Lisa McCrory, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
McCrory, L. 2007. Feature Farm: Green Pastures Farm, Arden and Caroline Landis, Kirkwood, PA. Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. Vol. 7, No. 1: 19-20. (Available online at: http://www.nodpa.com/newsletters/feb2007.pdf) (verified 25 Jan 2009).
Arden and Caroline Landis have been dairy farming since 1988. They started their dairy careers as conventional farmers with a high producing herd. Over time, they incorporated pasture into their feeding and management. In 1995, they moved to their farm to Kirkwood, Pennsylvania and started their transition to organic production. The land needed a three-year transition; meanwhile, they intensified their grazing system each year and, by 1999, their farm was certified organic. The transition to organic was not difficult since Arden and Caroline were already grazing their cows and their preventative health program was very much in line with the organic standards.
In 2000, they constructed a Swing-16 Dairy Master milking parlor and started moving the herd to spring seasonal production. They did not milk any cows during the winter of 2004/2005. Now, they milk 95 to 110 cows from March through December and milk up to 32 cows during the winter months. The farm's per cow production average is 12,300 pounds per year. Breeds include New Zealand Friesian Holsteins, Jersey crosses, Brown Swiss crosses, and Jerseys. They start their breeding program in late May using A.I. for the first three weeks followed by natural service Jersey bulls who remain with the herd until the end of the year. Any cow that is bred is worth more to Arden. If the cow no longer fits into his window for production and calving, there is still a market for her.
Arden and Caroline rent their farm which consists of 120 acres, with 115 acres fenced and managed primarily as a rotational grazing system. They rent an additional 96 acres to grow their forages. They believe in having a small staff on their farm. Arden is the only full-time employee; Caroline works part-time, tending to the calves, milking the cows and being the all-around helper as needed; and their daughter, Debbie, helps out with calves and various other farm chores. Custom operators take care of most of their cropping needs, and seasonal, part-time labor is used for much of the tractor work (such as clipping pastures).
When asked how he houses his animals, Arden proudly states that his farm has "Tree-Stalls," meaning he keeps the cows outside year-round and provides forested acreage for limited shelter and protection from the wind. Cows close to calving are provided additional shelter during inclement weather and lactating cows are provided bedding for some additional comfort to their outdoor lifestyle.
With this system, Arden's cows are healthier than they have ever been. "Our cull rate is so low it is hard to maintain herd size," said Arden, "It wants to keep growing." Each year, they raise 40 heifers to ensure that enough animals are calving within their seasonal production window. Last year, they sold 30 cows; 28 went to the dairy market and the remaining two went for beef. Of the cows that Arden sells for dairy, only the cream of the crop go to the organic dairy market. The rest of the dairy cows go to auction.
A typical summer ration consists of eight to ten pounds of a 10% grain (corn and oats) with some dry hay available at the feed bunk and pasture. The winter feed ration is eight to ten pounds of grain (corn and oats) with dry hay and milk cow-quality balage. A mineral package, formulated by KOW Consulting, is added to the grain. During the grazing season, cows are moved to new pasture day and night from May to September. In October, Arden starts feeding stored feed to stretch out the rotation and keep grass in the diet all the way to December.
Arden clips his pastures ahead of his cows and lets them come in immediately after to graze the pasture. He likes this system because the cows are more efficient at eating over-mature weeds and grasses, and it reduces the moisture level to 40-50% so he is able to get more forage into the cows on a daily basis.
Since converting to organic production, most of the money Arden spends on health care goes toward his preventative management system. Having animals healthy and stress-free increases the quality of life of his cows and family alike. The following are some of the preventative practices used on the farm.
It is rare that a cow gets mastitis on this farm but when she does it is usually at freshening. At that point, Arden will turn to whey products, uddermint therapies, Royal Udder Care, and an herbal product provided by Dr. Karreman called "Phytomast" which stimulates the cow's immune system and brings her back to health. For parasite management and prevention, Arden uses Paratec or other herbs. For serious cases of parasites, a fecal sample is taken and if treatment is necessary, Arden uses Ivermectin.
Arden and Caroline are fortunate to have Dr. Hubert Karreman as their veterinarian. There are times in the year that Arden uses his vet so little, that Dr. Karreman will call just to check in.
Arden has been very involved with the organic dairy and grazing worlds. He became a Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) representative in 2003, attends annual NODPA Field Days, contributes articles to Graze MagazineIn addition, he speaks at conferences around the United States and consults with other farmers and professionals on a regular basis.
When asked what he thought the organic dairy industry needed to do make sure organic livestock producers were best served, Arden did not hesitate with a reply. "Pasture and last third [of gestation]," he said, referring to the need for stricter, measurable standards for pasture and an end to the continuous transition of conventional replacements.
This article originally appeared in NODPA News, the newsletter of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) and is reprinted on eOrganic with permission from NODPA.
This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.