MIFFLIN COUNTY: Integrating Natural Health Care into Your Herd: Addressing Farmers' Concerns

Gay Rogers faces 110 acres of greening pasture from the barn door as light rain floats from low clouds. "It's all grass." is how this dairy farmer describes her extensive rotational grazing system. There are twenty-four demarcations in the expanse of all that grass at Hameau Farm located outside of Belleville, Pennsylvania. And each day her milking herd of twenty-four cows munch their way through a new paddock. Thirteen heifers and calves are in separate pastures; and there are ten or so babies expected to arrive later in the spring and summer.

Minus the adolescent goats sprinting in the yard, gawking chickens and the St. Bernard lap dog named Masey, this is Ayrshire territory. Gay points towards the cows being milked by Kevin, one of two full-time employees, to describe the dairy's breeding program. "They're Scottish." She frames her face with hands that have cared for Ayrshire cows since she was a child, "And I'm of Scottish descent. That's one reason." She smiles with bright eyes, "And I'm a third generation Ayrshire dairy farmer. My father and uncle did this work before me." Gay's father directs the farm's breeding program, subscribing to genetic line breeding to select characteristics appropriate to the milkers behind us. Such deliberation engenders high expectations for Hameau's purebred herd, which continues to use her father's prefix, Plum Bottom. By 2020, Gay wants to maintain a Rolling Herd Average (rha) of 18,000 pounds of milk (she's at 14,000 currently), with butterfat and protein counts of four percent (they are 4 percent and 3.4 at present, respectively). The milkers munching on the non-certified organic hay grown on the farm dashed with energy grain mix provided by an independent nutrition consultant seem confidently up to the task.

Beginning in the middle of June the hay, new calves, the rambunctious goats and sweet puppy will not be the only things maturing at Hameau Farm. Every summer, for four two-week sessions young girls join Gay and a crew of counselors for Farm Camp. All of the farm activities continue, exposing 30 campers quickly to dairy work and life. Gay cultivates curiosity and courage by including the girls in chores, teaching the basics of animal handling and inducing large doses of laughter and adventure through crafts and field trips. For half of the eighteen seasons that Gay has held the camp, she's also been involved in mentoring women farmers through PA-WAgN's network. Gay is a PA-WAgN regional representative and will host a field day on September 25, 2013 on heritage dairy breeding programs.

And so this is how seasons pass at Hameau Farm in the Big Valley; pasture is converted to milk, a dairywoman exchanges lessons learned with other women farmers, and girls become young women more aware of the natural world and the origin of food. All made possible by green grass and the farmer with a penchant for Scottish dairy cows.

Check out their video on Youtube http://youtu.be/QzpVkbwbpXM

Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network


302 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802