Food & Farm Showcase: Dairy farming at Whittaker Farms

Local News

Now to our occasional series in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, the Food and Farm Showcase.

This episode looks at an industry that’s synonymous with farming in Upstate New York, dairy cows.

Whittaker farms has been operating on Route 26 in Whitney Point for 104 years.

It began with 15 cows and sold butter and eggs in the city.

By 1984, it had grown to nearly 80 head, when a fire burned down the barn, prompting the family to rebuild and modernize.

The Whittaker family, under the leadership of Scott and Judi Whittaker, employ 10 people and milk over 600 cows 3 times a day.

The Holstein cows enter the milking parlor, 15 to a side, where they’re connected to milking machines.

Judi Whittaker says technology has improved the yield as well as the care and comfort of the animals.

 “There’s a computer chip around their neck, it tells the machines what cow it is, the machine tells you what temperature the milk is so that you know the health of the cow, it tells you how much she’s given. There’s a lot of information that you can pull from the computer.”

And Whittaker says each cow has its own sort of FitBit which counts its steps to help track its overall health.

The farm has a calf barn with its own employee dedicated to their care and feeding.

The female calves are kept to join the herd while the males are sold off to another farm.

After 2 years, the cows will be old enough to start having their own calves, and thus start producing milk.

The Whittakers own one thousand acres of land and rent almost another thousand where they grow corn, soy beans and hay to feed the animals.

Whittaker says the different cows have their own personalities.

“That’s what I like about it most is having that interaction with them and seeing how they respond.  They really look forward to having someone stop and touch them and talk to them.  In our barn, when they’re milking, there’s always music playing.  The cows love the music.  Anything we can to have happy cows, that’s what we’re all about.”

The cows never take a day off from milking and dairy farmers don’t control what they’re paid for their milk, the federal government sets the price.

But she says she’s proud of the fact that if her 2 grandsons choose to run it when they grow up, they’ll represent the 5th generation of Whittakers to farm the land.

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