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September 14, 2013

Visitors see working dairy spread in action

PERU — Visitors toured Adirondack Farms on a hay wagon, watching sparks fly as a cow’s hooves were trimmed in one of the cattle barns.

“We want the cows to be as happy and comfortable as possible,” New York Animal Agriculture Coalition Executive Director Jessica Ziehm said.

That organization and the Clinton County Farm Bureau put on the recent A Day on the Farm event at the 5,000-acre Peru dairy spread, where the tour highlighted its inner workings, including animal care, farmers’ efforts to recycle and how a farm contributes to the local economy.

“Every generation seems to be more removed from the farm,” said farm co-owner Jon Rulfs. “It’s more important today to tell people what’s going on.”

‘ZIP-LOCKED FEED’

As a tractor pulled the hay wagon past cows in stanchions in the barn, some munching on feed, Ziehm made note of rubber mats placed over the concrete beneath the bovines’ feet and small mounds of sand for them to rest on.

The tour passed three tanker trucks, each storing about 6,000 gallons of milk, Rulf said. 

Passing a manure pile, Ziehm said it would be recycled as fertilizer, as it’s rich in phosphorus and nitrogen.

Across from the manure were big piles of cow feed covered by large plastic sheets and held tightly by recycled tires. The technique keeps oxygen out of the feed.

“Think of it as a Zip-Lock bag used to keep out oxygen and allow for the fermentation process to take place,” Rulfs said.

A COW’S DIET

The educational lesson did not end with the tour. 

Farm nutritionists displayed on a table a preserved cow’s rumen, which is one of four digestive compartments and the site where bacteria break down the cellulose in plant materials.

Amber-colored and abnormally shaped, it resembled something from a sci-fi movie; some children kept their distance from the object, as others moved toward it, smiling as they posed for pictures.

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