MILL HALL, Pa. — It’s not new for women to have important and essential roles in agriculture and dairy. What is new is to see the spotlight shine on the leadership of women — to have more opportunities to talk with other women about naturally healthy milk and dairy products, the science and care that go into their daily work with the cows and the land.
This was the message of three dairywomen, each with their own management roles as the third generation at Dotterer’s Dairy, with 3000 acres, home to 1400 cows near Mill Hall, Pennsylvania.
They were on hand to talk to the public at the Calving Corner event during the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Show on a day designated for celebrating women in dairy.
The women of Dotterer’s Dairy — Candice White, Lori Butler and Amanda Condo — have been inspiring young girls all year since the airing of the Land O’Lakes Maggie Rose She-I-O video production last summer.
“It’s that message that we hope inspires the younger generation to know they can follow their path,” says Lori, who is the dairy’s feed manager.
“Working with family is not always perfect, but it works. To have my 92-year-old grandfather working in the same field as me, my dad and my brother, that’s hard to describe,” she adds.
“Ditto,” says Amanda, who does the books for the business and fills in with other hands-on chores. “Seeing family every day and being able to continue on with what my grandpa, dad and uncle have done, and hopefully the next generation some day.”
“Friends from high school wouldn’t believe I would end up back on the farm, but it pulls you back,” adds Candice, who manages the dairy operations, milking and herd health.
“My best friend from high school said she had no idea we did all this,” Candice recalls the farm’s first public open house hosting the community for food, farm tours and fellowship. “She had been to our house many times throughout our school years, but never to really learn and see what the farm is all about. That made me realize just how many people around us can really learn from us about what we do.”
Amanda says she loves the part in the She-I-O filming where her 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, is pictured working on the farm. “I’m super proud of her,” she says. “Anything you want takes hard work and that’s what we learned growing up on a farm.”
Candice adds that working with her nieces and nephews around the farm is a high point. She recalls following her dad around growing up and learned to IV a cow at age 7. She loves having those opportunities now to pass her knowledge on to her nieces and nephews as they follow her around the farm.
For example, she took a nephew along to a forum last summer to learn cow handling. “It was fun to see him practice,” she says. “That little boy picked it up, and it makes you proud.”
“My son is always pal-ing around with Candice,” Amanda laughs. “She teaches him things. She’s resourceful. He didn’t have boots one day, so she made makeshift boots with breeding sleeves.”
All three women enjoy the different aspects of their work. They especially like taking part in decisions and seeing the outcome. They agree that communication and respect are keys to working with family.
They are quick to point out that women have always been instrumental in agriculture. “It’s not new for women in dairy to have important roles,” says Amanda. “What’s a little new is we’re not taking a back seat.”
They want young women to know that whatever it is they choose to do, work at it, learn, and be inspired to have confidence.
Some background on Dotterer’s Dairy: The three-generation farm was founded by Paul and Jean Dotterer in 1951. Of their six children, Larry and John continued in farming — Larry more with the cows and John with the crops. Their brother Charlie works full time with the farm now in agronomy and the third generation is taking on leadership roles in the growing business.
For Candice, production, health, quality go hand-in-hand with cow comfort. Three years ago, she took the Udder Comfort fresh cow comfort challenge.
“This stuff is phenomenal,” she says. “Not only is it easy to use, we also see results.”
In addition to consistent milking protocols, a strong emphasis on herd health and keeping cows comfortable in the freestalls, Candice implemented a fresh cow routine for starting lactations by spraying all fresh udders with Udder Comfort for the first 8 milkings after calving, to soften and soothe.
The herd averages 85 pounds of high quality milk/cow/day, with SCC averaging 100,000.
As feed manager, Lori appreciates what’s done in the fields. “It’s very important to my job feeding the cows,” she says. “We try to get the equipment out before it’s ready so we can go at the optimal time and try not to rush.”
She’s proud of their 100% cover crop on all of their land going into winter. Her brother Doug runs the combine and on the side of the combine is a seed spreader rigged up to seed while he’s combining – a one-shot task.
Dotterer’s Dairy has been interseeding four years, experimenting with 30 acres, then 60, and now 500. Throughout the balance of the cover-cropping program, including the spring rye, they do broadcast seeding, along with drill-seeding. In addition to red clover and annual ryegrass, they experimented with sunflowers and have also used tillage radishes.
They grow over 600 acres of BMR corn silage, accounting for about 60% of the total corn acreage. More of the conventional corn acres are used for grain as they’ve increased the percentage of BMR corn that they grow for the high-forage ration.
Everything here – from feed to housing to cattle care – is focused on healthy, comfortable, productive cows making high quality milk.
— By Sherry Bunting