Being the youngest generation to build upon the family farm can be a lot of pressure, but for DFA member Logan Courtney of Courtney Farms in Chouteau, Okla., it’s all about building on the past for the future. In this Ask A Farmer Friday, Logan talks about installing a robotic milking system and the future of the family farm.
How long has your family been dairy farmers?
Courtney Farms is a family farming operation with three generations still involved in the operation today. Our family has deep roots in the dairy industry dating well back into the 19th century. On our Facebook page, the first image you see is a horse-pulled milk wagon from when the family lived in Illinois and delivered milk door to door from the family's dairy. Courtney Farms, as we know it today, was founded in 1933 when my great grandparents moved to Chouteau and continued to milk cows and raise hens for commercial egg production. My great grandma milked a herd of about 20 to 25 Ayrshire cows by hand and then skimmed cream to make butter that then was sold.
Why did you decide to continue the legacy of the family dairy farm?
Over the decades, dairy died out in my family as we converted to an operation focused on beef, swine, and crops and finally stopped milking around 1980. From a young age, I have always had a passion for agriculture and a deep love for dairy. I knew I wanted to milk cows, as my mother tells me, from the age of two.
Growing up, I was an active member of Mayes County 4-H and participated in everything, from exhibiting livestock and dairy heifers to giving speeches and giving demonstrations to civic groups, all supporting the industry I hold so dear. After high school and a time in college, I made the decision to return to the family farm and follow my dream of milking cows as a profession.
You recently installed a robotic milking system. Why was it important to bring this equipment into your operations?
Ensuring we were building an environmentally-friendly dairy was important to us. So we worked with local farmers, dairy suppliers and environment agencies, and listened to their tips and suggestions. After about a year of planning, we realized a traditional parlor wasn't realistic to build in my situation and the idea of robotics was presented to us. I knew that robots were having great success on farms in Europe and traditional dairy country, but didn't think they were an option for us.
We continued to learn more about our options and we realized that even with the cost, it made more sense for us to go the robotic route, not only from a labor stand point, but for the benefits of the cows.
What are the benefits of the robotic milk system?
The robot has many advantages not only for the farmer but also for the cows! I can spend more time a day taking care of our baby calves, tending to pregnant cows and making sure the herd is happy and healthy. It sounds silly but "happy cows make high-quality milk," and it's true.
Being able to take care of not only the herd but also the land, are both important to me. As a DFA producer, my job is to produce the highest-quality product for your family, make sure my cows have the best quality of life possible, and ensure that the water is clean and pure. Just as many generations before me have done, we want to leave the land in a better state than when we took charge of it.
Looking forward, what do you hope to accomplish on the farm?
We currently milk around 65 to 70 registered Jerseys, and I hope in the following years to increase the herd size, as well as improve the quality of our cows through selective breeding. We are looking at adding on to our current facilities to make our happy cows even more happy with a new freestall barn. Finally, being able to open the farm to more opportunities for agritourism and ag-advocacy. The future of agriculture depends on the public's support and helping consumers to be well informed, as many already want to be in this day and age.
How do you feel about sharing from your farm on social media?
We are perhaps the luckiest generation to have the use of social media. The public can reach out to today’s farmers, ask questions when they see something on Facebook or YouTube and get an honest answer. I welcome consumers to follow our Facebook page to follow our progress on the farm. They can also follow my Instagram and Snapchat accounts, @logan.cfarms, for a daily dose of what goes on around a family farm!