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Story Archives: Dairy at home on Louisiana range
|Dairy at home on Louisiana range|
Melissa and Ted Miller had one goal in mind when they relocated their dairy herd from Pennsylvania to Louisiana – happier cows.
The Millers partnered with Charles Opitz, also of Pennsylvania, to establish a grazing dairy on the parish line north of Winnsboro. The climate, terrain and accessibility to water were among the benefits offered by the Louisiana countryside.
"Mr. Opitz made some preliminary determinations about the benefits of operating a dairy farm in this area," said Ted Miller. "We got together at that point and saw some definite advantages compared to where we were."
The process of managing the business aspect of getting the milk on the market while also keeping the herd contented is a practice the Miller family knows all too well. With the help of Steven Kiner, the only other full-time employee, the Millers operate a grazing dairy on the parish line north of Winnsboro with a current milking stock of 200 head.
"There is definitely room to grow here," Miller said. "We have about 100 spring heifers to calve yet, which will bring the total to 300 at the end of the fall. We're sort of stepping into this and don't want to exceed our grass space." The majority of the stock is crossbred Holstein and Jersey heifers. The owners are currently the process of developing some 1,300 acres for the expanding herd that originated in Pennsylvania.
Gone are the days of the milking stools in the parlor; the modern-day dairy is equipped with mechanical milkers that are manually attached to each cow. The cows are milked in the morning and again in the afternoon, with each cow producing an average of 40-50 pounds per day.
According to the LSU AgCenter, "cow comfort" is a dairy farmer's top priority. The happier the cow, the more she produces. In a conventional confinement dairy, cows are kept in free stall barns equipped with fans, sprinklers and all the meals are catered. A grazing dairy provides pastureland for the stock to harvest their primary diet of various grasses such as rye, clover and fescue. Miller stated that cows in a confinement dairy generally produce more milk than those in a grazing operation, though the grazing dairy has much lower operating costs.
Dairy farms are not a novelty in Franklin Parish; the rural landscape was once the home to many dairy producers. In a press release issued by the LSU AgCenter Research Station, in 2007, Louisiana diary operations contributed nearly $200 million to the state's economy.
Gary Hay, LSU AgCenter professor and dairy extension specialist, said the number of dairies in Louisiana had declined in recent years, but the business continues to survive and thrive.
"The farmers sticking with the business follow research-based recommendations, provide high quality feed to their cow and are just good managers," said Hay.
Dr. Mike McCormick, research coordinator at the LSU Southeast Research Station said excellent management skills are needed in today's economy.
"Dairy and beef producers are being hurt by the high costs of feed, fertilizer and fuel," said McCormick. "It is imperative for producers to grow high-quality forages and feed optimum levels of nutrients. Otherwise, lactation performance will suffer and fertility will be severely compromise