Hello, my name is Kelly Hendrickson. I am a 6th generation dairy farmer. Our family farm, Broughton Farm Operations LLC, has been in operation for over 100 years (they even named the road after us!). Our farm was a small farm when my dad, Colin, took it over, we only milked a few hundred cows. My Father had bigger plans for the small operation that his dad built.
I returned to the farm in 2004 after i left to go to school for massage therapy and worked off the farm for some time. My husband Doug joined me at the farm in 2013. He was a hoof trimmer by trade (he gave cows pedicures) when we met. This is a very important job on the farm, the girls must be comfortable to make the healthiest milk possible. He is a second generation hoof trimmer so cows are a big part of how we both grew up.
We have a lot of ladies- 2,700 of them to be exact. So i guess you could say we really love cows. We have a mixed breed herd with Holstein, Jersey, and Lineback cows.
Doug and I are raising our daughter, Everlee, here because farm life is the best life. She loves the cows, being outside, and helping with chores. We want to carry on the tradition of farming with our family. Even though we are a larger operation it is still very much a family farm. My sister does the book keeping and my dad is teaching us all he knows about farming. He still works with us everyday as my husband and i take over the farm. Everlee comes to work with us everyday. It is truly a family affair! We don't do it all though, we have about 50 employees that are fantastic and are more like family than employees.
You maybe wondering by now how we keep track of all those cows and make sure they are okay? The answer is easy- Technology! Many people don’t realize that the dairy industry is very high-tech. See that beautiful Lineback (the cow with the white face and freckles) in the photo above? She is wearing that pretty blue necklace that is a activity collar (think of it as a Fit Bit for cows).This is a lot more then a accessory for our girls, it tells us how many hours a day she walks and sleeps. This helps us know when she is in heat as she will have high activity. This is also a very valuable tool for our herdsman they use the low activity list to tell them who may not be feeling well. That way they can go look for the girls that are not well within 6 hours of her not feeling quite right. She may have a sore foot, tummy ache or something else wrong that needs immediate attention. The Herdsman are like the nurses at the doctors office, they go get the girls and examine them. If they determine the cow to have a major sickness they will call the Veterinarian to come and diagnose the cow for them. In the meantime till the vet gets to the farm they will administer medication to help keep her comfortable. Then once the vet decides the diagnosis they will possibly administer more medications and care for the cow until she is back to normal. This all takes place in the hospital barn which is a completely different building from where the healthy milk cows are housed. The hospital barn has all that it needs to care for these girls till they are better. They have nice beds, a separate milking parlor where the treated cows are milked so no sick cows milk, which could contain antibiotics or other medications, is ever sold. We also have a computer where every treatment is recorded so that no sick animal is ever returned to the barn before all the medication is out of her system.
All the cows have a little white button (photo left) in their ears. This is a RFID button. The RFID button is a mini computer chip that they all get when they are babies (photo right). Think of it like a social security number for each cow. As babies, like the photo right, they’re in a robotic auto feeder barn that feeds the babies fresh milk on demand (this is a whole other post!) So this little white button is used from shortly after birth right through mature cows(the milking cows).
RFID is used in the milking parlor to ID all the cows at each milking. Each stall in the parlor has a grey RFID reader mounted on them (in photo right). This tells us how much milk each cow gives at each milking. This is very valuable information because along with the activity level we talked about above, if a cow is not feeling well she will not give as much milk as she normally would. The cows milk weight and flow rate (how fast they milk out) can tell us a lot about how the cow is feeling. This is a very valuable tool in helping ensure that the cows are healthy. This RFID also ensures that the cow is not milked if she accidentally gets turned out before the medications are out of her system. If a treated cow comes in the parlor the computerized milking unit will not allow our employees to milk her. This is to ensure we are always selling the healthiest, safest milk possible to the milk co-op.
Most of our milk is sold to become fluid milk but some of it the Jersey milk goes to a local cheese plant to be turned into string cheese because of it's high protein and butter fat content!
Healthy cows make healthy milk so we do all we can to keep the girls healthy and stress free.
We have a network of two main computer programs that are hooked to ensure cow health and medication withdrawals are followed. This is our family business and we take pride in producing a safe and healthy product for the public. Each cow has a cow card to record all the events of her lifetime (photographed below). We are very thorough to be sure every cow is tested in the hospital barn to ensure no drug residue is in her system even though her milk withhold maybe up. Our policy is to ensure a quality product is consistently delivered. Each of the three semi trailers of milk that we ship daily are also tested by the milk truck driver before he departs the farm with the milk. This ensures that the milk in the store NEVER has any antibiotics in it. We are also a BST free herd.Most herds are and have been for sometime as the milk co-ops no longer accepted milk with BST. Happy Cows milk well without extra hormones.
Another key to happy cows is a good TMR (Total Mixed Ration). Cows are very much like children, they will only eat the good stuff if given the choice. So what you see is a TMR. Think of it as a well balance meal with vitamins and minerals. We put a special concentrate in the ration that has extra protein,vitamins and minerals. This is added to haylage, corn silage, Dry corn, Cottonseed, canola and Soy. This is all done with great detail and consistency because this also is very high tech. We have a dairy nutritionist who custom formulates the diet according to the needs of the cows according to where they are in lactation. This diet balances fat, protein, fiber, starch according to how much intake (pounds of feed the cows are eating). Think of it as balancing the diet for the number of calories the girls are eating a day. This formula is plugged into a computer that transmits to a feed truck with a scale that tells the feeder person what to add to the mix and exactly how much, like a recipe. This ensures a consistent meal is put in front of the ladies every time. They have a private chef for every meal! They love it they will all jump up and run to the feed bunk when the truck pulls up.
Hopefully you learned a little about our life, our farm and what a real working dairy is like. We may have a lot of cows but with the help of a lot of technology it is easy to be sure all our girls are happy and healthy. Our cows, our employees, and our family depend on us doing a good job at producing quality milk.
Kelly Hendrickson, Managing Partner, Broughton Farms Operations LLC