Monday, June 4, 2012

Why we chose the Kerry Part Two: Adam and Phil

An old Kerry cow blooms again under the care of Phil and Adam Dean.

Our Kerry project was only possible because of a partnership with another farm, our friends Phil and Adam Dean. (Not affiliated in any way with  the Dean foods corporation)

People around western Pennsylvania have grown to love Adam's pasteurized creamline (non homogenized) milk in glass bottles, but may not know just how good they are as farmers and skilled cattlemen.

We are both five generations on our respective home places, and our farms lie only about nine miles apart, but I only got the pleasure of knowing them about seven years ago. 

When everybody else was complaining about fertilizer prices a few years ago, Adam and Phil were figuring out how to grow corn without expensive fertilizer.

When everybody else was trying the latest roundup ready corn, Adam was trying open pollinated corn and learning the lost art of running row crop cultivators.

Adam Dean making Cheese in his small, modern plant
Adam also figured out that there is not much a a future selling cheap milk through expensive cows. It is easy today to spend $20,000 or more on a high producing Holstein, but her milk is still only be worth $17.00 per hundred weight (about $1.36 per gallon) when commodity milk prices are low. Even before the Kerry project, their herd had some unique genetics.  They kept a family strain of moderate size Holsteins going that make more milk on grass.  They integrated Jerseys into the herd. They have experimented with crossing Angus and Simmental with Holsteins.

While the components of the Dean herd can minimize costs, the price of commodity milk is still inadequate. Adam saw that the milk had to leave the farm as  food; not a commodity. He went to cheesemaking school and  set up his own processing plant. 

Phil Dean and a little Dexter who kept following him around on out visit to Someday Maybe Farms. Can cows instinctively recognize good cowmen?

Their herd numbers remains small by modern standards and their cows are managed in an exemplary manner. The cows spend their days outside and nights in a traditional dairy barn. Even in the depths of our wicked Winters, every cow gets outside at least every other day.  Their barn is exceptionally clean and I have always been struck by how much they like and regard their cows. The result of Adam and Phil's cattle care and breeding is that their dairy cows live and remain in production three times longer than the national average.

I always liked raising bottle calves and feeding dairy steers. Deans' neonatal calf care was so careful, I stopped buying calves from  another dairy.  This eventually led to some long discussions about dual purpose (dairy and beef) cattle genetics and changing consumer beef preferences. We looked at a lot of breeds. After some research and discussion, Adam shocked me with his interest in milking Dexter Cattle.  It made sense when I learned that, as a cheesemaker, his interest is in the quality of milk, not just quantity.  It also broadened the pool for grass based genetics with their already excellent herd. .

We developed a plan to use my smaller farm as a place to raise young stock, and finish beef steers, and he would keep milking stock at his place. It presented me with an opportunity to do what I love: raise heifers and graze cattle. While looking for Dexters, the Kerry cattle opportunity presented itself, so we ended up with some of both.
In addition to being valuable in terms of money and genetics, our cows are living creatures. Each is  a unique being in a world where life itself is a miracle. I would not normally board cows to other people, but I do this as I completely trust the Deans' skill and commitment. I know something about cows, but am overshadowed by their cattle magic.  In particular, a couple of the Kerry Cows are older and have traveled around from farm to farm. They were not always well cared for (prior to being brought to the farm we got them). It has been a real pleasure to see them bloom under Adam and Phil's care.

I will have short posts for a couple of days then we will address the matter of horns! Part 3 on The Kerry cow's unique characteristics will follow after that.


  1. Great post. All so, so true. I'm looking forward to watching the crosses develop.

    Nice blog!

    1. Thank you! Thanks also for your help in our project.

      Richard Grossman

  2. I am looking to sell 3 Dexter cows that we have. Two adult female and one is the six month old baby of one of the adult cows. My husbands health has taken a turn for the worst and we cannot take care of them as they should be taken care of. For the time being we are doing the best we can but will not be able to do it into the winter. I live in Falls, PA Near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and would appreciate if you could spread the word.
    Thanks So much!!
    Margaret Piatt

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