feb. 6, they’ll board a truck at Rockingham Livestock on the first leg of their journey with a stopover at Greenville Livestock near Hugo, Illinois on the way to South Dakota.

That stopover will break the trip into two 12- to 14-hour rides. Lifelong friends Clem and Doris Huber of Illinois — with whom Koontz stayed as a kid in the 4-H exchange program — helped him locate the place to yard the cattle just off the Interstate in Illinois.

“That was the deal maker,” said Koontz. “We can let those girls off for rest, hay and water.”

Bred heifer donations are a substantial investment in young ranchers hard-hit in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. To pay current values at auction ranging $2000 to $3000 due to the national beef herd being the smallest in over 60 years and sky-high cattle prices creating stiff buying competition, makes the donations by ranchers to ranchers through the Heifers for South Dakota project even more significant. The project specifically targets young ranchers to receive the donated cattle under the mantra: “Hope with the hide on.”

To-date, Heifers for South Dakota reports delivery of 714 head of cattle to 68 ranchers with 176 head of pledged cattle still yarded. They have also received about $265,000 in monetary donations to help with transportation costs and to purchase quality bred heifers for donation.

“Value of cattle delivered into the hands of those who are hurting is in excess of $1.25 million,” according to the project’s Facebook page.

While this is a drop in the bucket — in real economic terms — the hope these donations bring has been absolutely huge. For Koontz, it’s not the cattle losses he is focused on. It is the loss of young ranchers he is hoping to help prevent.

“Like somebody told me years ago, when there’s a barn fire, as long as the problem stays in the barn, you’re in good shape,” he said. “With Storm Atlas, the real loss is where we have a young family that has put everything they have into it to get started in ranching.”

Some of those young families lost it all in October just before they would have sold that calf crop, plus they lost the cows to have another calf crop this season. That’s potentially two years without income because the fall sale of the calf crop is the income for the whole next year.

“If we lose those young ranchers out of production agriculture, that’s when we incur the big loss — losing that young person out of farming,” said Koontz. “We can replace cattle, but we cannot replace that person back on the farm. If I had the ways and means, I’d be gathering up cattle until the first of April, but I’m just one person.”

Koontz and his wife Kim operate their cow-calf and cattle backgrounding operation, along with two broiler houses and crops. The participation in Heifers for South Dakota has been a family affair with son Bud and daughters Lacey, Katlyn, Jessica, Cindy and Vanessa all pitching in.

Koontz is working with cattlemen in other parts of the state to do a later round of open heifers for donation this summer. To learn more about Heifers for South Dakota, visit their website at http://helpforsouthdakota.com and “like” the “Heifers for S. Dakota” page on Facebook to see how ranchers are helping across the country.

 

A life lived in earnest

Tuesday was a day of significance with many shades to it. The much-debated 5-year Farm Bill got its final Congressional approval in Washington; the day was designated by American Cancer Society as World Cancer Awareness Day and Chevy developed its Purple Roads ad and “purple your profile” campaign to raise funds on facebook. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 is also the day the world lost a good and courageous dairy farmer I was glad to call friend. Here are the thoughts I penned for this week’s Farmshine.

Zach Meck pictured here at Meck Brothers Dairy in Berks County, Pennsylvania in August of 2012

Zach Meck pictured here at Meck Brothers Dairy in Berks County, Pennsylvania in August of 2012

Zach Meck fought the fight, kept the faith

Zachary L. Meck, 33, of Womelsdorf, Pa., passed away Tuesday, Feb. 4 after a five-month battle with cancer. In the words of his wife Suzanne (Perdue) Meck, formerly of Whitehall, Md., “Zach saw a full healing as he was peacefully called to his heavenly home.” Over the past few months, she said, the couple felt the prayers and well wishes from around the world, and they were comforted to know so many people care.

In Zach, the world lost a good and courageous young dairyman. 2 Timothy 4:7 is the verse that comes to mind for a life gone too soon, loved by many and lived in earnest. Zach made a lasting impact on not just his family and friends, but also upon the future of the dairy industry he so loved and the solidarity he had with fellow dairymen, as well as the passion he had for the cow herd he and his brother Jeremy built up into a business through sheer determination.

It is not without notice that the next five year Farm Bill passed its final hurdle in the Senate on this same day. Zach had poured time and energy into being part of an effort to shape the future for young dairy farmers within the context of the Farm Bill’s dairy title.

Our paths crossed in 2009 when the dairy industry faced the most devastating milk prices ever endured. Zach and his brother Jeremy had built their Meck Brothers Dairy from scratch. They had started with the 4-H animals their late father Ronald bought them as youngsters growing up on their parents’ poultry farm in Lancaster County, Pa. They grew the herd in a rented barn — working all kinds of other jobs – then purchased and renovated a Berks County, Pa. farm they moved into during 2009.

Zach was not one to sit still. Sometimes it seemed he was going in multiple directions all at once. But his efforts were effective. In 2009, he was part of a group of dairymen meeting in two counties, which later became the grassroots beginnings of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition that spread beyond the borders of Pennsylvania as dairymen from various regions talked together about the future of their industry.

He also served as a Land O’Lakes delegate and ran a close race as runner up for a seat on the Land O’Lakes board in early 2013. Zach was a member of the Berks County Farm Bureau, Marion Grange, and Berks County Holstein Club. He graduated from Cocalico High School, where he was a member of FFA and was active in 4-H.

“We’ve been through a lot over the years,” wrote friend and mentor Nelson Troutman in a calendar-of-hope created for Zach in December. “Then came Suzanne, and when you made up your mind, I could tell. It was good. But with these health issues, try not to make sense of it all, it never will. Remember to always look forward and that you are not alone. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).” Wise words he heeded in his short time with his beloved Suzanne.

Having the privilege of writing a story about Meck Brothers Dairy in August of 2012, I could see the respect he and his brother Jeremy had for one another and their passion for what they worked to accomplish – with that edge of always pushing forward to do more to make the cows more comfortable, do more to tell the dairy story to the greater Berks community, do more to get the voice of the young farmer heard, do more to light a fire – even if only to send a smoke signal – that policies need to be changed to consider the context of the young farmer. Zach was impetuous, yet intuitive.

“It’s time to get the younger generation involved in the leadership of their cooperative,” Zach said during a summer of 2012 interview. “Our futures are at stake in the outcome of the decisions that are made. The mechanics of the market should be our focus. We should be looking out for our fellow dairy farmers around us. Large or small, we’re all important. We have to focus on creating opportunities and getting the mechanics of the market right.”

So we come back full circle to that verse, 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Yes, Zach, you surely have.

Born in Denver, Pa., Zach was the son of the late Ronald K. and Joyce (Stoltzfus) Meck. In addition to his wife Suzanne, Zach is survived by his mother Joyce, two brothers Matthew K., husband of Susan (St. Clair) Meck of Denver; Jeremy R. Meck of Womelsdorf; two nephews Jackson K. and Levi C. Meck of Denver; and his paternal grandmother Norma (Zimmerman) Meck of Lititz.

A visitation will be held on Friday, February 7 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday, February 8 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the Tulpehocken UCC Church, where services will be held at 11:00 Saturday.

Memorial contributions in Zach’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1274, Lebanon, PA 17042 or Vickie’s Angel Foundation, 511 Bridge St., New Cumberland, PA 17070.

###

How dairy farmers dealt with ‘Polar Vortex’

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 10, 2014

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — While some of the photos posted by dairy farmers on their farm Facebook pages and Twitter were downright beautiful, others spoke volumes about the extreme challenges and dedication put forth to care for animals on farms this week during what is being called the “polar vortex.”

LuAnn Troxel captured this beautiful image at Troxel Dairy Farm. Behind the beauty was more snow and extreme temps.

LuAnn Troxel captured this beautiful image at Troxel Dairy Farm. Behind the beauty was more snow and extreme temps.

The extreme temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday were the talk of both the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg and of farmers who were able to get away and attend the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. this week.

Frozen waterers, vacuum pumps, manure removal equipment and difficulty starting feeding equipment were the most commonly reported concerns shared by producers from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia who were able to get to the show in York.

Further North and West into the lake regions of the Upper Midwest, through Northern Indiana and Ohio into western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania, the “polar vortex” was amplified by the snow storm preceding it.

Thankfully, by the time you read this, warmer temperatures are forecast to prevail and bring relief to cattle and caretakers as well as equipment and transportation.

The mantra this week for farm families was to not only take care of their animals but to communicate what they were doing with their farm and non-farm “followers” on Facebook,

“There are no ‘snow days’ on the farm,” wrote Tricia Adams at her family’s Hoffman Farms page on Facebook. Three generations of the Hoffmans milk 700 cows near Shinglehouse, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

3 generations of the Hoffman family operate the 700-cow dairy.

3 generations of the Hoffman family operate the 700-cow dairy.

“The extreme weather makes us feel like we are surviving it and not thriving in it!” she said in an email interview Wednesday, reporting Tuesday’s low at Hoffman Farms was -18 with a high of -4. The mercury fi nally reaching a high of 12 degrees Wednesday. They are thankful to be spared the additional 3-feet of snow that fell just north of them in New York.

As for the polar temps and wind chills, “we run a heater in the parlor to help with frozen milkers but even that was icing up,” said Tricia, adding that the conditions for the cows in the freestall barns were “very slippery.”

The Hoffmans, like other farmers dealing with these conditions, did their best to cope with frozen, caked manure in the walkways, barns and parlor — not to mention frozen waterers, feed mixers and tractors freezing up as the off-road diesel gummed up.

Starting equipment and dealing with manure were difficult in double-digit below zero weather, not to mention the wind chill.

Starting equipment and dealing with manure were difficult in double-digit below zero weather, not to mention the wind chill.

“We changed fuel fi lters and used additives to thin the fuel and keep our equipment running,” Tricia explained. “Winter is tough, and up here we are prepared for it; but when it gets this extreme, you know there is only so much you can prevent. What you can’t prevent you just have to deal with as it happens.”

Much attention was paid to the especially important job of “tricky calvings.” At Hoffman Farms, Tricia used heated boxes for the newborn calves.

Tricia Adams pictures one of the heated boxes for newborn calves at Hoffman Farms

Tricia Adams pictures one of the heated boxes for newborn calves at Hoffman Farms

Over in Bradford County near Milan, Pa. Glenn and Robin Gorrell were thankful for the 45 degrees and rain over the weekend to melt the snow at their 600-cow dairy before the sub-zero temperatures arrived Tuesday.

Glenn reported temperatures ranging -10 to -20 depending on location in the hills or valleys.

“I think that we were lucky here and we are always happy the rest of our team helps get us through,” said Glenn in an email interview Wednesday.

“The wind was the killer. It can really drive the cold everywhere,” he said, adding that they had frozen pipes in the employee house for the first time ever.

“In the tie-stall barn we were like everybody else: Bowls on the west side were frozen. The milk house froze for the first time in years. We thought we had all the equipment ready with new fi lters and more fuel conditioner, but we were wrong,” he explained. “We needed to cut more with kerosene and put tarps around hoods of the loader tractor and feed mixer.”

The calves and youngstock at Gorrell Dairy got extra bedding and a little more grain to get them by.

“Robin always has calf jackets on them once it is below 50 degrees anyway,” Glenn reported. “We tried to double up feeding our heifers so we would have less equipment to start in the extreme cold.”

At Troxel Dairy Farm Laporte County, near Hanna, Indiana, conditions were quite severe, with extreme low temps in line with what farmers were seeing in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota this week.

Facebook followers commented that the cows must be “milking ice cream” as they read LuAnn Troxel’s posts about dairying in temps that had fallen to -12 and -17 with wind chills as low as -53 in northern Indiana on the heels of over 1-foot of snow.

The cows were "good sports" but after three days, the extreme cold wore think on man and beast.

The cows were “good sports” but after three days, the extreme cold wore think on man and beast.

Calling the cows “good sports,” LuAnn acknowledged how tough this week has been for man and beast. She and husband Tom and son Rudy, operate the 100-cow dairy.

“Cold weather management is really not too complicated,” said Tom Troxel, DVM, who in addition to the dairy farm has South County Veterinary practice.

“Cows need to have plenty of feed and water, be out of the wind, and have a dry place to lie down. If they have these things, they can survive an awful lot,” he explained in an email interview Wednesday.

“Calves need the same thing, including increased feed (calories),” Tom advised. “But sometimes the threat of scours keeps feeders from increasing milk to calves. There is no question that cold stress can cause younger animals to be more susceptible to scours and pneumonia, but careful monitoring and feeding electrolytes can help a lot.

While it's tempting to do the bare minimum when temps are -17 with a -53 wind chill and there's 14 inches of snow on the ground, LuAnn was out feeding her calves at Troxel Dairy farm MORE frequently to keep up their energy reserves. Snow drifts also help insulate and inside the hutches they are cozy warm with fresh bedding.

While it’s tempting to do the bare minimum when temps are -17 with a -53 wind chill and there’s 14 inches of snow on the ground, LuAnn was out feeding her calves at Troxel Dairy farm MORE frequently to keep up their energy reserves. Snow drifts also help insulate and inside the hutches they are cozy warm with fresh bedding.

“It’s more important to increase feed to cold, young calves. Also, try hand feeding starter grain to young calves that are at least 2 days old,” he suggested.

As for cow nutrition during extreme cold, it comes down to “energy, energy, energy,” said dairy consultant Ray Kline, during an interview at the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. Wednesday. Ray has retired from the Agri-Basics team of nutritionists but is as passionate as ever about cattle nutrition.

“Feeding calves more often — 3 to 4 times a day — also helps because they do not have a rumen to heat them up,” he observed. “With the cows, the ration can be adjusted for higher energy, but without losing fiber. Cows normally eat more when it is cold, but a more dense ration also helps get more energy to them.”

He suggests picking out the “barometer cows” in the herd and watching them for Body Condition Score to know if ration adjustments to the whole herd are needed. Ray also urged dairymen to pay attention to waterers and keep them running.

“After an event like this, we can see it in the repro,” said Ray. “The cow will take care of herself first; so what she eats will go to maintaining herself through the severe weather.”

The seasoned dairy consultant also noted that “life spins its pattern back to years before.” While the “polar vortex” this week was new for some generations on the farm, others have experienced it before.

“If you look at history, we’ve had winters like this, but you have to go a long way back,” said Ray.

As for the milking equipment and transportation, Gib Martin, general manager of Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative in Pennsylvania noted that milk pickup and transport required more time and labor this week.

“We had some issues with tank compressors and one truck down, but no major interruptions in the flow of milk,” said Gib during an interview at Tuesday.

Ken Weber recommends using a heat lamp to keep compressors going for cooling the milk. Weber is retired from service calls but still works with BouMatic equipment. He suggests paying close attention to vacuum pumps outside.

“They are the last thing the dairyman uses to wash the pipe line and that moisture in there can cause them to freeze up,” he said during an interview at the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. Tuesday. “Just take a pipe wrench and work it back and forth to loosen it and consider using supplemental heat like a heat lamp to keep the pump warm.”

snowtrees

‘Dairy Carrie’ is on her way to the PA Farm Show

The Farm Show opens tomorrow and it’s snowing. If you live in PA, you don’t need the weathermen to tell you that! Below is a story in Friday’s Farmshine and at this writing, “Dairy Carrie” is dodging canceled flights to get here!

By Sherry Bunting, Special for Farmshine

HARRISBURG, Pa. — While not precisely a red carpet, the “Meet Dairy Carrie” signs are ready for posting as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Penn Ag Industries are putting Wisconsin dairywoman and internationally known agvocate and blogger Carrie Mess (a.k.a. Dairy Carrie) in the limelight during the first few days of the Pennsylvania Farm Show kicking off Friday, Jan. 3 in Harrisburg.

She will have a full itinerary here this weekend at one of the nation’s largest intersections for farm-to-city communication. Not only will she be hosting the “Mommy Bloggers” tour of the Today’s Agriculture exhibit, she will also spend time at PFB’s booth from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 4 and 5.DairyCarrie6947web

“I’m really excited to meet the people and see how they interact with the real-life animal housing that is part of the Today’s Agriculture exhibit,” said Mess. “I remember seeing a story about it a few years ago, and I thought it was the neatest idea.”

She also loves rodeos and hopes to catch some of the High School rodeo action while she’s here.

Mess started blogging two years ago when she organized a hay drive from Wisconsin to drought-stricken Oklahoma.

Today, her “Adventures of Dairy Carrie” blog has 11,020 followers — many of them relying on her direct communications for their understanding of agriculture. She’s not afraid to tackle the tough issues and is known for a quick wit and tell-it-like-it-is style. In addition to the blog, thousands more keep up with her “very dairy life” via facebook and twitter.

1236709_669018869777199_41694483_n

The rapid popularity of Dairy Carrie still amazes her husband Patrick. “It’s a little unbelievable the scope of people her blog reaches — and how quickly — and the good that has come out of it,” he said during my visit last August to Mesa Dairy near Milford, Wisconsin, where Carrie and Patrick are partners with his parents Clem and Cathy Mess — milking 100 cows, growing crops, and raising heifers on a rented farm nearby. Both generations have cattle in the herd comprised mainly of Holsteins and Holstein x Jersey x Normande crosses.

1236322_669018839777202_2039078906_n

While her posts address tough farm issues, she also uses social media to agvocate with other bloggers via AgChat. Her posts also tackle broader issues like the Panera Bread “EZ Chicken” campaign last summer. And she gives her followers a taste for the lighter side with recipes, “welcome to the world” photos of new calves on the the farm, and posts that simply extol the virtues of cheese.

Her post, which was a letter to Panera Bread, challenging them on their “EZ Chicken” campaign for its thoughtless portrayal of conventional farmers as “lazy” for using antibiotics when needed, became a movement that resulted in action by the company to remove portions of the campaign last summer.

More recently, her blog and video entitled “Sometimes we are mean to our cows” brought in her largest audience to-date with 370,000 views and untold hundreds of thousand more after The Guardian picked it up on their news feed.

1239590_669019409777145_965155517_n

That blog post was a realistic demonstration of the situations farmers face when being what appears to be “mean” is in the cow’s best interest to save her life.

“I am going to let you in on a secret, PETA and Mercy For Animals have shown you some truth in their undercover videos on dairy farms. The truth is sometimes as a dairy farmer I am mean to my cows,” she wrote. “I think it’s time we talk about “down” cows.”

And thus began her post that explained dealing with a down cow in the same matter-of-fact manner as an earlier post about what do cows eat.

Carrie dealt with the issue straight on, answering questions in an elementary fashion: What is a down cow? What causes a cow to go down? How do you get a down cow up?

She explained that “cows are big animals.”

She enlightened: “A down cow is a dead cow.”

She blurted out the simple truth: “When asking and gentle encouragement doesn’t work, I make myself scary to a cow. I yell and holler. I act aggressive. I smack harder. When that doesn’t work I know that things are going really bad and I have to try harder to get her up. The next step is for me to use the cattle prod.”

She ends with the heartfelt truth: “I love my cows and that means sometimes I have to be mean to them.”

Carrie’s blogging goes well beyond the periodic post… with so many followers following up with questions and comments, she devotes the time to answer the many questions that follow.

1002848_669019309777155_1104554756_n

“It can be draining,” she confesses. In addition, she works flexible hours “off the farm” and does all of the vet care and pre-vet work with the family’s Mesa Dairy herd.

That’s a tall order for a gal whose farm exposure growing up was horses and donkeys and the FFA. But Carrie is a fast learner.

How did she learn so much in the six years married to Patrick and the farm?

“I figure things out,” she says, and as her grin widened, she confessed: “I annoy our vets with lots of questions.”

That attitude sums up her blog: always asking questions and finding the answers to them — with the kind of zest that draws in the non-farm folk to gain a truer understanding and better appreciation of dairy and agriculture today.

1238181_669020736443679_829124616_n

PHOTOS: These photos of Carrie Mess (aka ‘Dairy Carrie’) were taken last summer at Mesa Dairy in southern Wisconsin, where she and husband Patrick love pretty much everything about dairy farming. Carrie blogs about her “very dairy life” to over 11,000 followers at her blogsite “Adventures of Dairy Carrie” at http://www.dairycarrie.com. She will host the “Mommy Bloggers” tour of the Today’s Agriculture exhibit Friday and spend time at the PA Farm Bureau booth this weekend at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg.  Photos by Sherry Bunting

View more photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.669018806443872.1073741853.500073020005119&type=1

Triumph in 2013 trumps tragedy in 2012

 

Image

‘Amazing return’ for top type and production Jersey, now a 100,000 lb All-American nominee 

By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine, Nov. 22, 2013

 MADISON, Wis. — Wendy Schmidt remembers the kindness of passersby a year when a distracted driver tipped her trailer not far down the road home to Bloomer, Wisconsin after the 2012 World Dairy Expo in Madison.

One animal died. The rest of the show string was traumatized.

“Jersey cows are like people,” says Wendy. She and her husband Jon own and operator Woodmohr Jerseys – home to 40 Jersey cows with a classification average of 91 points and four generations of Godiva.

“After the accident a year ago, it took all of us a while to get over the trauma. For weeks, the cows would follow me around in the pasture. I was their comfort and they were mine,” she recalls. “I got up every night to check on them, and found myself checking them constantly throughout the day.”

Especially ‘Jade Diva.’ She was positioned on the trailer right next to the one cow that died that night.

“Jade Diva had a lot of injuries after the trailer tipped. She had cuts all over and swelling. Her head was even swollen, and she wanted the other cows to keep away from her for days because her head hurt. Our vet prepared us to see issues later with all the animals that were traumatized, and we did see some pregnancy issues,” says Wendy, quite thankful a year later the cows are alive and pregnant or have calved.

Reflecting on that night, she is quick to add her gratefulness to the folks who stopped along the road to help with the cattle. “It was such a relief and we are so thankful,” she says.

Wisconsin dairywoman Carrie Mess, of ‘Dairy Carrie’ blogging fame, was one of the people who stopped that night.

“We just pitched in,” Carrie recalls. “It’s instinctive for any of us, you know? These cattle were pretty shook up. I had lots of Udder Comfort in my car from the Expo, and so once the animals were secured, we just started spraying legs and udders… right there.”

“That was the first thing we did. And if we had not done that for this cow in the accident, we don’t know what would have happened to her,” adds Wendy, referring to GB Jade Diva of Woodmohr — the EX-94 winner of the 2013 NASCO type and production award at the International Jersey Show during the 2013 World Dairy Expo last month.

Jade Diva was third place in the 100,000-lb class before going on to receive this high award in fine show condition just one year after the accident in which she sustained numerous injuries.

“It was amazing to bring her back to Expo this year to get third in production and win the NASCO type and production award,” Wendy says with a smile. “I love working with purebred cows and fell in love with the Jersey breed 20 years ago. These cows are my life.”