Visit to a Former Dairy Farm

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Ken Scharabok, Dec 6, 2003.

  1. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    On Friday I had the pleasure to visit a farm in McKinzie, TN. The family had decided the farm, which had been in the family since 1918, should be preserved by placing it in a Land Trust. In this particular case, The Land Trust of TN, headquarters out of Nashville. The Trust received a conservation easement which extremely limits further commercial (non-agricultural) uses for the 200 or so acres. At time moment housing development could be seen in all four directions.

    Until a couple of years ago it was a working dairy farm. They had about a 50/50 mix of Holsteins and Jerseys. The Holsteins for volume and the Jerseys for the butterfat increase. Milking was done in a parlor about 16' x 50'. One end contained the milk tank. the other a center aisle way with room for two cows on each side facing forward. Basically after the first one was milked on each side, the one in back was moved forward and reconnected to be finished. A new cow was then brought in. Feed during milking was from a gravity system from an attic area. Actually it was pretty well a one-person operation as two would have gotten in each other's way. Guiding principle seemed to be K.I.S.S.

    The kept the calves on the cows for three days for them to suck out the colostrum. Bulls calves were then sold. Heifers then went on a nurse cow - typically a good milker who lost her place in the milk line, or a good milker with only three good quarters. Each cow had been known by name, rather than number. This, by itself, was an indication to me of their love for their livestock.

    I asked why the went out of the dairy business. The answer was about what I expected. Limited family availability for a 365-day operation and the inability to hire good help. When they hired someone (which housing provided), they typically lasted less than a week. Biggest complaint was having to get up at 3AM to get ready for the morning milking.

    However, their son was not 100% against starting up again if they could find dependable labor, such as a Mexican family. He said he would move the milking schedule to suit their needs, rather than that of the dairy which picked up the milk. He thought 11AM and 11 PM would work for them as he noted it is easier for most people to stay up later than to get up early. They would also take a good look at milking seasonally, with all of the cows dry in say January and February. Not only they, but their hired help, could then take vacations.

    They were currently renting out their fields for row crops and only ran a small herd of beef cattle.

    Ken S. in WC TN
  2. farmy

    farmy Well-Known Member

    Jan 23, 2003
    Ken, thanks for this post. The one remaining dairy in our area sounds a lot like the operation you visited. All their cows have names. They've been in operation for four generations, and luckily they're in it for at least one more. They adhere to KISS, and also to KIS: keep it small. They're still in business with 80 cows, while they've watched their neighbor go 3.5 million in debt and then bankrupt on 600 cows. In fact, the old timer patriarch of the family who's retired now told me yesterday that if he had it to do over again, he'd go with a fifteen cow jersey herd and four good draft horses. No tractor payments.

  3. tim1253

    tim1253 Well-Known Member

    Oct 4, 2002
    East TN

    I'm in East TN and enjoyed your post. I have working quite a bit lately in helping some African families resettle to TN and have found them to be wonderful folks. This might be something to give a family like that...coming from a refugee situation in opportunity to get started with something in America.

    Knoxville, TN
  4. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    Don't knock numbers for cows!

    None of mine have names but give me a number and I can tell you all about that cow. Their numbers are their names.