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Pasture Walk a chance for sharing about farming

June 20, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

June is Dairy month and as you might remember from last week's column, Extension is about education, so today, I will continue on that path.

Last Thursday, a group of dairy producers gathered for the June installment of our Pasture Walk educational series. The purpose of these walks is to look at ways to produce milk economically.

Pasturing is one way to cut milk-production costs.

At Shenandoah Jerseys, our host, they employ custom operators to grow and harvest all of their crops. This means they do not need to invest in costly machinery and they do not need to have additional workers.

They do use pasture for heifers and dry cows. The picture accompanying this article shows a new arrival while we were there. Mother and daughter are doing fine.

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Pasture is the preferred maternity room for their cows, said Janet Stiles, who operates the farm along with her daughter, Jessica, and herdsman, JR Hess. Janet said she prefers the calves getting a fresh, clean start in the outdoors.

Many may ask, why not a barn?

First, sunshine is the best sanitizer there is. Second is the fresh air; many times, barns can be stuffy and harbor bacteria that can cause pneumonia.

Does this mean that calves are born in a snowbank in the winter?

No, there are airy maternity pens in their new barn, but they are used only for assisted births or during adverse weather.

As you can tell from the picture, the Jersey is known as the "little brown" cow. But don't let size fool you. This cow has many herd mates producing 10 to 12 gallons of milk per day.

Aside from their size, Jerseys are also known for their rich milk.

The Jersey breed originated on the Island of Jersey, a small British island in the English Channel, off the coast of France. The Jersey is one of the oldest dairy breeds, having been reported by authorities as being purebred for nearly six centuries.

The breed was known in England as early as 1771, and was regarded very favorably because of its milk and butterfat production.

At that early date, the cattle of Jersey Island were commonly referred to as Alderney cattle, although the cattle of this island were later referred to only as Jerseys. Jersey cattle were brought to the United States in the 1850s.

The Jersey is the second most popular of the dairy breeds here in the United States, with the Holstein being the most numerous, followed by the Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn.

These have been the prominent breeds since colonization with recent French imports like the Normande and Montbelaird, also being joined by the Scandinavians, the Norwegian Reds and the Swedish Reds.

Now you are ready for those dairy cow questions on "Jeopardy!," so relax, turn on the tube and test your knowledge while enjoying my favorite dairy product, ice cream.

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