Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We Are Indiana Agriculture: A Dairy Strong Family Business

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Tom and LuAnn Troxel own Troxel Dairy Farm in Hanna, Indiana in the northwestern part of the state.  They currently milk 130 cows, mainly Holsteins, raise about 150 younger heifers, and farm about 170 acres of corn that is all used to feed their animals.

Tom’s parents, Phil and Mary Troxel, started the farm that the Troxel family still owns and operates today.  Currently their oldest son, Rudy, works on the farm with Tom and LuAnn, along with one full-time and several part-time employees.  In addition to working on the farm, Tom also has a full-time large animal veterinary practice.  He typically milks every morning, oversees the animal care and much of the general operations of the farm.  LuAnn raises the young calves, manages the farm accounting and payroll, and is the office manager of the veterinary business.  Rudy feeds the cows, milks occasionally, and handles all the breeding decisions on the farm.

LuAnn feels there are several misconceptions about dairy farming.  “Many people are concerned about antibiotics in their food.  They sometimes think that their milk contains antibiotics, but it does not,” LuAnn explains. “Dairy farmers have many rules they must comply with when it comes to using antibiotics in animals intended for food or milk.  There are certain antibiotics that cannot be used at all.  Every dairy farmer uses a veterinarian to give oversight to antibiotic uses on their farms.  In addition, every single tank of milk is tested for antibiotic residues, and it must test negative before the milk can be unloaded to be processed at a dairy plant.  There are no exceptions.”  For more information visit here

The Troxels go to great lengths to make sure their cows are comfortable.  Their cows are bedded weekly with fresh mason sand. The animals also have access to automatic cow brushes where they are able to groom themselves. Curtains on barn openings curtail the wind during the winter months and they, when removed, allow fresh air to flow throughout the barns during warmer months.

The milk from Troxel farm is marketed through Foremost Farms USA and is often processed at Dean Foods in Rochester, Indiana.  “Most people don’t realize how quickly milk gets from our farms to the store.  Often, our milk is available for sale in the grocery store in only two days from the time it leaves our farm!  Also, there is a code on every gallon of milk, such as 18-1018”, LuAnn explains.  “The 18 tells us that the gallon of milk is from a dairy processing plant in Indiana, and most likely came from a cow in Indiana.”  For more information about where your milk is processed visit here

LuAnn says many difficult and rewarding elements are part of dairy farming.  “One of the most rewarding things is the opportunity to work together with our family members and have flexibility throughout our daily work.  Of course, chore times aren’t very flexible.But, other than milking and feeding, there is a great variety of work and detail and there’s always something interesting going on at the farm!  As a result of the difficult winter we just experienced, I would say that weather is often a very difficult challenge.  We can’t change the weather, but we can try to continually improve systems on our farm to deal with inclement weather.”

LuAnn is very passionate about the job they do at Troxel Dairy Farm.  “We are in the business of producing milk from our cows.  In order for a cow to ever get milk in her udder, she first must give birth to a baby calf.  So, much of the work on our farm is related to our cows getting pregnant, caring for pregnant animals,  delivering healthy baby calves, caring for baby calves, and supporting the lactating cow with plenty of comfort and fresh food and water.  It is our privilege to provide our world with high-quality nutritious milk and dairy products!”

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