At the Jansen Farm in Verboort, Oregon, approximately 80 cows graze in the pasture as wine country and modern development surround them. Mike and Sherry Jansen have been raising Guernsey cows here their whole lives. "I fell in love with the Brown Swiss breed after high school," says Mike, which led them to add that breed to their herd.
The Jansen's cows have lots of room to roam. A barn is at the ready where cows can seek shade during hot sunny days or stay out of the elements during the rainy Northwest winters.
While many things have changed around them, many things remain the same for the Jansens. Much of the feed for the cows is grown on site, harvested and stored as hay or silage to eat during the winter. The cows are fed a balanced diet with a mixture of grains added into the feed to ensure good nutrition.
The Jansen family, including sons Matthew and Chris and dog, Heidi, work closely with their animals. Many are known by name, and several of the girls are featured at the Oregon State Fair. The cows are milked twice a day in a traditional stall barn milking parlor.
A conversation with the Jansens:
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being a dairy farmer?
A: The favorite aspect of being a dairy farmer is breeding and developing the type of cows that are capable of high production and long, productive lives. We also enjoy animals that can be exhibited at the county or state fair. This in turn gives us a chance to talk with the public one on one about a subject we love while giving them accurate information and answering any questions they may have.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being a dairy farmer?
A: The least favorite part is having to deal with all the paperwork--permits, licenses, reports, inspections, etc. that are required to operate a farm.
Q: What do you remember about your decision to go rBST-free?
A: We have never even tried it. We felt that in our operation using rBST would probably result in more stress on our cows and that would lead to more health and reproduction problems. This would only shorten the cow's productive life and increase our operating costs. We feel that we have been able to remain competitive in the dairy industry without using rBST.
Q: Our customers would like to know they are supporting businesses that are aware of their impact on the environment and are trying to lessen that impact. They are also concerned about humane animal treatment and fair labor practices. Please tell us about practices on your farm that you have implemented to become a more sustainable business.
A: We try to raise all the feed for our cows on our fields. Soil samples are taken from each field so that we can apply only the necessary nutrients for each crop, utilizing our manure and then supplementing that with a very minimal amount of commerical fertilizer. Our crop rotation also helps keep weeds and diseases in check, therefore we need to use very few herbicides and pesticides. All of our animals are on a routine vaccination schedule to keep them healthy and free of disease. Our veterinarian comes monthly for herd health checks. The cows' feet are trimmed to help prevent foot and leg problems. We have also reduced the number of animals in each pen or barn to give them more room and to reduce stress that can result from crowded conditions.
Q: What would you like the people who are drinking your milk to know about your farm?
A: Our farm is a family owned and operated dairy. It is small by today's standards, but by being small in size, we feel we can pay more attention to the individual needs of each animal. Also, it is a great way to raise a family, as you are working together as a unit. The boys learned from an early age that hard work and cooperation are necessary to get the job done, and this in turn has helped them excel in their school years. We are pleased to be able to produce a food product, milk, that is healthy, nutritious and is something that everyone--young or old--needs every day.