October 24, 2014 23:04 UTC

Audio / Agriculture Report

Making a Dairy Farm Work with Grass-fed Cows

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Correction attached

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Raising cows for milk is not an easy way to farm.  The costs and labor involved make it difficult for a small farm to be profitable.

Bobolink Dairy in New Jersey raises milk cows that feed only on grass and hay all year.  Jonathan and Nina White own the farm.  This year, they have thirty-four cows and twenty-four calves.  The Whites make high-quality cheese from the milk their cows produce.  

The Whites have several kinds, or breeds, of dairy cows.  They have brought together smaller breeds that do well outside in fields.  Many of the breeds are common on dairy farms all over the country.

The Whites raise Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey cows.  They also have Holstein cows, and even an unusual British White.  But the prize animals at Bobolink Dairy belong to the Kerry breed.  These cattle are mostly or all black.  They are an ancient breed from Ireland.  Although small in size for dairy cattle, they are strong and healthy milk producers.

The farm’s main male, or bull, is one of only about fifty Kerry cattle in the United States. 

Mister White knows each of his animals by name and knows the way they act.  The bull’s mother is Sarah.  She is fourteen years old.  That is very old for a productive milk cow.  The Holstein breed, for example, has an average productive life of three to four years.  These big cattle can produce up to forty-five kilograms of milk a day.

Industrial dairy farmers often give their cows the chemical bovine somatotropin, or bST.  They use a man-made version of a hormone in cattle that is involved in growth and milk production.  Federal agencies say it is safe.

Jonathan White does not sell milk and does not give his cattle bST.  He can get about thirteen and one-half kilograms of milk a day from his cows.  He turns that into five kilograms of cheese priced at forty-four dollars a kilogram.

The Whites started the Grasslands Cheese Consortium to show how small dairy farms can be successful.

Mister White says his business starts with sunlight and rain.  He pays almost nothing for cattle feed.  Land and cattle are his capital.  He says small farms raising grass-fed cows can produce profitable products and be economically independent.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.  Our reports are online at voaspecialenglish.com.  To send us e-mail, write to special@voanews.com.  I'm Steve Ember.

Correction: Jonathan White tells us that thirteen and one half kilograms of milk will usually produce about one and one half kilograms of cheese.  He says about eleven percent of the weight of the milk is turned into cheese.  But, this can change with the seasons. 

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