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Anything but just a number

Anything but just a number

Though Taylor Dairy Farm is home to a large herd of cattle, each animal gets individual attention. With nearly 1,800 Jersey cattle on his family’s farm in St. Alban’s, one would think it would be difficult for Ben Taylor to know each animal individually. Thanks to the latest software though, he can find out all he wants at the touch of a finger, including the exact number of cattle on the farm (1,779 on the day I visited). Through an app called Pocket Cow Card, he can look up a cow on his phone and instantly know how many days she’s been milking since she had her last calf, who her sire and dam (Mom and Dad) are, what her reproductive status is, how much milk she is giving, how many calves she has had, where she is housed on the farm and more. An ID chip in her ear transmits more information, particularly about her health, to the farm’s computers. Ben comes onto the farm each morning, connects to the wi-fi and has an updated report. “It’s essential with a herd this size,” Ben says of the technology. About 800 cows are milked on Taylor Farm with the rest of the herd being calves, young stock and dry cows (milk cows on their annual two-month vacation before they have their calf). The Taylors also rely on a close relationship with their veterinarian, who happens to live just up the road, and their cows’ nutritionist to ensure their herd is peak condition. After high school, Ben went to UMaine at Orono with the intentions of graduating with a degree in engineering. “That lasted for about a semester and a half before I realized I missed the farm and wanted to be here.” He switched his major to sustainable agriculture with a minor in animal science, graduating in 2014. Now, he wishes he had majored in animal science and finds that he enjoys his time most on the farm when he is able work hands on with the cows.   On the Taylor Farm, Ben works alongside his father, two uncles and a cousin. They also have nine hired employees. Ben’s time is rarely spent milking or feeding the milking herd. His tasks vary, though they do include feeding the calves and heifers, moving cows and younger stock from pen to pen or barn to barn depending on her status (heifer, milking, dry cow, high end milker, low end milker), or depending on the season, he might spend hours in a tractor or truck planting or harvesting the farm’s 800 acres of corn or 500 acres of haylage. “No two days are ever the same,” he says. He also does much of the breeding on the farm, along with his father and uncles. He enjoys the challenge of studying the animals’ genetics and deciding what bull to breed which cows to with the ultimate goal of creating the best possible dairy cow – one with good feet, strong legs, a healthy udder and the potential to produce a great deal of milk among other traits. “There are certain days that I don’t LOVE it,” Ben says of working on a dairy farm. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”...

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26.2 Miles of Memories Fueled by Milk

26.2 Miles of Memories Fueled by Milk

By Ashley Sears, Moo Squad athlete sponsored by the Maine Dairy Promotion Board With the turning of the calendar and the dawn of a new year, we look towards the future and set goals that we hope to accomplish over the next 365 days. These goals may be necessary due to health, finances, family, etc., while others offer us the opportunity to challenge ourselves and try new activities, travel somewhere we’ve never been, start a different professional career track, or set a goal that is out of our comfort zones. I, along with my Moo Squad teammates, set forth our goals when we became members of the Maine Dairy Promotion Board’s team of athletes for our training, running/swimming/biking, events, and health and wellness. At the top of my list was to train and run my second marathon. In May of 2014, I trained for and ran my first marathon in Burlington, Vermont. The Vermont City Marathon offered rolling hills, great crowd support, and racing along the waterfront of Lake Champlain. The marathon is famous for its uphill climb at Mile 18 on Battery Street, a hill that never seems like it’s going to end. I was running well until that point in my race and unfortunately, the hill got the best of me. My calf muscles suffered as I tend to lose a lot of salt while I run, and I didn’t account for this in my training or hydration along the course. The last five miles were tough, as I was forced to run/walk and received assistance from EMTs on the course for my seizing calves. I finished the race with a final time of 4 hours, 18 minutes, and 29 seconds (4:18.29), and many running lessons learned along the way. I knew that I had a better race in me and that I could adjust my training to account for hydration, speed/pacing, and conditioning. Three years later, the urge to begin training for another marathon hit me and I signed up on February 13th (early Valentine’s Day present to myself?) for the Erie Marathon in Erie, PA. The course description reads “Flat, Fast & Fun, our course provides beautiful views of Lake Erie as well as the City of Erie Bayfront and miles of coastline beaches, marshes and wooded paths. Held on Presque Isle, in Erie, PA, many of our participants return year after year to run in our race and enjoy the natural beauty our location provides.” Based on the course description and articles I read in Runner’s World magazine, I knew this would be my next marathon. Beginning in April of 2017, I started an 18-week training plan written by long distance runner guru Hal Higdon. The plan called for three days of running during the week, a day of cross training, a long run day, and two rest or additional cross training days. I took one rest day per week and used the extra rest day for strength training and stretching. With gradual progressions in terms of distance and pace, I only suffered minor shin splints and otherwise, found the plan to be very realistic and flexible with my schedule. This plan helped me prepare and feel ready to toe the line on September 10th in Erie. When the morning of the race arrived, I was anxious and excited for what the day held in store. I was nervous going to bed that evening so I didn’t sleep the best, but felt awake and ready the next morning after consuming my pre-race breakfast ritual of a blueberry English muffin and powdered peanut butter with...

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Highland Farms in Cornish named Green Pasture Award Winner

Highland Farms in Cornish named Green Pasture Award Winner

Highland Farms, Inc. in Cornish has a long, interesting history in the Maine dairy farming community, and with the upcoming generations, their future looks to be just as enduring. Family member and dairy farmer Libby Bleakney says she is proud that the family has been able to “maintain our beautiful, well-kept farm so that we have the next generations coming back to farm with us.” That, in part, is the reason the farm was selected as the New England Green Pastures winner for Maine 2017 is Highland Farms, Inc. in Cornish.  Bleakney is a member of the fifth generation on the farm and works alongside the fourth (her mother Allaire) and sixth (which includes her daughters Jennifer and Johanna) generations. The seventh generation is currently being raised on the farm and already starting to help out (once they are big enough). Dairy farms winning the Green Pastures Award are recognized and selected for their production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying. Highland Farms was established in 1886 by Wyer and Fred Pike with three registered cows and one bull and is the oldest continuously registered Jersey herd in the US. Their vision was that any future generation that wanted to farm would have land and support from the farm to farm. The dairy farm currently milks 250 Jersey cattle.   Today, Highland Farms, Inc. owns the buildings and property with three other business entities running the dairy, logging and trucking operations. The farm is owned and operated by Libby Bleakney, her brother Daniel Palmer and their two cousins David and Lorie Pike; each person has responsibility for a portion of the farm operations. Cattle are housed in freestall barns with sidewall curtains that provide control of the environment in the barn and are fed a complete ration free choice consisting of forages grown on the farm’s 300 acres of corn and grass supplemented with grains, minerals and vitamins. A thousand acres of woodland is one of the resources for Highland Farms Inc. and the logging operation. Highland Farms has been a leader in conservation practices. With the farm on a sidehill overlooking Mt. Washington, crops are grown in strips of corn and grass. Water from the roofs and driveways is diverted away from the manure areas. Water and manure from the barns and feedlot areas is moved to a liquid manure pit for use as a fertilizer on cropland. A nutrient management plan specifies the amount of liquid manure needed for crop needs for each acre. Highland Farms is a closed herd that utilizes artificial breeding; most cows in the herd can be traced back to the original cows purchased to start the farm. The farm is a leader nationally with the breeding and development of two notable bulls, Highland Magic Duncan and Highland Duncan Lester bred on the farm. These bulls have sired over 2,800 registered sons and over 28,000 daughters. Sons of these bulls have sired over 135,000 registered offspring and sons of their daughters have sired another 144,000 offspring reflecting the huge impact on the Jersey breed from this farm in Cornish, Maine.  Highland Farms continues to work with national genetic programs to improve their milk production efficiency. The farm utilizes genomic testing to evaluate animals in their herd for genetic superiority and serving as a bull mother to produce the next top sire from this herd. “We have worked really hard to improve udder depth, feet and legs in my generation,” Bleakney said. All those things are important for a long-lasting milk cow.  “And we...

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Recipes for the 2017-18 School Year

Recipes for the 2017-18 School Year

New ways to help make school meals better than ever. On-trend, fun and tasty school meal recipes are a great way to help ensure every student is fueled and ready to learn. The recipes provide new ways to meet school meal nutrition guidelines. Each includes fat-free Greek yogurt and all help to meet grain, fruit and vegetable servings, too. The recipes are quick-scratch, easy to prepare, designed to help meet school cost restraints, and are suitable for cafeteria service, grab-n-go and Breakfast in the Classroom. These are also suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or snacks. Recipes are brought to you by McCormick, Sodexo, the National Dairy Council and Dannon.   Sriracha_Chicken_SaladWrap   Spiced_Yogurt_Muffins   Ranch_Veggie_Pattie   Peaches_N_Cream_Overnight_Oats   Greek_Yogurt_Banana_Muffins   Fruity_Yogurt_Popsicles   Creamy_Herb_Yogurt_Dressing   Creamy_Arroz_ConPollo   Chipotle_BBQ_3Bean_Salad   Baked_Caribrrean_Lime_FishSticks   Asian_Slaw  ...

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Families, Friends, and Farmers Get Moo-ving for Local Food Pantries

Families, Friends, and Farmers Get Moo-ving for Local Food Pantries

Inaugural Cowabunga 5K & Family Dairy Day attracts participants from nine different states to raise funds for local school food pantries. By Ashley E. Sears, Esq. Sponsore Moo Squad athlete. While Fleet Feet Maine Running on Marginal Way is host to several running events throughout the year, a first took place on Sunday, June 25th, as baby calves, a moo-bile milking parlor, and runners donning dairy-themed costumes could be found in the store parking lot. Participants from across the country gathered to celebrate the inaugural Cowabunga 5K & Family Dairy Day, an event designed to increase awareness about the Maine dairy industry, promote a healthy and active lifestyle that incorporates dairy products, and bring together families, friends, and farmers for a Sunday morning run and activities. The event raised $1,480.60 through registration and donations from runners and agricultural business. Due to raising more funds than anticipated, the money will be donated to Good Shepherd’s Mainers Feeding Mainers Program for not only Reiche Community School’s food pantry as originally intended, but other area schools in the Milk2MyPlate program as well. Milk is the number one requested healthy food item in food pantries, but is often the least donated product due to its short shelf life. The dairy-focused event was hosted by the Maine Dairy Promotion Board (MDPB) and myself, a fourth-generation dairy farmer and Marketing Specialist with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. I currently participate in the Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI) program, a nationally recognized three-phase leader and communication skills development program for young adults (ages 22-45) working in the dairy industry. An avid runner, as part of my YDLI Phase II advocacy plan, I wanted to create an educational forum for consumers to learn about the Maine dairy industry, participate with family and friends in a fun-themed race, and highlight the benefits of low-fat chocolate milk as post-exercise recovery fuel. Milk is nature’s most complete food, as it has nine essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and we wanted to highlight these benefits while providing consumers with the opportunity to meet their local Maine farmers. Maine currently has 246 dairy farms, both conventional and organic, the majority of which are family owned. From enjoying an ice cream cone in the summer, to milk mustaches and family pizza nights, dairy is a part of all of us and the Cowabunga 5K & Family Dairy Day highlighted the many facets of the Maine dairy industry. The morning kicked off with 176 runners hoofing it around Back Cove Trail for a 5K run, with an out-and-back course from Fleet Feet. Participants received low-fat chocolate milk at the finish line, donated by Hood and Oakhurst Dairy, as well as cheddar cheese packets provided by Cabot Creamery. The cold milk and cheese were appreciated by runners after a particularly hot June morning. The first place finisher overall was Bryce Murdick of Falmouth and the first place female was fellow Moo Squader Anne L’Heureux of Biddeford. Awards were also presented to age division winners, the youngest finishers, and for the best costume. After the race, participants and families had the opportunity to interact with baby calves, provided by the Cumberland County 4-H Dairy All-Stars Club, and learn about how calves grow and develop into mature members of the herd. The moo-bile milking parlor was also on sight and gave attendees an inside view into the milking process that takes place on dairy farms in Maine and across the country. Local Maine dairy farmers were on hand to answer questions and could be spotted at the event wearing an “Ask Me, I’m a Farmer” badge....

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An Udder Perspective

An Udder Perspective

Models have to endure all sorts of elements during a photo shoot. Fortunately some models are built to handle weather like that of early spring in Maine better than others. Some of the hardiest include the ladies at Conant Acres in Canton. Paraded out one at a time, several members of the registered Holstein herd were selected to pose for their portrait to be taken by professional cow photographer Jenny Thomas.  Thomas made the trip to Maine recently, scheduling visits to four dairy farms to photograph their bovine beauties.     Of course, when the photos are finished, the barren, frozen landscape (or in the case of the Conants, the paved dooryard in front of their barn) will be replaced by a lush, green summer pasture thanks to a little Photoshop magic. And while it may be more appealing than what was really present that day, everyone looking at the photos will be paying attention to the subject of the photo, not the background. These photos will be used by the farms to market their genetics to sell embryos or calves or young breeding stock. The photos will appear on the farm web site, in sale catalogs, in dairy publication ads, etc. Thomas is well-practiced at highlighting a cow’s best features, which often includes a high, wide udder. Before the photo shoot, she helps to brighten the white of the cow and make the black shine, while also polishing the hooves and looking for any stray hairs. As she looks through her camera lens, she directs members of the Conant family to position the cow just so.   “Move the left foot forward an inch, the right foot half an inch,” she calls out. Dennis Conant was in charge of keeping the cow’s attention facing forward by shaking a grain bucket and making strange noises and waving his arms. “Let her get a whiff of that grain,” Thomas said. “Let her reach for it. Then pull it back.”       The difference between a dairy photo shoot and a fashion photo shoot is that there is no hustle and bustle when it comes to cows. Thomas and the Conant family move slowly and speak easily to keep the ladies calm. “Just let her settle here a second,” Thomas says patiently. “Easy does it.” From Ohio, Thomas grew up on a dairy farm, studied animal science in school, worked in the dairy industry and married into a dairy farm family. Both she and her husband judge cattle, and the family shows their cattle around the country.  Eight years ago, she had the opportunity to train and work with Cybil Fisher of Green Bay, Wis., a well-known dairy photographer. Thomas continues to work for Fisher’s business, taking photos from coast to coast. One might think photographing only cows would get boring. Not so, says Thomas. “Every cow is different,” she says. “It’s always a different challenge.”  And some can be more challenging than others, like the Conant’s cow Randi who has to be reset for the fourth time because she refuses to place her feet on the block. “Those are the fun ones,” Thomas says....

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