Winter Calf Needs
The Dixon Brothers in Dairyland
Tips to avoid winter growth slumps
Do what you love, love what you do
Golden Summer Phoenix-fed beef cattle win awards
Featured Farm: B. Danyow Farm
Join us for a fall visit to this Ferrisburgh, Vermont, dairy farm that has evolved and grown over several generations
DAIRY FARMING IN THE NORTHEAST
A PUBLICATION OF
DAIRY FARMING IN THE NORTHEAST
From the Editor
Featured Farm: B. Danyow Farm
Will You Meet Your Calves’ Needs This Winter?
The Dixon Brothers in Dairyland
Phoenix Internship Offers Experience, Confidence, and Connections
Chatting about Yaks with Dr. Rob Williams
Golden Summer: Lily Dias Sweeping Competitions with Passion and Simmentals
Employee Profile: Ariel Garland
By David Santos, Our editor puts Perspectives in perspective—and asks for readers’ ideas. By Kathryn Guare, Through generational transfer and large-scale construction projects, this Ferrisburgh, Vermont, farm family has mastered change, new management styles, and technological innovations. By Megan Wildman, Use these management tips in your calf program to help meet their winter needs. By Lucy M. Casale, Discover how hard work, a bit of failure, and a homesteading childhood eventually led the Dixon brothers to successful lives in different areas of “Dairyland.” By Jordan Hubbell, Read about Phoenix intern Jordan’s love of animals and agriculture, and her continuing education in and dedication to her chosen field of work. By Elijah Santos, Following up on our last issue’s overview of this adaptable animal, Dr. Rob Williams stops by for a brief chat about his personal experiences with yaks.
By Shannon Largey, PhD, Meet an accomplished young farmer from Massachusetts whose show animals have made great gains on a beef formulation from Phoenix Feeds. By Ann Louise Santos, An introduction to this very capable dairy nutritionist and calf and heifer specialist who enjoys figuring out the challenges of today’s dairy industry.
FROM THE EDITOR With the advent of the gray and damp side of autumn here in the Northeast, I’d like to think that Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition is sending out a little bit of color and warmth with our latest issue of Perspectives magazine. Fall 2018 marks the 18th issue of our company publication, and every time I hold the finished copy in my hands or look at the digital version online, I marvel at how the production process somehow comes together to give us the final product. It remains a labor of love—and of the respect I have for all Phoenix employees, customers, and suppliers. In this season of harvest and gratitude, I am thankful every day for being able to work with such a fantastic group of people at our facilities in New Haven and Brandon, Vermont. All of us at Phoenix think highly of our hard-working customers, and hope alongside them for an improved economic climate for our country’s agricultural industry. I also think about the pleasant relationships I’ve developed over the years with some of our vendors, and how I enjoy catching up with them when they drop in during their quick visits to our office. As for each issue of Perspectives, I wouldn’t be able to publish a single page without the assistance of the producers, employees, and others in the ag field who agree to share their stories with us. The writers, editors, and office staff who turn these stories into the finished pieces you read are equally indispensable. When we turn these pages of written word over to RetroMotion Creative, I know that Justin will consistently produce a beautiful layout augmented by his great photos—as well as videos in the digital version of the magazine. Queen City Printers in Burlington, Vermont, does a masterful job of printing and mailing out the magazines. I’m also grateful to our advertisers, who have faith that our publication makes it to an audience interested in their products and services. And to you, our readers, thank you for opening your copy of Perspectives—whether the print version or the digital version—and reading it. We hope you enjoy this issue. We’re always looking for feature story suggestions, so if you have any, feel free to send me an email with your ideas at email@example.com.
DAIRY FARMING IN THE NORTHEAST
Fall Edition 2018
Editorial EXECUTIVE EDITOR SENIOR EDITOR COPY PROOFING PREPRODUCTION
David Santos Ann Louise Santos Ann Louise Santos Emily Morison Heather Paquette
Photography PHOTOS VIDEO VIDEO EDITING STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY
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Art Department DESIGN/LAYOUT PHOTO EDITING
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Advertising ADVERTISING David Santos (802) 453-6684 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucy M. Casale, Kathryn Guare, Jordan Hubbell, Shannon Largey, Ann Louise Santos, David Santos, Elijah Santos, Megan Wildman
The entire Perspectives team wishes you all the best for the upcoming holiday season. David Santos Editor Perspectives Magazine Owner and General Manager Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition
Perspectives Magazine Dairy Farming in the Northeast™, established in 2014, is published quarterly in Vermont by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition. Perspectives Magazine, 5482 Ethan Allen Highway | PO Box 36, New Haven, VT 05472 | USA (802) 453-6684. Advertising: Rate card upon request from the Vermont office. Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition, Inc. & Perspectives Magazine™ POST MASTER: Send address changes to Perspectives Magazine, 5482 Ethan Allen Highway | PO Box 36, New Haven, VT 05472 | USA
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B. DANYOW FARM BY KATHRYN GUARE
“Good luck! I’m going fishing.” That might not be exactly what James Danyow said to the new owner of his farm in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, but however he phrased it on that early morning in 2012, the message—and its implicit vote of confidence—was clear. “Danyow Dairy, LLC” had become the “B. Danyow Farm, LLC” and the transfer of power was complete. His son was in charge.
It didn’t feel much like power to Brett Danyow on that particular morning as he stood scratching his head, puzzled by the issues he was continuing to have with a group housing calf barn constructed less than six months earlier and outfitted with state of the art technology. “We were still trying to figure out what we were doing and how we were doing it,” he says, recalling his frustration at the time. “It was a whole other management style to take on, going from individual pens. We were about five months into that barn, had a 10
fairly high level of health issues with the calves, and I was pulling my hair out.” Recalling his father’s arrival on the scene, Brett shakes his head with a grin, appreciating in retrospect the dry humor of his father’s visit. “He looked around for a minute and said ‘Well, when I put up that greenhouse barn it took me about a year and a half to figure it out. You go another twelve months and you’ll have this one figured out.’ I can still remember it. He just turned around and walked out the door, and I’m like, ‘Dammit!’ And then, ‘Okay.’” Brett shrugs. “So, I figured it out.” For those admiring at a distance the iconic red barn set in its pastoral landscape, there are very few with enough insight to think about how the barn actually got there. Managing large-scale construction projects isn’t something the average person would recognize as an integral aspect of dairy farming, but the built environment of a farm is of course as vital as the animals it houses. In their age, changing roles, challenges and effects, every building has a story to tell in the evolution of a place and the history of the people that live there. For the Danyows, that history goes back to its original owner, Orville Danyow, who put up its original modest structures—two stanchion barns and a heifer barn. He sold the business to his son James in 1970 and throughout that first decade James continued to work with what he’d inherited. He embarked on his first large project in 1980, tearing down one stanchion barn to construct a free stall barn in its place. When it was finished, James was milking 80
cows in the remaining 36-stall stanchion barn and the logistics were getting complicated. “For the first year,” Brett says, “he was running a group of cows in, milking them, and bringing them back to get another. He did that for a year and said, ‘No, this is just stupid.’ So he built the parlor and things started to grow from there.” Construction of the 6x6 parlor was completed in 1981. It was a transformative milestone for James Danyow, and as he noted in a 2006 interview for Middlebury’s Village Voice, one that took a little time to get used to. “The cows were moving into the parlor and out faster than I could keep up with them,” he said. “Eventually, we learned and things began to run smoothly.” With learning came a burst of growth. The dairy herd of 150 cows and youngstock today stands at 2,100. Additional land added in the year 2000 brings the current total number of acres under management to nearly 2,000. All of this internal growth naturally required an expansion in manmade infrastructure as well.
Up went a new heifer barn; a dry cow barn; a doubling of the milking parlor to a 12x12; additions to existing buildings and then additions to those additions; and for the calves, a greenhouse barn—the one with all those unexpected nuances that took James a year and a half to figure out. “It seemed to be harder to manage, and it seemed to be more for people comfort than cow comfort,” Brett says. With hutches lying at the opposite end of the spectrum—easier to manage but definitely not made with people comfort in mind—he opted for something different, which led to his first major initiative as the freshly minted owner of the Danyow Farm. It also eventually led to that morning of frustrated hair-pulling in his brand new calf barn, but once identified, the problem was a straightforward one and solved with some high-tech adjustments. “It was just the robotic feeders for the calves,” Brett says. “There are so many settings on them and it was a major challenge, but we figured it out.” Although satisfied it was the right move for the business, Brett sounds like a man in an uneasy alliance with technology: “You can manage a lot of calves fairly quickly in a barn like that, but you need to be well aware of what you’re looking for.” He’s grateful that the person overseeing the technical operations in the barn is also someone who also places a high value on the personal and interactive aspects of calf management, especially when it comes to their health. Missy Ashley, Brett’s partner in both life and work, has become adept at managing the computer systems linked with the robotic feeding process, but relies on her own eyes
and instincts as much as the spreadsheets she manages. “It’s just like people,” she says. “When one goes down there’s a domino effect. So you have to be vigilant in watching them and paying attention to the signs. And I try to give all of them a little one-on-one time so they’ll be more friendly. I’ve done some reading and research on it, and the idea is that it really is productive to spend time interacting with them, so when they leave here they are a little more tame and easier to manage.”
Like Brett, Missy is a native of Ferrisburgh, Vermont, born and raised on a family farm. “My first steps were in a cowpen,” she says with a laugh. Farming is the only life she’s ever known or wanted, even though the move from her family’s farm of 70 cows to the Danyow’s much larger operation required some adjustment. “There was definitely a learning curve,” she says. “A dairy that size you might have six calves in a week being born, but now here you might have six calves a day. But the basics of calf care don’t change. The basics don’t change no matter how big you are.” The need for space does change, however, and not long after the new calf barn was up and running smoothly they were running out of it again. With one major construction effort under his belt, Brett moved on to an even more challenging one only four years later in 2016—the creation of an entirely new milking parlor and barn facility. This ambitious project would be larger than anything previously built on the farm. It would house both the additional milking herd and a new 20x20 milking parlor, and in reflecting on the challenges it presented, Brett sounded nostalgic for the simplicity of his earlier calf barn experience. “There’s not so much that goes into building a barn. You put in your poles, you put in your water lines, you pour cement, you put your roof on it, do your interior work, it’s done. When you get into a parlor project you have drains, you have varying slopes and levels of concrete—that’s when it becomes…complicated.” Missy has a more colorful and direct description for the final stages of construction they lived through in 2017. “That was hell year.” “It was kind of a logistical nightmare,” Brett acknowledges. “The old parlor was perpendicular off the front of the existing free-stall. So we ended up building the new parlor within about 25 feet of the old parlor. We built most of the new free-stall within 50–60 feet. And then we had to get the cows going to the new parlor, remove the old parlor, and bring that facility together.” Like most farmers trying to stretch their resources as far as they will go, Brett served as his own general contractor for the job. Also
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like most farmers, he is passionate about the attention to detail required to produce the highest quality milk. So, although he enjoyed the role and learned a lot, at times he felt the strain of keeping a large dairy operation running at peak performance while managing an enormous construction project and all its moving parts. “I needed to be here to make sure of things, and it was raining all the time so we weren’t able to get the crops in, so we were doing crop work sporadically. We milked for eight months in the new parlor without a roof over the holding area. It was ugly, but we got through it. It was November when we finally got a roof over everything.” Keeping track of the grain supply was just one more thing to worry about, but it was less of a concern than it might have been, since he’d already had years of experience to reassure him that he could rely on Phoenix Feeds in a pinch. “Everybody down there is on the run constantly,” he says. “There’s trucks in and out of there. It’s a very busy business. But you can call down and say ‘I ran out of grain. I need it today.’ And you would think you’re the only customer because there’s never an issue. Or, if there’s an issue, you don’t ever hear about it. They’re very professional in how they handle themselves.” Missy is also especially grateful for the professionalism and patience of the Danyow Farm’s own employees throughout the project. “They were getting nervous when we got to 14
October and were still working on the rafters. They asked every day, ‘Are we gonna have a ceiling?’ but they still kept plugging along. They were great.” A year and a half later, they can look back and feel satisfied that it was all worth it. The new facility is spacious, with a snug, dry subway housing all the electronics for the milking parlor. The parlor itself is brightly lit with plenty of space for moving around and ceiling fans that ensure plenty of warmth as the winter months approach. “It’s a lot brighter, a lot more relaxed atmosphere,” Brett says. “The drains all drain and the water goes where it’s supposed to, so in the end I guess we figured it out.” All of which does not mean he’s ready to take on any more new construction right away. “Yeah, I don’t want to build anything for a while.” The goals now are to concentrate on the basics, ride out the current rough economic weather with its low milk prices, and focus on the aspirations of their four teen-aged children. Brett thinks farming will not be in the cards for their two eldest. Their son Bailey is in his first year at UVM, and their daughter Megan is a high school senior with a passion for languages and dance. As for the two younger ones, he’s not quite sure yet. “Grace is sixteen. She’s not sure she wants to do this, but she’s kind of been on my right hip US_BovamineDairyMilkReplacer_Ad_2x10inch_3.indd 21/04/17 1 18.50
all summer and she’s always full of questions about why we do things, and she’s very conscientious about her work.” “And when any equipment breaks,” Missy adds, “She’s right there with him trying to figure it out.” And then there’s Ryan. “He’s only fourteen, but he’s into it,” Brett says. “He likes the farm. You put the kid on equipment and he just gets it, and he takes pride in doing a good job with whatever he’s using. He thinks he wants to go to the University of Wisconsin for dairy. But we’ll see. This world is ever-changing.”
Maybe the plans for creating the Danyow Farm’s next major building project will fall to the hands of a younger generation, but for now, Brett says he and Missy are not worrying about it. “We’re happy with the milking parlor, and we’re looking forward to a more comfortable winter than last year,” he says. “Add a couple more dollars to the milk price and we’ll be rolling.”
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WILL YOU MEET YOUR CALVES’ NEEDS THIS WINTER? BY MEGAN WILDMAN, CALF AND HEIFER SPECIALIST, PURINA ANIMAL NUTRITION
aintaining optimal calf growth and health during cold weather can be a delicate balance. Taking a proactive stance in keeping calves’ energy levels up, stress levels down, and facilities up to par can help your calves avoid winter growth slumps. Use these management tips in your calf program to help meet their winter needs: DON’T LET COLD HINDER GROWTH As the seasons change, calves can suffer from cold stress sooner than you might think. Calves become cold stressed at moderate temperatures because they have a higher surface-area-to-bodyweight ratio than older animals. Even at a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, cold stress can impact the growth and health of dairy calves. During periods of cold stress, calves require additional energy to maintain their body temperature and continue growing. If their nutritional requirements aren’t met, they’ll utilize valuable energy stores, which can result in weight loss and impaired immune function. Implement a feeding program to support increased energy demands. Provide extra energy to the calf by adding a third feeding of milk or milk replacer (preferably late in the evening) and increasing the amount of starter offered. Seasonal formulations of milk replacer
are designed specifically to meet the needs of calves during inclement weather. KEEP WATER AND FEED FRESH Volatile weather can cause starter in buckets to go stale or to mold, which can lead to potential digestive upsets and calves going off feed. Keep calves eating and growing by ensuring that they always have fresh starter and water. Calf raisers often underestimate the level of dehydration associated with the lower relative humidity and dry air brought on by colder weather. Feed calves warm water between 100–105 degrees F. Cold water forces calves to use extra energy to heat the water to their core body temperature post-consumption. PUT EMPLOYEES ON HIGH ALERT Winter temperatures can cause calves to be more vulnerable to disease challenges. Train employees to look for early signs of illness such as decreased feed intake and droopy eyes and ears. Checking calves more frequently during times of increased risk can also help employees quickly recognize a calf that’s experiencing a challenge. MAINTAIN DRY AND DEEP STRAW BEDS Deep straw bedding can help calves nest and conserve heat. Use a 1–3 bedding scorecard to evaluate if bedding packs are deep enough based on how much of the calf’s legs show when laying down:
DON’T FORGET POST-WEANED HEIFERS Cold weather doesn’t only affect young calves. Calf raisers also need to address post-weaning calf management, especially in colder weather. To help cut down on the added stress of weaning, keep post-weaned calves in small groups for up to three weeks post-weaning. Help promote intakes post-weaning by maintaining a consistent diet and feed the same calf starter, through twelve weeks. Then, feed calves a grower feed as they transition to a diet higher in fiber. When weather conditions change rapidly, it can wreak havoc on young calves that crave consistency. Help keep calves growing with these management tips and by working with your local calf and heifer specialist to build a winter calf plan for your farm.
1 – All of the legs showing 2 – Half of the legs showing 3 – No legs showing A score of 3 is ideal, and a score of 1 indicates it’s time to add bedding to the pack. The knee test is a quick way to test if bedding is dry. If you put your knee down and it stays dry, your bedding is fine. If the knee comes away wet, it’s time to re-bed. BALANCE ENERGY SOURCES A common misconception is that increasing fat in the diet during cooler weather will make up for a calf’s increased energy demands. However, providing the correct balance of fat and carbohydrates is the key to achieving optimal energy intake. A 50 percent increase in calf milk replacer powder can yield a 50 percent increase in energy. Alternatively, a 100 percent increase in fat alone in the calf diet may only generate a 12 percent energy increase (NRC 2001). Feed 2.5 pounds of milk replacer powder per calf per day to ensure they’re receiving enough energy.
Megan Wildman is a calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact her at MEWildman@landolakes.com or (800) 618-6455. *Purina Animal Nutrition is dedicated to producing the highest quality animal feeds and supplements. Due to influence outside of Purina Animal Nutrition’s controls, results to be obtained, such as financial performance, animal condition, health, or performance cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Purina Animal Nutrition.
Animals speak louder than words. And a calf on the Purina® AMPLI-CALF ® three-step program delivers 2,740 more pounds1 of first lactation milk. Which says it all. TM
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©2017 Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. All rights reserved. AMPLI-CALF is a registered trademark of Purina Animal Nutrition, LLC. Cow’s Match is a registered trademark of Land O’Lakes, Inc. 1 162,577 lactation observations and 713 animals studied at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center from April 2009 to October 2014.
2nd Annual New York Dairy Summit
Path to Pounds
December 5–6, 2018 Turning Stone Resort, Vernon, NY DAIRYING IN 2019 • SHARPENING YOUR SAW • CHOOSE TOPICS RELATING TO YOUR FARM • NATIONALLY KNOWN SPEAKERS • ADDRESSING KEY PROFIT CENTERS
TOPICS AND SPEAKERS Calf and Heifer Management
Reproductive Management Strategies—Dr. Jim Ferguson (Sponsored by Kemin)
Feed Additive Technology for Calf Health and Growth—Dr. Kay Russo (Sponsored by PMI)
Diagnostics in Calves—Dr. Ranatta Young (Sponsored by Purina)
Importance of Proper Foot Health Strategy and Record Keeping—Neil Andrew (Sponsored by Zinpro)
What We Know About Clostridia Prevalence in Dairy Diets—Dr. Sarah Stocks (Sponsored by Papillon)
Dairy Herd Management •
Understanding Milk Fat Depression—Dr. Kevin Harvatine (Sponsored by Elanco)
What We Know About Herds That Supplement Methionine in Transition Cow Programs: A Case Study—Dr. Maris McCarthy (Sponsored by Adisseo)
What We Have Learned About Cow Comfort and Time Budget—Justine Kelsey (Sponsored by Novus)
The Goldilocks Ration Concept—Dr. James Drackely (Sponsored by Purina)
Stressors in the Transition Cow Program—Dr Robert Collier (Sponsored by Phibro)
Using Body Condition Score as a Management Tool—Dr. Ric Grummer (Sponsored by Balchem)
Crop and Feed Management •
Inoculants and Forage Quality—Dr. Keith Bolsen (Sponsored by Purina)
Producing High Quality Alfalfa—Dr. Dan Undersander (Sponsored by Croplan)
Advances in Feed Hygiene Testing—Dr. John Goeser (Sponsored by Micronutrients)
Risk Management •
Dairy Margin Risk Management—Bryan Crane (Sponsored by Purina)
For more information please contact your Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition representative.
YOUR HERD’S PERFORMANCE RELIES ON THE SCIENCE OF PROPER NUTRITION. The combination of Zinpro Performance Minerals found in Availa 4, are essential to an animal’s health and well-being. Feeding Availa-4 as part of a properly balanced nutrition program helps to reduce inflammatory response time, improve reproductive performance and increase milk production in the herd. To learn more about the benefits of completing your nutrition program with Availa-4 and Zinpro Performance Minerals, contact your Zinpro rep or visit zinpro.com/dairy. ®
Performance Minerals® and Availa®4 are registered trademarks of Zinpro Corp. ©2017 Zinpro Corp. All rights reserved. Photo credit: Christian Jacquet
DIXON BROTHERSIN THE
DAIRYLAND BY LUCY M. CASALE
A tale of two brothers, their intersecting careers in Vermontâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dairy industry, and a whole lot of cheese
epending on what you do for a living, that saying, “Do what you love, love what you do” either rings sweetly true or sounds aggravatingly out-of-reach. Well, if you fall into the latter category, this story is for you. Take heart in Sam and Peter Dixon—they’re both proof that with hard work (and even failure) you can live the dream too. According to his older brother, when Sam Dixon was a little boy, the thing he liked to do best was milk the family cow. “I’ll never forget it,” recalls Peter Dixon. “You could always rely on Sam to be there at milking time.” On the family’s farm in Dummerston, Vermont, Sam’s domain was the barn. But Peter had a propensity for science projects in the kitchen. He recalls experimenting with the milk Sam would carry in, transforming it into various staples alongside his mother. “I would always help her in the kitchen,” Peter remembers. “We would make little cheddar cheeses or curds or butter.” Those were the days. Sam remembers their “old farm in the country” as an exciting place to grow up, bursting with “everything under the sun...just sort of a menagerie.” Their father, a doctor who moved the family to Vermont in 1968 to start his practice, enjoyed homesteading—and collecting farm animals—on the side. So, not only did the Dixon boys grow up with a hand-milking cow; they also had a pig, sheep, beef, and a flock of chickens, plus a large organic garden to play in.
MEET THE DIXON BROTHERS NOW: FIRST, THE DAIRY FARMER
It was a particularly bright and brisk October morning when Sam Dixon sat down with Perspectives magazine. Bundled from the cold (snow flurries fell in town a few days later), he took a chair in his warmed office, parallel to the milking parlor at Shelburne Farms. If you’ve never visited this Shelburne, Vermont institution, you must plan a trip. (You can book a stay for a night at the on-site Shelburne Inn, where your meals will feature ingredients straight from the farm and the lawns frame unobstructed views of Lake Champlain’s waterfront.) A 1,400-acre working farm, forest, National Historic Landmark, and nonprofit organization, Shelburne Farms is quite a place.
Oh, and if you’ve never tasted their Shelburne Farms Cheddar, well, you’re in for a treat. The milk for this delicious cheese comes from the 110 Brown Swiss cows who get milked across from Sam’s office—an office he’s not usually sitting in. “I’m the farm manager at Shelburne Farms,” he says, speaking quickly since he only has so much time before he’ll need to get on with morning chores. “I started here in 1996. I oversee the agricultural operations, primarily livestock.” Besides the dairy, the farm also grows lamb, beef, and vegetables and runs a woodlands operation selling maple syrup and lumber. Because Shelburne Farms is a great example of a “food system,” as Sam explains it, people from all over the country—and world— come to visit. “Almost everything we produce, we’re adding value to,” he says. “We make over 80 percent of our milk into cheese, 320 days a year. All the lamb and beef we produce goes through the restaurant in the Inn.” And the same goes for the vegetables and maple syrup from the farm. “We don’t face the same pressures that other commercial farms do, but we try to keep it as relevant as we can,” he adds. Thanks to all the outside interest in Shelburne Farm’s operations, Sam says a highlight of his career has been meeting farmers from all over the world—Japan, Colombia, Germany. He has also met big name farmers like Joel Salatin and even celebrities like Martha Stewart and Sigourney Weaver. But largely, besides making time for those occasional interesting visitors, Sam doesn’t leave the farm much. “On a daily basis, I’m doing the work that any farmer in the state of Vermont is doing,” he says. “Milking cows, cleaning the barn, mixing feed.”
NEXT, THE CHEESEMAKER
Peter Dixon, who joined Perspectives for a phone interview later that same night, echoed this sentiment about his brother and noted the tie to his boyhood interests. “He really enjoys the cows and the farming,” Peter says. “For so long he just wouldn’t leave! We’re always like, ‘well, that’s Sam! He’s just not gonna come this weekend.’” Peter laughs. It had been a long day in Westminster West when Peter hopped on the call. He’d started work nearly 12 hours earlier and now had
about an hour free to speak, but he was hungry and there was more work to be done. “We have cheese to unload and then we can have dinner,” he explained, speaking for both himself and his wife Rachel, who was in the background rattling pots and pans. Dubbed “Vermont’s ‘King of Cheese’” by the Burlington-based weekly Seven Days, Peter, like Sam, has turned his childhood hobby into a career. He is the founder and cheesemaker of Parish Hill Creamery—an award-winning, seasonal, handmade raw milk cheese business. He is also a well-known dairy foods consultant and cheesemaking instructor. Indeed, with over 30 years of influence in and on the Vermont cheese industry, there are numerous well-known Green Mountain State cheeses that wouldn’t exist without him. The cheeses at Consider Bardwell Farm are one example. Peter spent six years working with the West Pawlet business, initially as a consultant and then as head cheesemaker. Besides their recipes, he’s responsible for cheeses like Cobb Hill Cheese Ascutney Mountain and Taylor Farm Gouda. And we haven’t even talked yet about his time at Shelburne Farms making cheddar and then at Vermont Creamery making chevre. “I think of Peter now as like the ‘Grand Old Man of Farmstead Cheese’,” Sam says. “He’s grown this huge, giant beard now, so he kind of looks like the Grand Old Man of Cheesemaking.” Indeed, in a photo on Peter’s website, (parishhillcreamery.com where you can shop for cheese, or just drool over the mouth-watering pictures...but, you’ll want to shop) Peter sports a large gray beard. Arms wrapped around Rachel, who is smiling sweetly, together they hold out an enormous half wheel of cheese. But, before we turn to the cheese chapter of this story, both brothers point out some lesser known pages in their family history book.
In particular, one experience that shaped both of their paths today, beyond their boyhood tendencies towards cows and cheesemaking.
THE BEST SUCCESS STORIES START FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
What not everyone may know about Peter and Sam Dixon is that they both credit the failure of a short-lived family business—the Guilford Cheese Company—for helping them get their start. “It didn’t work out,” Peter says. “We didn’t make the right decisions to stay in business. But, it gave Sam and I both the opportunity to
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find out what we really liked to do.” The story leading up to this failed venture starts for the brothers after high school. Sam’s post-high-school past led him to a sprawling commercial cattle ranch in Montana. There, he worked with beef cows, 2,500 head, for a summer. “It was the cowboy thing, riding horses and all that,” he laughs. “But I wasn’t a cowboy. I was a greenhorn from out East.” After, Sam returned to Vermont and enrolled at UVM as an English major. It didn’t go well. He was nearly failing and had no idea what he wanted to do for his career. That is, until the next summer, when he got a job at Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury. Milking cows. Driving truck. Driving tractors. It all clicked. That fall, Sam changed his major to animal science, the degree he would later graduate with. Peter also left Vermont after high school, but on a totally different track: to make a living as a rock musician in Portland, Maine. It was going well...but also not great. “So, it was 1982 and I was home for Christmas,” Peter recalls. “My brother, too. At the time, my step mom, my dad’s second wife, had been running a business from their dairy farm bottling milk. Now, they were thinking about going into cheese. And they proposed the idea of the four of us doing it together.” Peter recalls going back to Portland, seri-
ously considering the idea. Sam returned to UVM, also weighing his options. That spring, both brothers decided to say yes. And so, the Guilford Cheese Company was born. “We used to work hand in glove every day,” Sam remembers. “I milked the cows, Peter made the cheese. In some ways that period was very idyllic.” And the brothers worked together for the family business for three years. But then, like a lot of businesses, when they tried to take the next step, it didn’t work out. From there, Sam went on to farm with his wife for five years. After that, he worked for another farmer for three. Then, he took the job at Shelburne Farms, where he’s been for over 20 years. Peter, who hadn’t gone to college yet, enrolled at UVM like his brother. He studied dairy food science. Then in 1991, before Sam would work at Shelburne Farms, Peter got a job on the farm as a cheesemaker. He was still in school, so he worked part time during the school year, and then full time every summer. And that’s where he learned to make cheddar. After graduating UVM, Peter took a job with Vermont Creamery, working for them for four years. Professional connections later led to an opportunity working overseas as a dairy consultant in Macedonia for another four years. The best part of that job, he remembers, was encountering a different type of cheesemaking. “For the most part, they were all making raw milk cheese in Macedonia. And most everything was done with not a lot of commercial ingredients,” Peter says. “I just saw cheesemaking in a much more elemental way and it caused me to think about the possibility of doing cheese like that here. Every time I came home to Vermont, I kept dreaming about starting my own cheese company.” In 2013 he got his wish when an opportunity allowed him to start Parish Hill Creamery with Rachel—and start making his own cheese.
A SHARED PASSION FOR CHEESE
Sam jokes that the only time of year he reliably gets a visit with his brother is at the Annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, held every August at Shelburne Farms. It is a great time of the year for these two cheese lovers to connect: shooting the breeze while sampling endless amounts of cheese they both play their own part in producing. Shelburne Farms makes a variety of mouth-watering cheddars from that Brown Swiss milk: 6-month, 1-year, 2-year, 3-year and creative versions like smoked, clothbound, and limited types like 26
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beer cheddar. Sam’s favorite, hands-down, is the 6-month cheddar. “I always felt like this was because I didn’t have a very sophisticated palate, but I’ve always loved the 6-month,” Sam laughs. “When we get the 6-month here it’s creamy, it’s fresh, it’s really, really good.” But, it just so happens that this very cheese took First Place in the aged cheddar category this year at The American Cheese Society. “That’s a really big deal for Shelburne Farms, winning that. That’s a very competitive category, too,” Sam says. “And, that was sort of like... vindication!” (Sam doesn’t pump his fist in the air—he is more mild-mannered than his brother—but you can tell, he’s proud.) Accolades abound for Parish Hill Creamery, too. “We only enter one contest every year—The American Cheese Society Judging & Competition,” Peter says. “And every year we’ve won at least one award. In five years, we’ve won three first places, two third places, and a second place.” (Peter may actually be pumping his fist in the air on the other end of the phone line.) In all seriousness, Parish Hill produces nine different varieties of cheese, mostly in an Italian style. Browsing their website, the names and images of these cheeses are fantastic. “Wild West Blue” is a light yellow hunk, scored with blue stripes and specks: a “traditional two-curd Gorgonzola.” The “Suffolk Punch” is a gourd-shaped yellow cheese: “whole milk Caciocavallo-style.” And the “Idyll” with a a blackened-gray rind that looks like sidewalk cement, bright with crumbly yellow innards, is a: “part-skim, long aged mountain cheese.” Peter and Rachel buy their milk from the Elm Lea Farm at the Putney School (where both Sam and Peter attended high school themselves). Students there are encouraged to work at the on-site dairy farm as part of their education. “They still
graze the cows and it’s a classic Vermont hill farm. They only milk 35 cows, holsteins and jerseys,” Peter describes. “It’s a nice blend of milk for cheesemaking. It’s not too low in components that there’s just a lot of whey and not much cheese yield, but it’s not too fatty of a milk to make a wide variety of cheeses.” In terms of which Parish Hill Creamery cheese to name as his favorite? Peter can’t do it. “They’re like children, right? Some days your kid is behaving well, and that day, that’s your favorite. So, it’s like that.” The cheese Peter admits to being the most excited about is their “Cornerstone” cheese, which he describes as an “original concept cheese” where “all the ingredients are made by us.” He’s not kidding. “We do things the most difficult way we can figure,” touts the Parish Hill Creamery “Cheese” page on their website. And that rings true for the Cornerstone. It’s a raw milk cheese made with no commercial ingredients. In fact, Peter makes the fermenting cultures himself. Instead of refined salt, he buys evaporated Atlantic Ocean sea salt from The Maine Sea Salt Company. “It gives our cheese a unique flavor.” And he even makes the rennet for this cheese the traditional way: from the cured stomachs of calves. “We’re the only people in the whole United States and Canada that make cheese commercially completely this way,” he adds. Hey reader, are you ordering some for yourself online right now?
DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO
Sam has to get back to his farm duties, and leaves the interview with a warm handshake. Peter is ready to wrap up the call, unload the cheese, and eat dinner. These are the days. “We’ve done well, you know?” Peter says, starting to offer up his final thoughts. “To be the farm manager at Shelburne Farms, that’s quite a title there. Sam has got a good reputation for what he does. It’s not just the fancy farm; he’s actually run that place and made a profit there. And then I’ve hard-scrabbled my way into being very well known as a cheesemaker and educator in the U.S. I think we’re just very passionate about what we do.” Peter harkens back to the brothers’ childhood in conclusion. “We had the little family farm and it was a great way to grow up. And I think we were just really fortunate. Rather than going off into some other career, it just really had a resonation for us, each of us, the farming life.” Peter pauses—”I’m getting a little teary here!” He clears his throat. “Now, we’re just still doing the same kind of life that we grew up doing. So, yeah, it’s great. It’s just a great thing.” phoenixfeeds.net
PHOENIX INTERNSHIP OFFERS EXPERIENCE, CONFIDENCE, AND CONNECTIONS BY JORDAN HUBBELL
rowing up as a child I lived with my family in Shoreham, Vermont, a small town in Addison County. Although I wasn’t raised on a farm I spent my youth in 4-H showing Jerseys, my favorite breed of cows. I found my love for farm animals during the many “ride alongs” I would take with my grandfather Paul Zeno, who sells dairy supplies to farms throughout Vermont. For my eleventh birthday I asked for a cow and was surprised when my grandparents brought me to a farm and told me to pick one out. Sweet Heart, my very first cow, would go on to win first place at the Addison County Fair and Field Days that year, taking the blue ribbon for the summer yearling group. In high school I was an active member of the local FFA chapter as well as the Plant and Animal Science program. Through all of those experiences I knew that I wanted to continue my education in the agricultural field. After high school I went on to study at SUNY Cobleskill and graduated with an Associate’s degree in Agricultural Business. While in college, I worked for a small dairy farm (60-cow tie stall) milking for an older gentleman who didn’t have any help. Milking cows in a tie stall barn was not my favorite college memory; however, what I learned while working there could not be taught in any school. I knew I wanted to learn more about all things agriculture, both educationally and through clinical hands-on experience. I enrolled in the University of Vermont’s Animal Science degree program in the fall of 2017 while also working at Stephanie and Seth Pope’s farm in Shoreham, Vermont. Seth showed me a different way to farm. He put up with all my annoying questions—at 4 a.m.—with a smile, while milking his herd in a double four step-up parlor. While there, I was able to expand my knowledge of dairy farms and how to run them properly. Stephanie took me under her wing and taught me how to take care of all the calves on the farm, which became my main task and my new-found passion. I never knew how much love and hard work it took to raise such beautiful animals. I loved every minute of it. I will never be able to thank them enough for how much support and wisdom they gave me with during my time there. During the spring of 2018, I wanted to try something outside of farming and reached out to Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition to see if they would be interested in hosting me as an intern for the summer of 2018. Thankfully David Santos, Phoenix’s president, welcomed me with open arms, allowing me to learn a whole new side of the dairy industry, as I had become more interested in nutritional work after taking a class at UVM. This internship
experience has pushed me to another level, and showed me how important proper nutrition is to have a successful farm with happy and healthy animals. Everybody at Phoenix has made me feel at home. I’ve enjoyed my time working alongside Jim Walsh, quality control and safety manager, learning all things related to feed quality and safety. Phoenix Feeds is a company that I knew was well-respected within the agriculture industry because of their focus on quality and customer service—this is why I chose them to do my internship. I am thankful that Phoenix Feeds took the time to show me all the important aspects regarding nutrition and relationships with customers. One of my favorite things that Jim and I do is site visits to some of our clients. During these visits, we check in to see how things are going and answer any questions or concerns they may have. I’ve been able to meet some amazing local farmers throughout this journey—and I could never replace this experience. I’d like to thank Phoenix Feeds for their hospitality and for showing me new things every day.
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Chatting about Yaks with Dr. Rob Williams BY ELIJAH SANTOS
s a follow-up to the piece in the summer 2018 issue of Perspectives entitled “The Adaptable Yak,” we’re featuring a short conversation with Dr. Rob Williams. Dr. Williams is one of the leading researchers and voices behind bringing yaks to Vermont and the Northeast. He is a Vermont-based educator, media and communications expert, historian, journalist, musician, yakker, and a leading member of the Second Vermont Republic movement. In addition to his day jobs at Champlain College and the University of Vermont (UVM), Rob also runs the YakItToMe! food cart, which serves up yak-based provisions at events all over Vermont. ES: How did you first became interested in yaks? RW: I sampled yak meat in Montana in 2007. Delicious! The rest is history. ES: Besides meat, what are other uses for yak byproducts? RW: Milk, hides, tents, ropes—think
of the yak like the bison for the Plains Indians—varied uses! ES: Tell our readers a little about your personal experiences raising yaks and incorporating their meat into a small business: your food cart featuring dishes made with yak meat. RW: We raised yaks on a farm in Mad River Valley for 7 years, and I’ve been running our YakItToMe! food cart since 2013. I’ve been fortunate to work with yaks in a variety of ways—they are amazing creatures. ES: What about the yak’s suitability to the Vermont landscape? RW: Yaks love good grass, rolling hills and mountains, and cold weather. Vermont is ideal! ES: Do you believe that yaks offer benefits over traditional beef? RW: Absolutely. Yaks are the planet’s greenest red meat = more protein and omega 3s and less fat than any other beef. Yaks also consume less grass per acre than any other bovine.
ES: Does yak milk offer a potential supplement or alternative to the conventional dairy industry in Vermont and the Northeast? RW: Hmm. Probably not. Yaks are ornery, and harnessing them for a new milk industry seems impractical. ES: How much does it cost and how difficult is it to raise yaks compared to conventional beef? RW: Yaks are affordable ($600– $800 for a steer or cow, and between $2000 and $4000 for a bull in his prime) though scarce in the U.S., and yaks are slow growers—it takes 3 years (almost) to bring a yak to maturity and to market. So, raising yaks is not as profitable as raising grain-fed conventional beef (speaking from a capitalist point of view). On the flip side, yaks require no special fencing, do not need barns or buildings to survive and thrive, and are incredibly hearty in a challenging landscape.
GREATER MILK PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY * HAS A WAY OF ENERGIZING A DAIRY FARM. 1
Rumensin® gives your cows a boost of extra energy†—energy that can increase their milk production efficiency.1* Contact your nutritionist and an Elanco representative to see how you can maximize your milk production efficiency with Rumensin.
The label contains complete use information, including cautions and warnings. Always read, understand, and follow the label and use directions. CAUTION: Consumption by unapproved species or feeding undiluted may be toxic or fatal. Do not feed to veal calves. *Production of marketable solids-corrected milk per unit of feed intake. † Energy is a direct result of the Rumensin mode of action.
REFERENCE: 1. Elanco Animal Health. Data on File. Elanco, Rumensin, and the diagonal bar are trademarks owned or licensed by Eli Lilly and Company, its subsidiaries or affiliates.Rumensin® is a registered trademark of Elanco’s brand for monensin sodium. © 2017 Eli Lilly and Company, its subsidiaries or affiliates. USDBURUM00266. All rights reserved.
Golden Summer: Lily Dias Sweeping Competitions with Passion and Simmentals By Shannon Largey
ning? The four animals took over 30 different titles and awards from twelve shows. Toot alone took home grand champion at Jersey Fresh, Simmental Eastern Regionals, Marshfield Fair, Bolton Fair, and the Big E. Lily also won a number of showmanship awards with Josie.
In a field where the competition can pay five figures for their steers and hire professionals to show them alongside young people like Lily, the Dias family recognizes genetics as a factor but knows a bigger role in the success of the animal is the feed they dine on and the care they are given.
or most high school students, their summer vacations are filled with friends, enjoying nights without homework, and maybe working a summer job. However, for the Bristol Aggie Sophomore, Lily Dias of Norton, Massachusetts, it was a summer of Grand Champion Titles as she won competitions throughout the East Coast with her steer and heifers.
Nine years ago while she was just six years old, Lily started showing a number of animals—from goats to pigs and horses— but her true passion has been in showing cattle, specifically Simmentals. The red ones are her favorite. This love started with her cow, Lucy, who she got as a small nine year old who could not even see over Lucy’s head. Lily’s show season spans from the beginning of May through mid-October. This season she showed four animals: Toot, a Simmental steer; and heifers Josie, a Simmental; Coco, a Chi-Maine Cross; and Pebbles, a Holstein. Didn’t believe me about the win34
At the beginning of the season, Lily switched over to a beef formulation from Phoenix Feeds and noticed many changes in her animals. With an ultimate goal of getting her steer to be market ready by the time the Big E rolled around in September, it was important to her that Toot put on weight quickly and steadily. Over the course of the summer, his weight gain averaged 100 pounds a month while putting on muscle and not looking too lanky. She didn’t encounter a weight plateau around 1100 pounds like she had experienced before. Along with weight gain, Lily observed shinier coats and that the animals enjoyed the food; she called it “highly palatable.” She also noted they did not need to supplement with cornmeal or other ingredients as she had in previous feed mixes. Lily, a farmer through and through, enjoys haying, educating others about farming, and is considered a “cow geek.” Her mother, Jodie, encouraged the time she spends with the animals saying “it keeps her out of trouble, teaches her responsibility, hard work, common sense, and throughout her time showing she has gained a new family.” Humble about her accomplishments at such a young age, we chatted about her animals and the season’s successes, but her mind was already on the next. One of the many things Lily is excited to see in the upcoming season: calves grown for their whole lives on feed from Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition. Keep a look out for this young, passionate farmer and her Simmentals at shows next year.
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BY ANN LOUISE SANTOS
ew England native Ariel Garland occupies a unique position at Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition—that of joint employment. The dairy nutritionist and calf and heifer specialist spends half of each month working for Phoenix and the other half working for Purina. Ariel brings fresh enthusiasm to her role, telling Perspectives, “I am excited to bring my previous experience on farm and with Purina to the Phoenix team in a calf and heifer support role. I look forward to having a local presence in the market and providing producers with calf and heifer programs that meet their individualized goals.” While growing up in Massachusetts on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, Ariel was drawn from a young age to pursue a career in the dairy industry. “Growing up, I spent a lot of time next door with my grandparents, who were proud retired farmers. My grandmother still fondly tells me about the registered herd of Holsteins her and my grandfather built and how selling them was one of the saddest days she lived through. So, though I didn’t grow up on a farm I feel like it’s in my blood and I was drawn to it at a young age. I truly enjoy my work because I’m able to problem solve, learn, and provide producers with useful information.” Ariel’s mother encouraged her participation in the local dairy 4-H group, where her passion for the dairy industry truly started—and grew. She adds, “I leased and showed cows from Echo Farm in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. As soon as I could I was milking, feeding, and working in their pudding plant.” After earning an associate’s degree in Dairy Production and Management from SUNY Cobleskill (where she was club president and sale chair of the dairy cattle club, a member of the dairy judging team, and an employee at the campus dairy farm), Ariel transferred to Cornell University. “I finished with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a minor in Ag Business. Luckily, when I transferred to Cornell I had gotten most of my electives out of the way at Coblekill and was able to focus my studies primarily on ag-related courses. I was also active in Cornell’s dairy cattle club and was honored to be on the winning national dairy challenge team.” Since graduation, Ariel hasn’t let the proverbial grass grow under her feet. She accepted a dairy nutrition consulting role with Land O’Lakes Purina Feeds working in Eastern New York, spent a month in Mexico learning Spanish, and assumed a calf and heifer manager role at Woodnotch Farm Inc. in Shoreham, Vermont. After years spent immersed in different areas of the dairy in-
dustry, Ariel has clearly spent time reflecting on the current and future challenges in the field. While she finds it both challenging and fun to be part of the learning and growth needed to keep up with the ever-changing industry, she is also a pragmatist. “I don’t need to tell anyone about the many external challenges facing the dairy industry today that make working in the field a challenge. In today’s world, where most consumers are so far removed from farming, we not only face milk pricing challenges but consumer-related concerns that directly influence business decisions being made on farm. I believe these external challenges will only become heavier and that will make it even more important to work with farm teams to control internal factors influencing farm success.”
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