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Franklin County's traditional Dairy Day held in Greencastle

January 08, 1999

Dairy DayBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A comfortable cow is a happy cow, and happy cows produce more milk, according to Dan McFarland, an agricultural engineering agent with the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service.

McFarland was among several speakers Thursday at Franklin County Dairy Day. He told more than 200 dairy farmers at the Kauffman Community Center that keeping cows comfy can improve a dairy farmer's bottom line.

Despite an increasingly diversified economy, agriculture remains a pillar of Franklin County business, and dairy cows reign as the queens of that industry.

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County Dairy Agent Philip Wagner said the dairy industry in Franklin County is second in Pennsylvania only to that in Lancaster County.

According to 1996 figures cited by Wagner, about 475 dairy farms with herds totaling 46,000 animals produced 795 million pounds of milk worth $125 million.

For more than a quarter of a century, farmers have been coming to Dairy Day to find ways to increase production and decrease costs, Wagner said.

McFarland spoke about different options for stall bases, beds and bedding, including the popularity of rubber beds and the need to change bedding more often to reduce infections and sores.

Despite their prodigious production, McFarland said cows like to take it easy.

"Cows want to rest 10 to 14 hours a day, so you need to provide a space that's comfortable, clean and dry," he said.

Cows are also thirsty. McFarland said they drink about 30 gallons a day and need to drink four or five pounds of water to produce a pound of milk. They can suck down three to five gallons a minute and prefer to do so after their numerous feedings and milkings.

Between his lectures, McFarland and a farmer examined a light meter. That discussion was about fooling cows.

"What you're trying to do is mimic a summer day," McFarland said. By adding supplemental lighting, farmers can make cows think the days are longer.

"They tend to get up more, eat more and produce more milk," he said.

Harold Hoffeditz, of Mercersburg, Pa., was one of the farmers soaking up the tidbits.

"You try to find out new ideas - what's coming down the road," said Hoffeditz, who has a herd of 55 animals.

"I usually pick something up, but frankly, there's a lot of reiterating of what's already known," said Stanley Burkholder, a Scotland, Pa., farmer with a herd of 450. He added, however, it can take a few times for a good idea to sink in.

"We came here to round up a little business, just like everybody else," said Alfred Weller, a milk tester from Mercersburg.

"Anything that has to do with cows, we have to be at," said Don Koons, an artificial breeder from Waynesboro, Pa.

About 30 vendors to dairy farmers were at Dairy Day, including companies that pitch such wares as milking equipment and feed. Pennfield Feeds' Super Flake Energy Blend sounds like a breakfast cereal and looked a bit like one, too.

Farmers also heard about rotational grazing, putting together a dairy advisory team and how to decide whether a building is worth renovating.

Although it was a day devoted to dairy news, there was something missing at the Kauffman Community Center. No milk was delivered to the center on Thursday, even though it had been ordered.

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