The thing about a day in the life of a dairy farmer is that there is no such thing as a “typical” day. While they’re out in the fields and the milking parlor seven days a week, no two days are the same; But if you ask Jamie Montgomery, that’s how a dairy farmer would prefer it.
As a fourth-generation farmer, Jamie Montgomery grew up on Stoney Brook Dairy Farm, located on the rolling hills of Wirtz, Virginia. While every dairy farm operates differently, the Montgomery family has spent decades refining their craft.
Rise Before the Rooster Crows
Each morning, they rise before the sun, corralling the first group of cows into the milking parlor by 4 AM. Working alongside another farmer, ninety cows are milked, twelve at a time. During this time, they’re also fed and get their stalls cleaned and refreshed.
Manning the milking station is no simple task. While the cows know the routine, it’s important to make sure that the milking equipment is secured properly and has been kept up with maintenance. After each milking session, the stations and equipment need to be washed down to prevent bacteria from growing between milkings. This will keep the cows protected from infections and the milk pure and tasty.
Speaking of pure and tasty, it’s important to note what happens with the milk after the cows are done. It’s Homestead’s best practice to test each and every tank of milk that comes from our farms for impurities or antibiotics. We also make sure it makes it into our milk trucks and back to our plant quickly so that it can be processed and sent out to your local store for the freshest, off-the-farm flavor possible.
While the cows are in for milking, there’s plenty to be done around the barn. That’s why they make it a team effort. First, any manure in the stalls needs to be shoveled out and the sawdust bedding replenished. They make sure the cows have plenty of fresh, clean bedding to keep them comfortable and healthy. Each cow gets their own barn stall with plenty of room to lay down if they like. The barn is also well ventilated with fans to keep the cows cool in the summer. The cows also have access to pasture during the day, so they can decide when they need a little Vitamin D and exercise.
With all that milk these gals put out, they’re sure to be hungry too. Jamie and the other farmers take the time to make sure all of the dairy cows have plenty of fresh feed, made with a mixture of corn and grains grown right on their own farm. It’s carefully mixed according to the nutritionist’s recommendation every evening to get the right amount of nourishment to keep the cows healthy and producing milk the way milk should taste: rich, flavorful, and nutritious! Don’t forget the calves! They get plenty of milk so they can grow up to be strong, milk-producing dairy cows, too!
Before the team heads home for a quick breakfast around 7:30 AM, they make sure that all the cows are healthy and comfortable, resting in their stalls or out in pasture enjoying the wide-open spaces. Whether it’s checking for any signs of discomfort or inviting the veterinarian out every couple of weeks for a full health and pregnancy checks, the farmers take the time to make sure their partners in dairy are feeling their best. Why check so often for pregnancies? A cow needs extra special care when carrying a calf and we want to make sure they’re getting the best nutrition and support possible.
Essentially, the dairy farmers and their cows have already put in half a day’s work in before most of us cozy up to our first cup of coffee. But the work certainly doesn’t stop there.
Stay Until the Cows Come Home
After a quick breakfast, the work continues. While the cows are resting, waiting for their afternoon milking, there’s plenty to be done.
Running a farm takes a lot of general upkeep. Tasks throughout the early afternoon can include anything from baling hay and bush hogging pastures to tuning up the farm equipment. Again, no two days are the same. They get to set their own schedule and choose which days they do each task, but ultimately, they have to cater to Mother Nature and what she has in store for them weather wise.
One of the most important to-dos is working the fields and making sure the crops are hearty. Because they feed their cows with their own crops, a quality harvest is key to keeping the dairy farm running. Luckily, Stoney Brook Dairy Farm has their crop rotation down to a science. Corn and soybeans are planted in the spring, fertilized with manure and organic matter from the wheat and rye that was planted in the fall to keep the ground fresh and rich in nutrients. Triticale, a cross between wheat and rye, is also planted in the fall to be harvested in the spring as part of the mix of cow feed.
By the time 3:30 rolls around, the farmers head back to the milking parlor for another round of milking. By the time all 90 cows are milked and fed once more, and the equipment is cleaned, it’s close to quitting time. Unless there’s more crop to be cared for and harvested, the farmers finish their days around 5 or 6 o’clock in the evenings. When you live right there on the farm, you have a tendency to want to keep things moving if you see something that needs to be done. Every now and then, they find themselves finishing up a harvest job late in the evening or even into the early morning, but they usually don’t mind. It’s all worth it to know that they put in a hard day’s work and have something wonderful to call their own.
Keeping it All in the Family
Something that the farmers at Stoney Brook do get to enjoy day-in and day-out is the company of one another. Because their family has been farming for so many generations, they’re able to keep running like a well-oiled machine. While Jamie’s dad, Donnie, spends most of his time working on the business aspect of the farm, serving as Chairman of the Board at Homestead Creamery, his brother Brandon works alongside him on the farm. Even Brandon’s son, Grayson, gives them a hand to learn the trade when he’s not in school.
To the Montgomery family, the cows are a part of the family too. They really appreciate the fact that they get to interact with these awesome animals each day and often find themselves bonding with some of the more spunky, personable ones. They find joy in taking great care of their cows because at the end of the day, the dairy farm wouldn’t be there without them!
When asked about his favorite part of the job, Jamie said he loves “The fulfillment and satisfaction you get from knowing you did honest work, seeing the results in that work, and knowing that you’re playing a part in feeding the community and the world.”
And for that, we say “THANK YOU” to the Montgomery family at Stoney Brook Farms, and all of the other hardworking family farms that help Homestead Creamery deliver great tasting milk “The Way Milk Should Taste!”