Clay Moden’s Tour Of Niefergold Dairy in Lawtons, NY [VIDEO]
In honor of Labor Day, let's look at some of the hardest working men and women around -- those families that still struggle with family farms.
It seems that the only time we read about farms these days is when they are going in to foreclosure, have fallen on hard times or when humane societies have been called in to remove animals from squalor or abusive situations. That's a real shame and the hard working men and women of the agricultural industry deserve praise, especially in our current social/economic climate.
Dave and Emily Niefergold were kind enough to let me take a brief tour of Niefergold Dairy in Lawtons, NY and I left with a renewed appreciation for what they do. The moment I walked in the milk barn, I was greeted by two of their four daughters that were hard at work cleaning around the Lely Automatic Milking Machine. (These machines aren't cheap. But in an effort to gain the most that a dairy farm like Niefergold's can get out of their cows, adding technology has become an investment and necessity.) It's one of two machines they installed to increase milk production and help to free up time for Dave and Emily to take care of other tasks.
"We are more than just the guys with the cows," Emily told me. "On the farm we have other jobs like carpentry, landscaping, plumbing and don't forget, parenting that we need time for," she explained. After a few of these farm tours it is clear that many are cutting back on paid staff and having to adjust their daily schedules to get everything done that needs to get done.
Beyond his responsibilities on the farm, Dave does plenty of custom work for other farms around Western New York which includes custom planting of crops and custom corn chopping. With as many as 1200 acres of his own to tend to, the cliche that there "ain't enough time in a day" is all to familiar.Having a large family with a farm background certainly comes in handy.
Dave's father Martin "retired" from farming years ago but is still a major help around the Niefergold Farm these days. "He's out here feeding the cows every afternoon," Dave tells me. And Dave's cousin Jimmy is also in the barn most days. "Jimmy really has a handle on the technology out here." Dave explained. "He is excellent with the computer and really knows a lot about cows and dairy."
Hands Off My "Smart" Milk Machine...
I only had a short conversation with Jimmy but some of the things he told me make perfect sense. Jimmy was pretty clear, "It's seems to me the biggest problem facing us (farmers) today is the ignorance that so many in the public have. Our goal first and foremost is to give these cows the most care and comfort we can.They are our income and the better they do, the better we do" Jimmy went on to say,"A healthy cow is the first priority of any responsible dairy farmer."
Watching the two "Astronaut" machines at work is truly mesmerizing. Lely describes it's machine as "self-contained and a configuration with two cow units can span a distance up to thirty metres which ensures much more freedom and space for the positioning of the units in the barn." The Niefergold's herd of cows move freely about the barn that at one time featured stalls. The cows simply have freedom to move around and come to be milked at their own discretion. Jimmy tells me "the cows know when they give milk, they also get grain so it's almost like a cow traffic jam to be next in line."
The computer informs the farm as to what cows have/have not been milked and only allows a cow a certain amount of milking per day.The Lely Machines that Jimmy watches over on Niefergold's farm detect imperfections in the milk (if there is any) and will send out an alert with any such detection. Even the milk that is stored prior to it's daily pick-up is kept at a constant, safe temperature to ensure quality.
Here's To Your Health...
Much propaganda is aimed at getting consumers to think that animal cruelty is common rather than the exception in the world of agriculture. It's a claim that dairy farmers know is not only ignorant, it's irresponsible. According to healthyeating.org...
"A diet rich in protein and vitamin D contributes to bone health. Due to their high protein, vitamin D, and calcium content, dairy foods are a good choice for maintaining strong bones.
A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, with reduced saturated fat, is as effective as some medications in reducing blood pressure in people with increased blood pressure. It has also been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
Cultured dairy products like yogurt contain probiotics which provide a wide array of health benefits. Probiotics in the diet can enhance the good bacteria in the gut, improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases."
"People need to realize where their food comes from," Dave added.
It wasn't long in to my tour of Niefergold Dairy before Emily made sure to point out a challenge that I think we can all take on. "I challenge consumers to thank a a farmer for the food that they eat. The cheese they eat on pizza, the butter for popcorn, ice cream and even the clothing that they wear, got to them because of a farmer." Because dairy is a perishable product, the need for milk is always present. However, as I've mentioned in other blogs, the demand is not what it has been in past years.
A Calf Born By C-Section?
Emily grew up farming and worked for Dave's dad Martin.She met Dave and the two eventually got married in 2002 and have four beautiful girls Holly, Kelly, Ashley and Ally (and a baby on the way), who are all involved in daily chores. It seems to me that their favorite job is helping with the calves. One calf they showed me was born via cesarean section. "Snowflake (the kids named her) had a mom who became unable to walk and the vet suggested we take the calf early. She performed the first c-section we ever had on our farm and we welcomed Snowflake a couple weeks earlier than expected." I was impressed by the attention these calves received and how closely the cows that were about to give birth are watched.
Part of the tour took me to the barn where a pair of calves had been born just two hours prior to my visit. Only 3% of dairy cows give birth to twins and having twin female calves is even more of an exciting thing for The Niefergolds. These cows will (eventually) add to what is already a very productive milk output.