Category Archives: Farmer Profile

Why We Appreciate Our Cows

In honor of “Cow Appreciation Day,” we caught up with some of our contributors and local farmers to ask them, “Why do you appreciate your cows?” Here’s what they said:

Chace Fullmer

“I’ve never not had cows…don’t know what it would be like not to have them. Our cows are the reason I get up every morning – to try to do something to make their lives better.”

Chace with Calf

Chace Fullmer with Newborn Calf

Braden Anderson

“I love working with cows and making a lot of them pets. I enjoy taking my cows to the shows and getting them ready for the shows. I’m appreciative of my cows for the wholesome product the produce. I’m grateful for how they produce our livelihood.”

Braden Anderson

Braden Anderson

Katharine Nye

“Cows were my first friends. When I’d go to work with my parents when I was very small, playing with calves and watching as my parents worked among our herd were my daily activities.  Cows have been a mainstay in my family, and they are a legacy that my siblings and I are working to continue. Our cows work hard for us: taking care of them brings me joy, and knowing that my cows provide the world with a safe and delicious food is just the whipped cream on top!”

Katharine with Calf

Katharine and a young calf

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The Modern Dairy Farmer

In many cases, dairy farming today looks different than it used to: barns are more efficient, cows’ diets are now formulated by a dairy nutritionist to match the exact needs of the herd, cows are monitored more closely than ever before for health, movement, and milk production, safety has improved, genetics play a big role in herd health… Yet, the people behind farming are the same.

I heard it summed up well by a farmer recently:

While the proverbial red barn might not be today’s norm,  those red barn values are still the core of what drives dairy farmers.

What are red barn values? hard work, commitment, family, animal care, and environmental stewardship (just to name a few). But who are today’s dairy farmers? Here’s a quick snapshot.

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How Do Farmers Treat Their Animals?

A couple weeks ago, I decided to go home for the weekend.  After a long four-hour drive, I waltzed into my farm’s office, happy to see my parents and siblings.  As I was giving my mom a bear hug, I looked down on the desk and saw a pink eartag.  Number 777. Otherwise known as DD, this was the tag to one of my favorite cows – a good milk producer, a beautiful cow, and mother to several of my herd.  I broke down crying.  You see, an eartag on the office desk means that that cow has died.  It’s more often that I see a yellow tag – the color of my parents’ herd; However, as my herd has aged, this is becoming more common for me too.

DD's Eartag

DD’s Eartag

Tears streaming down my 22-year-old face, I asked my mom what had happened to DD.  Looking just as sad I felt, my mom said that she thought it was probably bloody gut.  This is the kind of ailment that sneaks up on a cow and takes her down really quickly, no matter how closely you watch your herd.  Not knowing that DD was even sick, she hadn’t been put into our hospital pen for treatment.  She didn’t show any symptoms, and then it was too late.

I share this story because recently, I’ve heard several accounts claiming that farmers don’t care about their animals.  This not only saddens me, but quite frankly I also find myself offended when someone claims to know how my family treats and cares about the animals on our farm.

Because this is how much our animals mean to us:

I well up with tears and feel a deep sense of loss every time one of my cows dies.  My dad can’t stand to put cows down, so he has to call someone else every time we have a cow who can’t be cured of what ails her.  This isn’t because he can’t physically do it, but because the cows under his care mean so much to him that ending one’s life, even if it is the humane thing to do, is more than he can bear.  My mother has spent countless hours on her stomach, in the cold and muck, helping a cow who is having difficulty giving birth to ensure that both mother and baby come through safely.  One time my brothers lost it when they saw a couple truck drivers mistreating our cows as they got onto a truck to be beefed.  Yes, the cows milking years were over and they were leaving our care, but it didn’t matter…our cows, from their first breath to their last, are treated with dignity and kindness.  Anyone who acts otherwise is immediately fired, or, if not in my family’s employ, but on our farm (such as those truck drivers) are told politely not ever to come back.

These cows are our livelihood, and if not cared for properly, my family’s business will suffer.  But for us, and for many of our agricultural friends, we care for animals not because we have to but because we love them – it’s our chosen lifestyle.  From our first steps in the barn, we’ve known…animal husbandry is in our blood.  We want to ensure that the animals in our care have the best, because in turn these animals take care of our customers…you.  We want the best for you too.  So please, next time that you hear someone say we farmers don’t care, send them my way.   It’s possible they’ll encounter me giving my cow one last hug before it’s time to put her down because she has served my family well, but now it’s time for her to go.  As they watch my tears, perhaps they’ll reconsider.

My cows - Skye and DD

My cows – Skye and DD

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The Corn Harvest

Featured Farm Photo
September 2013

The Corn Harvest

The Bateman Brothers Harvest Corn

The four Bateman Brothers and their father operate Batemans Mosida Farm. This photo was taken during the Corn harvest of 2012. As operators of a large family dairy, the Bateman brothers take pride in running a safe, healthy operation that consistently produces high quality milk.

Their dairy, home to just over 6500 cows, is an amazing example of serenity and efficiency.

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Low Stress Cattle Handling

Kimball Holt

Kimball Holt

Managing an effective, safe dairy means learning a bit about cow psychology – how they think, what spooks them, why they react the way that they do. For Kimball Holt of Holt Farms, understanding how cows respond to certain situations has made a significant impact on his dairy. Over the past 2 years, Kimball has hired two consultants – both experts in the field of low-stress cattle handling – to visit his operation and provide insight into how the dairy’s structural set up can be improved to better meet the needs of the cattle. In addition to helping with the dairy’s traffic flow, providing tips on calming heifers when they first visit the milking parlor, and working with Kimball on the design of a new maternity pen, the consultants have become a welcome sight for the dairy’s employees. Training employees on how to interact with cows has created a safer, calmer environment all around. From the employees who attach the milkers on the rotary, to those who interact with the animals out in the corrals, learning about the the concept of “pressure” and “flight” zones has made a significant difference.

Pressure vs. Flight Zones

Imagine your own notion of personal space: if you are having a conversation with someone and he/she comes just an inch too close, you tend to feel a bit awkward, it’s difficult to focus on the topic, and your immediate reaction is to back away. Cows aren’t too different. Each cow has a notion of personal space, and if we enter that space without her “permission” or awareness, she will likely react in much the same way a human would. In the pressure zone, a cow is alert and unsure but she doesn’t run. Move just a bit closer and she may turn and bolt – you have entered the flight zone.

Pressure v Flight Zone

Pressure v Flight Zone

The consultants that Kimball has hired have been trained by Bud Williams – well known for his practice of low stress methods of moving cattle and his ability to teach others how to safely and calmly manage their livestock. On the dairy, Kimball has a goal for each of his employees – he wants them to learn how to read each individual cow. The pressure and flight zones may differ for each animal, and it is important that employees recognize differences – some cows feel more comfortable than others as humans near their personal space. When farmers and their employees understand the Pressure and Flight zones, they are able to work within the pressure zone to encourage the cow to move onto the carousel for milking or down an alley and back to her corral. Venturing from pressure to flight means that the cow is stressed and she is unlikely to respond favorably.

Attaching Milking Machines on Rotary Milker

Attaching Milking Machines

Through working with consultants, watching hours of video, and spending time training each employee, Kimball has created a calm working relationship with his animals. His cows are producing more milk, they feel calm in their daily routine, and young cows walk onto the milking carousel much more readily. Kimball has learned that it takes about 3 times of doing something for cows to truly learn and feel comfortable, so he emphasizes that his employees always practice patience and consistency when working with the animals.

Maneuvering Cattle Down Aisle

Maneuvering Cattle Down Aisle

Kimball’s experiences on the farm are constantly evolving and consistently improving – the dairy is always a classroom – an environment where the animals, the employees, the owners, and the consultants learn how to act to interact with one another for a calm, comfortable, and productive coexistence.

To watch more about low-stress cattle handling, check out these videos by Ron Gill

For more about the Holt Family and their farming operation in Southern Utah:

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A Family Farm’s Secret – Keep it Clean!

Hal & Devin Olsen - Generations on the Farm

Hal & Devin Olsen – Generations on the Farm

In the U.S., dairy farming remains a family affair! Across the country 98% of dairy farms are owned and operated by families, and the trend is the same in Utah and Nevada. Regardless of farm size (number of cows), dairy farm families are committed to producing a wholesome product in the safest, most sustainable way possible. Hal and Devin recently updated their milk parlor to improve efficiencies and the milking experience for each cow. One of their keys to maintaining a healthy herd of dairy cows and producing consistently high quality milk is simple – Keep the barn clean! After each milking, Hal and Devin clean the equipment so they are ready for the next. At Halo Holsteins, cows are milked twice each day. (Read more about A typical day for Hal).

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Keeping a clean milk parlor is one of our major priorities!

The layout of the milk parlor allows for good consistent flow. Cows are creatures of habit, so having a convenient, known routine is imperative for their comfort.

Computers serve an important function on modern dairy farms. Devin utilizes a program to track each cow. He is able to monitor her milk production, movement, health, and breeding history, which gives him a really good understanding of each and every cow on the dairy. If something seems amiss one day, that cow is flagged and evaluated. Hal loves that Devin is a whiz on the computer!

Milk Parlor Design - Herringbone Style

Milk Parlor Design – Herringbone Style

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Halo Holsteins

With two generations currently on the farm and the third growing up (Devin and his wife just had a baby), Hal and Devin hope to continue their legacy of milking cows in Utah’s beautiful Cache Valley.

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City Boy Turned Dairy Farmer

April 2013 Featured Farm Photo & Farmer Profile

Rob Steedley, Westergard Jerseys in Warren, UT

Ahhhh! A nice sip (or gulp) of refreshing water.

Ahhhh! A nice sip (or gulp) of refreshing water.

The photo I submitted for the Cow Locale’s monthly “Featured Farm Photo Series” shows 2 cows getting a drink. Keeping fresh, clean water readily available is an important part of producing consistently high quality, nutritious milk and maintaining healthy cows. Cows can drink up to 50 gallons of water each day!

I wanted to show what happens on our farm and had a tough time picking just one photo to share, so in addition to introducing myself and telling you a bit about how I made it from the city to the country, I have a few more photos to illustrate life here at Westergard Jerseys.

Hello...This is me, Rob Steedley - City Boy turned Dairy Farmer!

Hello…This is me, Rob Steedley – City Boy turned Dairy Farmer!

After growing up in Los Angeles then moving to the New York City area, I never imagined that I would end up a dairy farmer in Warren, UT… and yet that is just what happened. I fell in love with a farmer’s daughter and followed her home.

My wife and I met online – we chatted, talked on the phone, and sent each other text messages for 6 months. We met in-person for the first time at the baggage claim area at JFK airport in Queens, NY, and it was pretty much love at first sight. We got married and I moved to her home in Utah, just a half-mile from the family farm. My father-in-law has been in the business for over 30 years, and while I had immense respect for him and his chosen profession, my wife and I decided that dairy farming wasn’t for me.

That decision didn’t last.

Less than 2 months later, I found myself getting up well before the sun every morning milking cows twice per day – through weekends and holidays. It was a great chance for me to really get to know my in-laws, and I fell in love with the lifestyle. My family laughs because they think of me as a “city boy,” but after 3 years on the farm, I have become a country boy through and through.

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My daughter Lilly visits the farm regularly. She loves visiting the calves and often climbs the fence to say hello

Tractors are part of life on the farm - something I didn't have much familiarity with in LA or New York!

Tractors are part of life on the farm – something I didn’t have much familiarity with in LA or New York!

This is a shot of our milk parlor:  "This is where the magic happens!"

This is a shot of our milk parlor: “This is where the magic happens!”

More from the “Featured Farm Photo Series”

Blanketing Our Babies - March 2013

A Chilly Winter Morning on the Farm - February 2013

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Dairy Farmer Profile – The Wisers

Let’s take a virtual tour and meet the family behind Circle B Dairy…

Welcome to Circle B Dairy - Lewiston, UT!

Welcome to Circle B Dairy – Lewiston, UT! (Brad Wiser)

Why do you Farm? 

BRAD: Well, I’ve been here all my life. I get to be my own boss, work with my family, watch my kids grow up, work outside, watch things grow, take care of animals. There is something different every day. You get up and there are cows, crops, and irrigating…feeding calves, breeding…so it’s quite a variety really. 

The Wiser Family - 3 generations on Circle B Dairy

The Wiser Family – 3 Generations on Circle B Dairy

CODY: I like that dairy farming is different everyday. I get to work with my dad, my family. I get to be outside, and I don’t have to sit at a desk everyday. I get to work with animals and equipment. 

Brad and Cody Wiser

Brad and Cody Wiser

PATTI: The farm has taught our children how to work and how to take care of things and the importance of being honest and trustworthy. My kids never had time to get in trouble. They had chores to do! Maybe they missed out on some things, but they also got to really know their family. They love each other, and we have had good times together here on the farm, whether it was in the field on a picnic, moving sprinkler pipe, working in the barns or wherever…we were always with each other. 

Who Works on the Farm? 

Wallace, Brad & Cody Wiser + Generation #4

Wallace, Brad & Cody Wiser + Generation #4

BRAD: I work with my dad; he’s been here since the mid 50′s and is retired now. My son Cody is also on the farm with us, and I’m just hoping I can do for him what my dad has done for me. At one time or another all our family has helped out. My wife, Patti, and I have three daughters and they have all helped out at one time or another. 

Brad and Patti Wiser

Brad and Patti Wiser

PATTI: When my kids were growing up, we all worked on the farm. I’d come out and help the kids feed the calves, help at the stalls, and do whatever needed to be done on the farm that day. 

What is a Typical Day Like? 

Circle B-80

Cody Feeds the Calves

BRAD: A typical day: 4:00/ 4:15AM, I am up and I head over to the barn. The milker usually has things started, but I help with the milking for about an hour then I go feed cows. Then Cody comes out, he’s in charge of the calves, he feeds the calves and then does anything that needs doing. The breeding and doctoring is taken care of and then hopefully I head home for a bit of breakfast or a nap before heading back to whatever else I have in store for the day. In the wintertime it’s bedding stalls and hauling manure. During crop season, it’s real busy – cutting hay, moving wheel lines and irrigating.

Wheel Line Through an Alfalfa field

Wheel Line Through an Alfalfa field

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When I look out my window at the farm I see a beautiful place – mountains all around, green hay fields (in the spring). It is a great place to live. – Cody Wiser

The Wiser family farms and lives in Lewiston, UT.

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Blanketing Our Babies

Featured Farm Photo – March 2013

Blanketing Our Babies

Blanketing Our Babies

Tammy Munk farms with her husband, son, nephews, father-in-law, and brother-in-law in Amalga, Utah. She also loves photography and recently submitted this photo for our Featured Farm Photo Series. We caught up with Tammy to ask her a few questions about her photo and life on Munk Farms.

Describe the picture you have taken for our Featured Farm Photo Series:
Making sure that our baby calves are warm and fed is a big job on the farm. Thanks to wonderful employees like Emily our calves are very comfortable and lovingly cared for. All the new calves are wrapped in blankets so they can endure the cold temperatures.  It is nice to know that our employes care about the animals on our dairy.

How did you get interested in photography?
I have always loved taking pictures. When I was a little girl my grandfather gave my his old brownie camera. I loved that camera. I took two photography classes in high school and spent a lot of time taking photos and then  developing my pictures in the dark room. I did not do too much after that. I just took the pictures of my family growing up.   About 23 years ago I started oil painting with friends. 90% of the paintings we do are outside on location. I would study the location and try to find the composition I liked so I could paint it. I read a lot of books and studied a lot about composing. The more I studied the more I loved it. When my oldest daughter married, we paid a ton for pictures – they were beautiful,  but we did not get many. I took her and did her bridals – from then I was hooked. I did my other children’s engagements and bridals when they got married. With the back ground I had in art combined for the love of painting and photography, I ventured out and started a small business. I now do weddings and families.

What excites you about taking pictures?
I enjoy being outdoors. That is where I am most comfortable. I love the beauty of nature, whether it is large or small.  When I take pictures I love to capture feelings and memories. When I look back at the pictures I take or the paintings I paint, I love the memory of the moment. I want the picture to take those who look at them back to the place – to allow them to feel what they were feeling when I shot the photo – a warm breeze or the sound of a rushing river. It could be the excitement of being engaged, the elegance of being a bride, the joy of being married, the laughter of a child, or the love of family.  I want special times be remembered. If I can give someone these feelings when they look at their pictures, that is what excites me and brings me such happiness and contentment.

What role do you play on the farm?
When I got married I knew nothing about living/working on a farm. I was a city girl. So everything about it was new to me. I remember learning how to drive a stick shift on a regular truck. Then I learned to drive a dump truck, and that became my job. I would put my babies in their car seats and off we would go hauling corn and hay.  I did this for over 20 years. The job that was a little more challenging was the “gofor job”- Go for this, go for that, Now go back and change it. :) I know farmers wives will understand this job! We sometimes just have to do it.  About 12 years ago I retired from truck driving and started doing the farm books. It is pretty much a full time job now.  I love working on the with my family. I have learned a lot and I am grateful for the experiences I have had.

Previous Posts in the Featured Farm Photo Series:

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A Chilly Winter Morning on the Farm

thecowlocale is excited to introduce a new series: “Featured Farm Photo” in which we will share a monthly photo from a dairy farm in the Mountain West.

February 2013

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Photographer Notes: It was below 0 on the mid-January morning this shot was taken in central Utah, and the steam from the cows’ breath filled the alley between the mangers. Brrrrr

Holly Bown, of TheEnchantedPhoto and wife of 5th generation dairy farmer, Trent Bown, is the first contributor to our monthly “Featured Farm Photo” series. We recently caught up with Holly and asked her a few questions – about photography, about her interests, and about life on the farm. Meet Holly:

How did you get into photography?

In one way or another I have always been into photography. When I was in grade school I had an old 110mm film camera (anyone remember those?) When I got into high school I took a photography class, and then spent 6 months in Spain where I documented everything through film. After high school I went to a small junior college where I worked for the PR department and was on the yearbook staff. I spent many late nights in the dark room during those years. I worked at a few photography studios before I married, but didn’t really get back into photography seriously until 2008 when I started my own business.

What types of photos do you enjoy taking most? 

For photography clients, I love editorial style shoots – where they are highly stylized and thematic. I feel like I can be so much more creative with those. After that I love high school senior photography. There is just something about that age that pulls me in. I also love weddings – they are very similar to the editorial style, in that they are heavily accessorized. For myself I love to photograph landscapes. I think that has come as a function of living on the farm where I have hundreds of acres to explore.

I have also recently begun to explore filming, as in movies, and am really enjoying the process. I have created a few mini films for my husband and his blog (UsFarmGuys), as well as a few for photography clients. I would really like to see this side of my business grow in the next few years.

What’s it like living and raising a family on a dairy farm? Did you grow up on a farm? 

I didn’t grow up anywhere close to a farm. In fact I lived in New Jersey until I was in 7th grade, and then moved back to my mom’s hometown in the San Fransisco Bay Area. I guess where I lived in NJ was fairly rural (as rural as you can get 45 minutes from New York City!) We were surrounded by farms, but I never lived ON one before I met my husband. Now I live in the middle of no where Utah, right in the middle of the muck, and I honestly wouldn’t change it!  OK, I might trade the muck for some asphalt, but I think I must have always been a country girl at heart.

What are some of the things you do on the farm?

I would like to do more on the farm, in fact I have asked my husband to teach me to drive a tractor, but that has yet to happen! I do work with our vet, Dr. Harding, every Thursday for herd health day, and I do enjoy that. Other than that, I guess there isn’t much on the farm for me to do!

What prompted you and Trent to start the blog UsFarmGuys? What role do you play in the blog?

Trent has become very involved with social media in the last few years, and had a smaller blog before UsFarmGuys.com. He decided he wanted to upgrade it and do something bigger with it, and that is about the time I started doing mini films. His was the first one I did in a series highlighting some of the other farmers we knew.  I don’t play a huge roll in the blog. I help him with what ever design work he needs done, and occasionally I will produce a film for him, but he has even kind of taken that over by just doing little Farm Report videos with his phone. I guess he can’t afford my rate any more. ;)

Any tips you want to share on taking good photos?

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to learn how to take your camera off “auto”. It is really amazing the things you can create when you learn to shoot in a more manual mode.

There are also basic design rules that apply to photography and can make a huge difference. A basic one is the rule of thirds.  Divide your screen into 3rds vertically and horizontally, and where these intersect is where you should place your subject to create the most interest in an image. A lot of cameras will actually add this grid for you until you get used to seeing it on your own.

Try it yourself and see what the results are!

Holly and Trent Bown live, farm, take pictures, and raise their family in Fayette, UT.

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