Recently, I visited with a group the Joel and Jessica Baldwin Farm up in Ashtabula County. This relatively small dairy farm is one of the few new ones in that county, with about 45 milk cows in the herd.
Joel has always had a strong interest in dairy farming. About two years ago, he had an opportunity to lease the farm they were using and bought a herd of fine Jersey cows. While he has worked in larger herds, Joel enjoys working with fewer cows so he can watch and know them as individuals.
His barn has tie stalls for the cows that provide them room for more movement and freedom. He designed and built his own automatic watering system from large plastic pipe with openings cut out for each cow. The water level is controlled by one float on each side of the barn where the pipes are located.
Joel uses artificial insemination in the herd with what is called "sexed semen." This a genetically modified semen that produces 85 to 90 percent female or heifer calves. Ordinarily cows would average 50 percent heifers. More heifers allows Joel to increase his herd or have extra animals to sell.
This farm is an example that shows dairy herds of all sizes have a place in our area, depending on several factors. First, costs must be kept low and the herd must be highly efficient with excellent production.
Joel and Jessica do this by using only family labor and taking excellent care of their cows. While they are fed mostly in the barn, they do have some daily time outside for exercise and eating grass or legumes. The herd is on dairy production test so Joel knows which cows are producing the most milk and which ones to cull.
They also farm about 700 acres of grain, corn and soybeans, for livestock feed and to sell. This provides some diversification of income.
Another way they make a living is by Jessica working off the farm. This provides income and fringe benefits. Joel says with the price of milk today, he is milking his cows mostly for the exercise. They are not making a profit, but he believes they will in the future and he enjoys working with them. The outstanding care he gives the dairy herd and young stock is evident.
Parker works with the local Farm Bureau Board and is an independent agricultural writer.