dairy farm

Brush Hill Farm – CT Dairy Farm of the Year

Brush Hill Farm – CT Dairy Farm of the Year 2017, UConn Extension Green Pastures Program

By Joyce Meader

Brush Hill Farm family
Brush Hill Farm family and team members.

Looking for cows at Brush Hill Farm? Look no further than the pasture. Other than a few hours a day when the cows are being milked in the barn, they enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and lush greens.

The herd spends their days — and nights – outside, from the moment the grass sprouts in April to the beginning of November, when winter starts to take hold.

The dairy farm in the small town of Bozrah isn’t the biggest dairy farm in the state, but this year, it’s been named Connecticut’s Dairy Farm of the Year, the 2017 Green Pasture Award winner.

The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.

Sarah and her husband, Texas Moon, oversee 35 Holsteins on about 160 acres. The farm’s been in the Brush family since the late 1800s, but while Sarah’s great-grandparents milked Jerseys, her grandfather and father rented the fields to local farmers for haying. Her dad had pigs, with little interest in cows, but Sarah and her husband used to raise heifers on the farm and sell them, then repeat the process.

Finally, in the early 90s, she and Texas rented the farm from her dad. They converted his pig barn to a freestall barn for their cows, started milking and haven’t looked back since.

Their three children were all involved in 4-H, and since this is a family operation, they help out when they can. The oldest, April, earned a degree in agricultural economics and worked on the farm until two years ago. Recent high school graduate Dixie loves being on the farm, says her mother, and is an award-winning member of the National FFA Association, while son Levi, 15, likes tinkering with tractors and other machinery.

Family is the focus of life on the farm, says Sarah, who admits dairying isn’t an easy way to make a living. “But it’s what we want to do,” she explains. “This is our comfort zone, our passion. My mom lives with us here on the farm, and though she’s never been a farmer, she’s part of the farm.”

The Green Pasture Award came as a welcome surprise. “It’s a huge honor to be nominated by our peers,” says Sarah, “and it shows that there is definitely still a place for small ‘ag’ in this country. Small or big – there’s room for all.”

Being a small operation, Brush Hill Dairy relies on community support as a key to success, whether it’s loyal customers showing up to browse the small farm store or the members of Brush Hill’s CSA garden. She and Texas are also gratified by assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has provided financial and other support to help establish the farm’s intensive rotational grazing program, as well as grants for other improvements. “We’re as sustainable as we can possibly be,” says Sarah, and that includes being mindful of the farm’s environmental impact.

But back to those ever-grazing cows. Think they mind being outside in all kinds of weather? As Sarah explains with a laugh, “In the spring, they’re ready to go out, and in November, they’re ready to come back in!”

New England Dairy Conference Scheduled

dairy barn
Mary Margaret Cole at the Kellogg Dairy Barn on Jan. 16, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Join us for the New England Dairy Conference on March 13th:

 

CONFERENCE AGENDA

9:00 am – Registration, Refreshments and Trade Show

9:50 am -Welcome

Dr. Sheila Andrew, Professor, UConn, Department of Animal Science

10:00 am – “New Milk Analysis Technologies to Improve Dairy Cattle Performance’”

Dr. David Barbano, Professor, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

11:00 am – “Use of Milk Fatty Acid Metrics to Make Nutrition and Management Decisions”

Dr. Heather Dann, Research Scientist, W.H. Miner

Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY

12:00 noon “Risk Management Program Updates”

Mr. Joe Bonelli, Associate Extension Educator, UConn Extension

12:15 pm – Introduction of Trade Show Participants

12:30 pm – Lunch and Trade Show

1:45 pm – “Harvest for Profit”

Mr. Tom Kilcer, CCA, Advanced Ag Systems, LLC

3:15 pm – Adjourn

 

FEATURED SPEAKERS

Dr. Heather Dann is a research scientist at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY. She grew up on a dairy farm in New York where she developed a passion for dairy and an appreciation for research. She received a B.S. degree from Cornell University, a M.S. degree from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois. For the past 12 years, her research at the Miner Institute has focused on dairy cow nutrition and management. In particular, she has investigated different types of diets for transition cows to help control feed costs and minimize environmental concerns while promoting animal health and productivity.

Tom Kilcer grew up on a dairy farm in Columbia County, New York. After receiving a B.S. degree in Fisheries Science from Cornell University, he worked on environmental impact studies for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station and Indian Point Energy Center. In 1976, he obtained a second B.S. degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. For 33 years, he was the multi-county Field Crop and Soils Educator and Program Leader at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County, Troy, New York. In 2009, Tom moved to private consulting, with focus on research and education in close cooperation with university and extension specialists. Much of Tom’s effort is to develop crops, rotations, and harvest systems to support high forage dairy diets that enable farms to compete nationally and globally. His innovative work includes wide swath haylage, red clover same day haylage, winter forage production and management, sorghum production and harvest for dairy cows.

 

Dr. David Barbano is a professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. He received his B.S. degree in Biology/Food Science in 1970; his M.S. degree in Food Science in 1973; and Ph.D. in Food Science in 1976, all at Cornell University. He joined the Department of Food Science as an Assistant Professor in 1980. In 1988, he became Director of the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center. He is a member of ADSA, IFT, IDFA, AOACI, IAMFES, IDF, and NYS Association of Milk and Food Sanitarians. He is past president of the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), a fellow of ADSA and the Association of Official Analytical Chemists. He received the Harvey Wiley Award of AOAC in 2010. He is on numerous International Dairy Federation committees for milk analysis.

DIRECTIONS

From Hartford, CT and points South: Take I-91 North. Take Exit 49 to merge onto US-5 N. Use the right lane to merge onto US-5 N. Turn right onto Bright Meadow Boulevard. From Springfield, MA and points North: Take I-91 South. Take Exit 49 for US-5/Enfield Street. Turn left onto US-5 N/ Enfield Street. Turn right onto Bright Meadow Boulevard.

An Equal Opportunity Employer and Program Provider

Issued by the Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, University of Connecticut, Storrs, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. The university is committed to offering reasonable accommodations to persons who have challenges accessing University services and facilities because of a disability. Please ask for reasonable accommodations by contacting the office 14 days prior to the activity.

2016 Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year

cows in pasture
Photo: http://www.smythstrinityfarm.com

Each year the van of judges travels around the state of Connecticut, touring outstanding dairy farms recommended for the Green Pastures Program’s “Dairy Farm of the Year”. The judges are past winners of this award, sponsored by UConn Extension, as well as members of the dairy industry. The day long excursion this year finished at the Enfield dairy farm, Trinity Farm, on Oliver Road. And finally the decision was made over a bowl of UConn ice cream in Storrs. The judges picked Trinity Farm, which has progressed over the years as a farm that markets 100% of the milk directly to consumers, either by home delivery, the retail store on the farm or Farmers Markets at Ellington, New Haven, and Springfield, MA.

The three layers of management: herdsmanship, dairy processing, and product marketing result in long hours and the need for multiple areas of expertise. Anne and her husband, Jeremy, manage the herd production and breeding between Jeremy’s off-farm employment and the needs of a young, growing family. Fluid milk, butter, yogurt, kefir, and cheese are processed at the farm plant built in 1995 which their father, Mike Smyth, manages. Their mom, Dale Smyth, is responsible for the Farmers Markets. Anne’s brother, Sam, manages the wholesale and retail accounts.

A recently built bedded pack barn is providing comfort for the herd between time on the pasture and time for milking in the older 1984 barn. The pack barn was built with assistance by a USDA contract to keep the exercise area covered as a win-win for the environment and the animals. Sam is the hay grower, harvesting seventy acres of hay to supplement the purchased corn silage. Anne and Sam have help from local young people, in the care and milking of the herd.

It was a wonderful end of a day of learning for the judges. Trinity Farm offered flavored milk before we were herded back into the College van. We left with a good feeling about Connecticut’s future for agriculture, with farm families like the Smyths’ leading the way.

Connecticut Dairy Leads New England

By Bernard Dzielinski

President, Fairfield County Extension Council

 

dairy barn
Mary Margaret Cole at the Kellogg Dairy Barn on Jan. 16, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Hoard’s Dairyman recently provided a comprehensive review of total milk production in the United States. The data is summarized in the report by region.

Milk production in 2015 was a new record of 208.6 billion pounds, a modest gain of 1.3 percent. The story of the Northeast, including Connecticut, is that it added 500 million pounds for a 1.7 percent increase in 2015 over production in 2014. The west region had a major decline in milk production due to the California drought.

Statistic highlights for 2015 include that Connecticut dairy farmers lead the dairy farmers in the six New England states in milk production per cow at 20,842 pounds. This record is achieved with 120 dairies and average herd size of 158 cows (Vermont is second at 155 cows per herd). Production per cow beats Vermont by 3 percent. Connecticut dairy farmers also lead in average total milk production per herd at 3,299,983 pounds, beating Vermont by 5 percent.

Connecticut dairy farmers achieved these impressive records with the largest herd size in New England because our farmers are willing to invest and increase herd sizes to produce that recent record of 396 million pounds of milk in 2015. Innovative practices and cow comfort allows our dairy farmers to maximize efficiency. The dairy farmers confidence comes about from support the State of Connecticut provides through the safety net payments in the dairy support fund, which is part of the Community Investment Act.

The Community Investment Act was signed into law in 2005, and the dairy support program began in 2009. It counterbalances the drastic price swings of national milk pricing. According to a study led by UConn and Farm Credit East, dairy production and processing has a $1.3 billion economic impact statewide, and generates 4,286 jobs. As dairy farms continue to thrive, the economic benefits to Connecticut will also grow.