Southview Farm on Upper Reservation Road, Castile, was the site for the seventh annual Agri-Palooza held Sunday.
This one-day event highlights one of the county’s greatest resources – agriculture. Patrons were able to visit a working farm and find out what it’s really like to work in one of the county’s biggest industries.
While the seed of the farm was first planted in the 1800s, the roots firmly took hold in Wyoming County in the 1940s when Jim VanArsdale bought the farm.
Six years after Jim started the farm in 1949, he partnered with Dick Popp. Although Popp died in the 1990s, his legacy lives on at the farm. He was instrumental in bringing new agricultural technology to Wyoming County, says Tanya Nickerson, education specialist with the county’s 4-H program.
One of the biggest changes on the farm is the technology, says Jim’s son, Jamie, current owner of Southview.
“Things change so fast, you just have to keep up with it,” Jamie said.
One of the greatest advances is the use of GPS planting. The farm uses a GPS-driven tractor that puts the holes in the earth for seed corn, following the pattern laid out by the tractor another follows to actually plant the seed. The idea behind GPS planting is soil conservation. Less tilling of the land not only helps keep the nutrients in the soil, but also keeps the soil in place. Additionally, the less the land is driven over by farm equipment keeps the soil loose and less compact which allows for better crop growth.
“We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planting,” Jamie said. “Less disturbance keeps the soil soft and pliable so the roots grow better.”
One of the goals of Agri-Palooza is to dispel the myth that farms are a corporate entity – focused only on the bottom line. The event showcases the partnership, so to speak, farmers have with not only the land, but also the health and well-being of the animals in its charge. It also highlights the families that work to keep agriculture alive in Wyoming County.
In addition to better soil conservation, the farm employs nutritionist Pat Brennan to help maintain a proper balance of nutrients to the bovines.
“Every visit has me checking the computer for records of milk production, reproduction and herd health,” Brennan said. “Then I take a look at the animals and look how they walk, chew, their body condition and manure. Then based on that information, I put together a recipe based on the need of the cows.”
A cow eats approximately 120 pounds of feed a day, produces about 90 pounds of milk (10 gallons) a day, and drinks about 30 to 40 gallons of water per day.
To better use and manage the feed the farm grows or feeds the animals, it uses a bunker-style silo instead of the traditional upright silo. The bunker silo allows for better mixing of the feed as well as nutritional consistency. The silage is layered, then compacted, to get the air out of the feed which helps with fermentation -- key for cow palatability.
“It takes all of that to keep the cows healthy and producing milk,” Brennan said.
In addition to good nutrition, a well-ventilated barn is essential in keeping the cows comfortable during warm or muggy weather. To help minimize disease, especially lung disease in the young animals, white tubbing has been added to the newborn calf barn. The tubbing sucks outside air into the barn and fans it over the calves to keep fresh air circulating, which is better for the calves. The other barns not only have fans to circulate the air, they are also equipped with water misters to keep the cows cool and comfortable.
“We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planing,” Jamie said. “We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planing,” Jamie said.
Other conservation or repurposing efforts Southview Farms employ include:
• Solar panels on barns, which warms rainwater or snowmelt to be used for cleaning and in the milk parlor;
• A scale, which weighs harvested food and feed. This helps keep track of how well a field is producing or how much feed they have on hand; and
• Five manure lagoons. The lagoons store the manure until a time where it would be beneficial to spread on the fields, thus reducing runoff into groundwater. It also minimizes the use of fertilizers, which in turn saves the farmer money.
The farm also uses manure for bedding by squeezing out the water, which rids the manure of bacteria, then the remaining material is stored for future use.
Additionally, while the farm traditionally breeds Holstein cows – they are the best milk producers – the farm is beginning to breed Jersey cows. Though the animals aren’t big milk producers, they do produce milk with a higher fat content. Recent research has shown that people are consuming more dairy products with a higher fat content – butter, ice cream and cheese. To fill the demand, Southview Farms is making the transition to the Jersey breed, a more compact bovine.
Southview Farms has 47 employees and milks three times a day at two locations. The herd included more than 2,000 cows and 1,600 young stock. Additionally, more than 3,100 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat are harvested annually.
Agri-Palooza is made possible by the partnership of the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism Department and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau.
For more information about agriculture in Wyoming County visit http://wyoming.cce.cornell.edu