Mapledale Farm, Part II
As we walked the farm, we learned more about the Green family. John’s grandfather lives just above the main farm, and still works driving and offering advice as needed. John’s mother is in charge of the calves, and the children also assist with taking care of them. That is part of the equation of operating a dairy – the farm has to be big enough to support all of the family members depending on it, including the potential farmers-to-be and the retired farmers. So, farms, like all other businesses, must grow to accommodate that. Even so, 98% of dairy farms in the United States remain family owned.
The process of milking is pretty interesting – great care is taken to clean the cow, which signal’s to the cow and helps them relax so they can be comfortably milked. It takes about 8 minutes to milk a cow, and they produce on average about 70-80 pounds (or 8 gallons) of milk per day. Cows are eager to be milked and need very little help moving into the milking barn and getting into the herringbone pattern stalls that make the operation effective and safe. The milk goes into a holding tank that cools it off quickly. The Garelick Farms tanker truck picks up the milk at a specific time and brings it back to the processing plant in Rensselaer, twice per day, every day, Christmas Day, bad weather day – no breaks. The tanker arrived while we were at the farm, and we saw the same tanker at the plant that same day, literally following the milk from cow to cup!Talking with John’s children Casey, Wyatt and Katie, they shared that they started helping at the farm when they were old enough and strong enough to carry a feed pail for the calves. Their mom and one other sibling were on a field trip the day we visited. We finished our tour by visiting those young calves, one of which was just 3 days old. All are some variation of black and white, they are all Holsteins, like all of the cows on Mapledale Farm. In their little huts, they are protected from being bumped in the big barn and can be monitored and fed most efficiently. Casey Green, 17, helps feed them and shared how they bottle feed them to start and gradually shift them over to pail feeding, really letting the calf determine when to move from bottle to pail. One of the calves knew just who she was and called to her pretty loudly the entire time we were learning about them – he was a little indignant that she didn’t have a bottle for him! Mapledale Farm has received a very rare rating of 100% from the USDA – which means that they have met the highest standards for care, cleanliness and quality. That care was again very evident when I asked Casey what she liked the best about her role – she shared that when she feeds the calves at 6 AM, and the sun peeks over the mountain and puts a glow on everything – it was gorgeous and she was glad she was there. ‘Nuff said!