Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Am Indiana Agriculture: Tom Landrum

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Tom Landrum is a Dairy Farm Supervisor for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH). The third-generation dairy farmer resides on the family farm in Dearborn County.  The farm was purchased in 1916 by Tom’s grandfather.  “We milked cows up until 1990 when a tornado destroyed seven barns.  Since then, I have kept dry cows (a cow that isn’t lactating) and heifers on my farm while another dairy farmer milks the lactating cows.  My wife, Judy, has been a part of the farm operation since we married in 1979.  Judy drives tractors and helps manage the operation.  I have shown our Registered Milking Shorthorns at state, regional, and national shows since 1956.  I worked at Farm Credit Services for 30 years. After retiring from Farm Credit Services, I began working for BOAH in 2007 as the state farm supervisor.”

Tom Landrum (center) was recognized for his service to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and the citizens of the state by Board Chairman Lawrence Stauffer, DVM (left) and State Veterinarian Bret D. Marsh, DVM (right).

Each Grade A dairy farm must be inspected by BOAH at least twice annually to check for compliance with state and federal regulations to produce milk for public consumption.  The division has 11 dairy inspectors who regularly visit each farm for compliance.  This involves evaluating cow care, equipment care, sanitation, and timeliness.  “The dairy division has the enforcement power to regulate dairy farms and ensure the milk they produce is safe and wholesome,” Tom says.  Inspecting a farm is no small task.

“The inspection begins at the mailbox,” Tom explains.  “We check for cleanliness of the entire operation.  We use a 19-point check system to score the cows, milk house, milking parlor, surrounding barns, water wells, and medication cabinets.  We inspect for proper care, proper location and administration of medications.  We look especially at the equipment condition and cleanliness.  We also monitor milking conditions, milk storage, milk sampling, and milk hauling.  All of these must meet the state and federal standards.  My job impacts Hoosiers by being a reliable safety net for milk.” 

BOAH’s dairy division permits and inspects Indiana’s 1200-plus dairy farms, 37 processing plants, 500 milk haulers (drivers), and more than 350 tanker trucks.  Indiana’s dairy farms range in size from 20 to 3000 cows, but, regardless of size, all farms receive the same level of inspection by BOAH staff.  “Dairy inspectors are also responsible for inspecting dairy product processing facilities in Indiana.  Every tanker load of milk is tested before processing to verify no contamination by antibiotics that may have been used on the farm.  Milk is the most highly regulated and closely inspected food product on the market.”

On modern dairy farms, the milk is never touched by human hands and is not exposed to contaminants.  “My job is important because the public wants to know where their food comes from and how the animals are treated.  I get to see and monitor much of this.  Dairy farmers are good, hardworking people, and I enjoy being around them.  Not many people see as many dairy farms and cows as I do.  I enjoy people and ‘good’ cows.” 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Am Indiana Agriculture: Don Villwock

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock farms 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, seed soybeans and seed wheat in Knox County.  His ground is 100% no-till, which means it isn’t plowed or turned between plantings. That reduces soil erosion and aids in the preservation of soil nutrients.

Don has practiced no-tilling for 30 years and has also planted cover crops for almost that long.  Cover crops help build and improve soil in between planting of other crops.  He has also served as a Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and hosted several soil health field days.  But he feels there is always “an opportunity to do more.” 

Don began practicing soil conservation in the 1970s by no-tilling double crop soybeans into wheat stubble.  This practice allows you to get two crops from one field in one year.  He says that no-tilling offers multiple advantages for his farm.  “For me, what got me started in no-till was the bottom line.  In the 70s, we were running on small margins and no-till allowed us to reduce our machinery costs and labor force while still maintaining the same yields.” 

On top of maintaining his yields, Don has won several awards in the National Corn Yield contest.  His conservation practices also get the attention of landlords who specifically seek out no-till farmers.
The no-till journey hasn’t always been easy.  “Planting corn after corn was a particular challenge,” Villwock says.  “It takes extra management, and we had to make sure we had a good stand row cleaner to allow us to meet our yield goals.” 

Don works closely with Barry Fisher of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to incorporate conservation practices on his farm.  “Barry is practical, pragmatic, and his experience on the land sets him apart.  He’s been with us every step of the way on the no-till journey.  The more we learn, the more we continue to improve.”