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Cowabunga 5k and Family Dairy Day

Cowabunga 5k and Family Dairy Day

Sunday, June 25, 2017 The day starts with a family-friendly 5k race around Back Cove in Portland, beginning and ending at Fleet Feet on Marginal Way at 9 a.m. There will be many prizes and plenty of chocolate milk for the racers. Stick around for our Family Dairy Day in the Fleet Feet parking lot from 10 a.m. – noon. It’s an opportunity to meet dairy farmers, pet a calf, make some ice cream and more. Admission to the Family Dairy Day is free and open to everyone. Cost to register for the 5k is $5 for children 17 and younger until June 1, when the price will go up to $10. Cost for adults 18 and older is $10 until May 1, $15 May 1- May 31 and $20 June 1-June 25. Registration on-line is available until 7 p.m. on June 24. Registration will be available on the day of the race 7 a.m.-8:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Fleet Feet. Please come early. Race packet pick up will begin at 7:30 a.m., also at Fleet Feet. The race course will begin at Fleet Feet Sports, heading from Bayside Trail next to Fleet Feet, out to Back Cove with a turnaround at Mile 1.5, and finishing on the Bayside Trail next to Fleet Feet. T-shirts will be guaranteed only to those who register by June 1, remainders will be first come, first serve. Profits from the race will go to the Reiche Community School’s summer food pantry, which is part of the Milk2MyPlate program. Register on-line. For more information, e-mail jami@drinkmainemilk.org or call...

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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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Duron Harmon encourages students to take the time for breakfast and exercise

Duron Harmon encourages students to take the time for breakfast and exercise

Put down the cell phones and take the time to eat breakfast and be active each day, New England Patriots’ free safety Duron Harmon told a crowded auditorium of Westbrook High School students on Thursday, March 30. “Eating breakfast in the morning takes 10, 15 minutes. Exercising takes an hour. All we got to do is put down our cell phones and do it,” he said as the crowd erupted into applause. Harmon was at the school as part of a Fuel Up to Play 60 assembly, celebrating school breakfast and the achievements of Angelica Johns, a freshman at WHS and the state ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program in Maine. Funded by dairy farmers across the nation, Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage youth to lead healthier lives and empower them to make a difference within their school’s wellness environment. It has given Johns and fellow WHS student Madison Damon, who was the state ambassador two years ago, the opportunity to travel to regional and national leadership summits and meet like-minded students from across the country. Damon also recently received a $7,500 SAP Bill McDermott College Scholarship thanks to her involvement with Fuel Up to Play 60. This year, Johns championed for a breakfast cart at the school to give students a second chance at grabbing a healthy breakfast in the morning if they did not choose to eat in the cafeteria when they first arrived at the school.   Harmon referenced research that has shown that students are more focused and perform better in school when fueled by a healthy breakfast in the morning, even if it’s “just a banana and yogurt.” “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he said. “It gives you energy to accomplish the things you want to do, to improve academic performance and test scores.” He also stressed the importance of being active for a minimum of 60 minutes each day, not only to stay in shape but as a way to build confidence and self esteem. “We live in a world that wants to tear everybody down. I love social media; I’m on social media, but if you ever look at the things that are going on in social media and how people are always clowning people, want to just talk down to them, that’s the world we live in,” he said. “You’re going to be in a world, where you have your goals and you have your dreams and not everybody is going to see your vision, and at the same time, they are going to try to tear it down. If you could do something like physical activity that could build your confidence up so that you have the confidence to stand up to them and let them know, ‘You are not going to knock down my dream. You’re not going to tell me I can’t do this. I’m going to do whatever I want to.’”     Harmon said that exercise or physical activity didn’t mean they have to go to the gym to work out each day. It could be as simple as playing a pickup game of basketball with friends, throwing a Frisbee or going for a run or a walk. He added that physical activity is also a stress reliever, and high school students can experience a great deal of stress. By taking the time to eat breakfast, which would allow students to better learn and continue to...

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Put Your Best Fork Forward

Put Your Best Fork Forward

By Anne L’Heureux, Registered Dietitian and sponsored Moo Squad athlete.  Ah March, a wonderful time of year. We are over the hump of winter, the days are getting longer, and I’m fully gearing up for race season. As a Dietitian, March also means it’s National Nutrition Month. Nutrition is important every month of the year, but in March, Dietitians all across the country rev up their campaigns of why good nutrition is so important. I am lucky enough to be a newly sponsored athlete of the Moo Squad and couldn’t think of a better way to kick things off. This year’s theme for NNM is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”. Whenever I have told someone to put their best foot forward, I am encouraging them to be their best self, show me what they’ve got, leave it all out there! This is the approach I take for every race I compete in. If this approach helps us perform better, get a better job, be a better spouse or parent, then can’t it help us with better nutrition too? Of course it can. So let’s all put our best fork forward! Sticking with the fork theme (forks having four prongs) I have decided to give you four ways in which I put my best fork forward every day. Plan: The successes that I have had comes with much planning. I plan my race season. I plan my weekly workouts. I break those weekly workouts down and plan them into my days. I plan my meal timing around work and training. And I plan what I eat around getting the right foods, in the right amounts, all day long. As a result, I have improved my race times, improved my body composition, and decreased the number of days when I am unable to eat nutritiously. Am I asking you to be this fanatic about it? (Of course I would love if everyone did!) The reality is that planning isn’t that hard. It just takes time and consistency in order to build habits. I started by planning my meals, because as a Dietitian that’s just what I do. So I stopped leaving meals and snacks up to chance, and began packing my food for the day, every day of the week. Each day I look at my schedule, figure out how long I will be away from home, and pack enough good foods to get through. Breakfast at home, yogurt & fruit mid-morning, a hearty salad with a side of cottage cheese for lunch, a pre workout smoothie made with milk, and post workout chocolate (or sometimes coffee flavored) milk, and a sensible dinner. If it has been a particularly active day, I’ll have a delicious evening snack of cinnamon sprinkled cherries atop some greek yogurt. As long as I’ve planned my food appropriately, I am full of energy all day long. As a result, staying focused at work and still having energy for training is easy! Be consistent: The plan above is great, but if it’s sporadic, then so are my results. And I can’t have that. Being consistent is how actions that used to feel like chores (planning, prepping, timing) turn into habits. And when something is habit, it’s easy. You do it without thinking. Once you do it without thinking, you start to see results. If I could pick one thing that has truly contributed to my long term success, it is my consistency. Eat for nutrition: As a Dietitian, I see a lot of clients. Many of them want to improve their performance, lose weight, or both. Our...

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#FarmLove on Bò Lait Farm

#FarmLove on Bò Lait Farm

The story of how Alexis and Conor MacDonald became dairy farmers is a pretty cool one, but they have really got to come up with something better for how they met. “We met in a bar,” Alexis says. “It was very romantic.” Despite a ho-hum start to this love story, it gets better. The two met in North Carolina, where Conor was stationed in the Army and Alexis was attending a girlfriend’s wedding. “We both thought it wouldn’t amount to anything,” Alexis says.  She was living in D.C. at the time, but the next weekend Conor went to the Walter Reed Medical Center to visit a buddy, and he and Alexis were able to meet up and go on a date. So began their long distance relationship, which got even longer when Conor moved to Florida and then was deployed to Afghanistan. Alexis completed her graduate school studies in social work in May 2014 and moved to Florida a couple of months later. For most of their relationship, Alexis and Conor were planning their future, deciding they wanted to farm. After 8 years in the Army, Conor would be leaving the military that winter. They had settled on dairy farming. “We knew we wanted to be doing something with animals,” Alexis says. “That drew both of us in more than vegetables.” “To get a loan, we need a market,” says Conor, adding that Organic Valley provided that market. “We didn’t want a hobby farm; we wanted a business.” Growing up in New Hampshire, Conor’s family had what he calls a “hobby farm,” which included a couple of milk cows over the years. “So, I at least knew how to move a cow, which is kind of a big thing,” he said. And dairy farming is in his blood. “My ancestors milked cows in Canada.”   “I rode horses,” Alexis chuckles of her previous livestock experience. “I always liked cows though. Now, I think they are hilarious.” They also knew they wanted to be in mid-coast Maine. “We had come up and visited a few times and loved it,” Conor says. “It reminded me of Nova Scotia, where my family lived.” They searched for nearly two years to find their current home in Washington. They moved here in February 2015. The barn itself was in excellent shape, but that was about it. Cows had been milked on the farm back in the 70s in tie stalls. The milk room, where milk is kept in a bulk tank, was falling in and the lines through which the milk would pass from the barn to the milk room had completely rusted. But the MacDonalds were able to purchase milking parlor equipment second hand, and they have made several improvements and added a new open air barn for the cows to come and go as they please and new housing for heifers and calves. They had a crash course in dairy farming, spending a week with Mike Moody on his farm in Whitefield. And by April 2o15, they were ready to bring in the first animals – nine first-calf heifers. “They were wild,” Alexis says of the young cows. “It would have been easier to have a moose,” Conor adds. Alexis works off the farm, using her social work degree in Augusta. While she works two days a week now, she started out full time. “I had just started my job and one calved right after they got here,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘Well, I guess I will milk the cow now. Then I will go to work and then come home...

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Dairy farmers ensuring a quality product

Dairy farmers ensuring a quality product

Joel Huff’s motto to live by might be “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This hits me as I wait for him and his father to ready the barn and let the cows come in for evening milking at the Wellington farm. The barn is swept clean with fresh shavings in the tie stalls and various implements and tools are hanging neatly on the wall. In the dooryard, the tractors and skid steer are parked in an orderly fashion as is the apparent evening ritual. For farmers Andrew Smith and Caitlin Frame of The Milkhouse Farm and Dairy in Monmouth, their motto might be “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” They know a cow’s health goes far beyond treating illnesses or injuries. The quality of her diet, her comfort, the cleanliness of barns and bedding and milking facilities, keeping her vaccinations up to date, sticking to a routine and using best practices in the milking parlor all play a factor. And both farms adhere to the old standby of “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” “You’re invested in it; they’re not,” says Huff of potential employees. He relies on himself to do most of the work, with his father jumping in to help with chores and milking, and his 16-year-old daughter Alex helping with milking on Sundays to give her grandfather a break. “We’re very particular about milking procedure,” Smith says of The Milkhouse. He partners with neighboring farmer Gregg Stiner, who also owns some of the cows in the herd and helps with the milking. “We both own cows and are invested in this. It’s borderline anal retentive behavior.” The diligence at the Huff farm and The Milkhouse has paid off with both receiving high marks in milk quality. The Huff’s are usually No. 1 or 2, at the very least they get a certificate, for the Agri-Mark co-op in their region, even before Joel took over the reins from his father in 2003, the farm had a reputation for quality and high standards. Although they have been working in the region at other dairy farms for a few years now, Smith and Frame started milking cows on their own farm in August 2015 and have already set the bar high for their operation. They took No. 2 in the nation for milk quality within the Horizon co-op in November 2016. Both farms milk 35 to 40 cows. The main indicator of milk quality is somatic cell count. Somatic cells are present in a healthy animal, but a body will produce more somatic cells in response to a possible infection that needs to be fought off. In a dairy cow, that can be mastitis or an infection in the udder. Milk is tested for a variety of factors, and if a farmer sees a spike in somatic cell test results, he or she will take a closer look to see if an issue needs to be addressed. Smith and Huff both have milk quality results available to them online. Smith uses Dairy One to have individual cow testing done once a month. And he tests every cow after she calves.  “That way I know how every single cow is doing,” Smith said. “Especially their somatic cell count.” If a cow isn’t up to snuff, her milk is segregated from the rest of the herd’s until the problem is taken care of. Every time Huff’s milk is picked up and taken to the processing plant, it is tested and the results are available through his co-op’s site. “If there’s...

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