Patricia McCarthy grew up on her family’s farm in New York and got her first cow from her parents when she was six years old. Together, she and her sister raised a small herd of dairy cows with just a bit of help from their parents during school years. As an adult, most of the herd stayed with Patricia, and as the herd grew the cows required more space, so Patricia moved twice to accommodate the herd growth. Recently, Patricia moved back to her family’s farm and made the decision to stray from the conventional dairy farming industry; and instead start taking care of her cows in a different way. “I took a little leap of faith and began to focus on investing my time into a better future for my cows that would hopefully secure greater returns for products and make it possible to provide the quality of care and living that they deserve,” explains Patricia. Now, Patricia raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) dairy cattle at 90-acre Quaker Hill Creamery in Pawling, New York.
Patricia’s Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW herd of 40 Holstein and Brown Swiss cows are rotated through 50 acres of fields, grazing one section of pasture before being moved to a fresh paddock. This type of management allows grass to recover before cows return to graze again; it also keeps the soil naturally fertilized and minimizes the potential build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments. Patricia chose the Holstein and Brown Swiss breeds for their high reproductive efficiency and natural durability. “I always breed for strength – I use careful selection for strong cows that can produce admirable volumes without threatening reproductive efficiency or overall health,” says Patricia.
“I expect each of my cows to grow and mature at a healthy, optimal rate, to produce a sufficient amount of milk, to maintain production for a sufficient milking period, to reproduce effectively and efficiently, and to live a long, healthy and comfortable life.” To meet those expectations, Patricia supplements the cow’s diets with grain, corn and minerals, regularly vaccinates and de-worms, and takes great care to keep the cows healthy and clean. For instance, in the summer the cows are out of the sun and resting under fans with convenient access to feed to conserve energy until the afternoon when they return to their grazing routine. “A lot of the input on the farm is based around reducing stress for the herd, carrying out preventative maintenance, and directing energy towards maintaining health and productivity,” says Patricia.
Patricia explains the most important part of the farming practices at Quaker Hill Creamery is to allow the cow to be a cow. “I think sometimes as an industry, we get stuck in our ways of always watching, monitoring, measuring and adjusting that we forget how important it is to make it a priority to set up a life for the cow where she can also display her natural behavior. What I have found is that when we offer the cow these simple things, she seems to meet her potential much easier.”
Patricia pursued the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW program because it lined up with her values: “My farming practices never fell under one specific type of farming until I learned about Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW; my cows aren’t 100% grassfed, the milk isn’t organic and this isn’t a conventional dairy either. The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW label seemed to line up with a lot of my views on cow husbandry and it should help to set the milk from my cows apart and add to its value.”
Patricia’s long-term farming goals include focusing on combining the technology she has access to today with natural production techniques. “I’m planning on keeping an open mind but seeing happy comfortable cows has always felt like a good goal to keep for the short and long term,” she says.
Quaker Hill Creamery will be selling Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW cow’s milk direct from the farm at the start of 2019. To contact Quaker Hill Creamery, email email@example.com.