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Stowe farm named Vermont’s top dairy farm of the year

STOWE — Keewaydin Farm in Stowe has been named the 2015 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.
The award is presented annually to an outstanding dairy operation by University of Vermont (UVM) Extension and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association (VDIA) in cooperation with the New England Green Pastures Program. This year’s winners, Les and Claire Pike, operate a 141-head registered Jersey farm with their children, Dan and Suzi Pike. The farm has been in the family since 1921.
The Pikes were selected for this award for their well-managed herd, high-quality milk and overall excellence in dairying along with their continued interest in new technology to improve efficiency and profits. In 2010 they installed a methane digester to convert cow waste to electricity and bedding. They were the first farmers in Vermont and the Northeast to install a GEA Farm Technologies MIone multi-box robotic milking system, which also was the first for a Jersey herd.
They currently milk 87 cows with a rolling herd average of 15,485 pounds with 5.1 percent butterfat and 3.9 percent protein. These numbers can be attributed to excellent herd management and selective breeding through AI (artificial insemination) using top bulls. They raise all their own replacements, breeding their heifers to calve at 23 months with a calving interval of 12.3 months.
For many years the farm operated Mansfield Dairy, where they pasteurized and bottled milk to sell door-to-door and to local restaurants and stores. Today the family ships its milk to the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, consistently earning awards for their high-quality milk.
A good feeding program and attention to cow comfort contributes to their impressive milk production. Cows are fed a total mixed ration of haylage, high-moisture shell corn and protein mix. The Pikes grow all their own grass and alfalfa on 135 acres, getting a yield of four tons of dry matter per acre.
To improve cow comfort, they opened the side walls of their free-stall barn to allow for natural ventilation and installed rubber floors and automatic alley scrapers. Solids from the methane digester are used as bedding, a cost-saving measure over the kiln-dried sawdust they previously used.
The Pike family will be recognized, along with the winners from the other New England states, at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., in September. They also will be honored at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction next January.
The other Vermont finalists, listed alphabetically, were the Gosliga Farm (run by the Gosliga family), Addison; Shadee Acres Farm (Robert and Sandra Manning), St. Albans; and the Woodnotch Farm (Loren Wood and family), Shoreham.

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