Hi, my name is Bethany Borer. I did not grow up on a dairy farm, but I worked on one through high school and college. I knew nothing about farming, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with everything about it. I knew someday I wanted to marry a farmer and lucky for me, I met my farmer in high school. We are now married and raising our three children on my husband’s family farm in Freedom, New York.
Our farm setup is a little different than most. Our main farm is in Freedom, which is our home base. We have two satellite farms located in Arcade and Portageville. In Freedom, we milk 1,000 Holsteins and a few Jerseys, which are our kids’ 4-H projects. Our cows are divided into six different groups. Five of those groups are milking groups. They get to sleep on comfy mattresses bedded with sawdust. One group prefresh group. Our prefresh cows do not get milked. They are on a paper-and-sawdust bedded pack, where they rest, drink and eat, for two months until they are ready to have their calves.
Part of my job is to make sure our calves start out on the right hoof, by getting the right care from birth. We currently do not have the facilities to raise our own calves at the Freedom farm. When calves are three days old, they go to our heifer grower, where he will raise them until they are pregnant and ready to come back here to have their baby. Our milking parlor is a double-12 herringbone, which started as a double-six in 1973. It was one of the first parlors in the area. Our second location is in Arcade, where we milk 1,000 cows in a double-12 parallel parlor. There are six milking groups, and they get to sleep on sand bedded stalls. We do not calve any cows at the Arcade site. Our third farm is in Portageville, where we milk 1,200 cows in two double-15 parallel parlors. We have 10 milking groups, whose stalls are bedded with recycled manure solids. We also have a paper bedded prefresh group.They will calve here, and we will raise calves in hutches on the Portageville farm.
It might seem challenging to keep track of all these cows, when they are in three different locations. Here’s how it works: each cow is given a number at birth, and that number is stored in a computer. We can type in the number of the cow and keep track of everything about her. We can see how much milk she has made, when she needs vaccines, or her feet trimmed, if she has ever been sick, and so many other things. It’s their own “medical record.” Each farm has its own computer and those computers are linked together, so we can look up a cow’s information where ever we are.
How else do we keep track of everything? We are lucky enough to have an awesome team at each farm. Each farm has a manager and a cow staff, known as the herdsman or herdswoman. Our cow staff will spend time each day walking through each group of cows. They look at each cow, checking whether they are chewing their cud, if their eyes and ears look good, their breathing, etc. Any cow that looks off is taken to a separate pen for a more thorough examination.They will take her temperature, check her heart, lungs, and stomach with a stethoscope. They will then treat her accordingly, by recommendation and strict protocol from our vet.
I know consumers sometimes worry their milk may contain antibiotics, but any cow we treat with medicine will be placed in our hospital group. Our hospital group is milked separately from the rest of the herd, and their milk is dumped straight down the drain. One thing I hope consumers understand more than anything, is that their milk will never contain any antibiotics. Each milk tank goes through testing and if there was any trace of antibiotics, the tank is immediately dumped.
At Edelweiss Farms, cow comfort and care is our number one priority. Each month we get together with our team – farm managers, vet,feeder, and nutritionist – to discuss how each farm is functioning. We look at areas of success and areas in need of improvement. We make sure to go the extra mile to provide our cows with everything needed to produce high-quality milk for consumers.
Without a doubt, June – Dairy Month – is my favorite time on the farm! I get to use my teaching degree to host schools on the farm. Last year we had 500 visitors at the farm. We set up hands-on stations around the farm and rotate through them. We make it a fun learning experience for everyone. I absolutely love sharing the truths of dairy farming and showing people the pride we take in making quality products for them. It’s truly rewarding when you run into someone in town, or receive a letter saying, “This was the best field trip ever! We learned so much about farming that we never knew before!”
Farming is not an easy job. It’s extremely unpredictable! Sometimes you have plans to be somewhere, and sometimes they fall through. Farming is dedication, and it is based on faith that God will provide.We have no control over the weather or how our crops will grow. Even though sometimes the bad outweighs the good, I wouldn’t trade raising our children on the farm for anything. I pray that one day they will want to follow in our footsteps and teach their children the love for farming.