Years ago, at our previous farm, two seed salesmen drove into the yard, the older one obviously teaching the younger the tricks of the trade. Unbeknown to either, we don’t grow corn so their visit was for naught. But the younger insisted on trying to talk my husband into planting some acreage. He went on and on, meeting every reason for not growing corn with what he thought was a selling point.
To us, corn is a crop demanding high priced, specialized equipment and we would rather leave the expense and headaches to the cash crop guys. We purchase a very good dairy ration from a local mill, delivered as we need it, fresh and balanced. Also, corn needs tiled land and ours is random tiled, so too ‘iffy’ for it. The young salesman didn’t agree with our logic and argued. Eventually the older guy stopped him, saying, “You won’t win. They are Jersey farmers and they always think different!”
They left without a sale but the older one’s comment often comes to mind. My husband or I will mention it and we laugh.
Yes, we do tend to think “outside the box” but have no idea if all Jersey farmers do. Choosing a non-black-and-white route to make our living in this area is definitely different, especially as my husband was raised with Holsteins. Yes, our cattle have high butterfat, so we use up our quota fast, but payment is based on milk components and all of ours, not just the butterfat, are high. We have no concerns about our fats not solids ratio being too high. We actually get a monthly bonus because it is low.
Deductions for transporting milk are based on hectolitres shipped, but with high components we ship less water and more usable milk per hectolitre than others, so our costs per kilogram are less.
All other deductions made by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario are on hectolitres shipped so, again, our cost per kilogram is less here too.
A pro black-and-white argument often thrown at us is that their breed gets more at the sales barn when culled. Very true, but we point out our extremely low vet bill due to healthy, sound cows with few breeding or calving problems, lower feed costs due to a smaller animal, the ease of working with them, and a cow only gives one cull cheque per lifetime.
But our differences don’t stop there. We have always finished the inside of our house before working on the outside. We see inside the house 24/7 and want to enjoy it. The outside will come, given time.
We clear our own land and often leave a big tree or two standing in the middle of the field where they are easy to work around. They add to the view, but drive the cash croppers around here crazy, asking “Why?”!
While we don’t grow corn, we do plant barley which goes to calves, not corn like on most farms. We don’t use chemicals on our land. Our only fertilizer is composted manure. We grow lots of hay, about 140 acres, small squares as well as wrapped big rounds. While others waited on custom operators, we searched the auctions and picked up our own machine two hours away. We cut and wrap when we want, not on someone else’s schedule. We rarely use custom work.
Our land is random-tiled not systematic; if a section is low and collects water, we run tile ourselves. If it drains well on its own we leave it.
Both men (husband and son) here are extremely handy in the machinery shed and do 99 % of the repairs plus invent, adapt and modify machinery as needed with great success. Our machinery may be older models (no-one cares about keeping up with the Joneses here!) but they are paid for, bought mainly private or at auctions. Consequently we are not deep in debt, owing our shirts to lenders.
Obviously we are different, but I have no idea if other Jersey farmers are too. You do what works for you or you wouldn’t still be here. So maybe the salesman was right.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.