DFA member shares the Udder Truth

Written by Brian Bosiljevac
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If you ask SwissLane Dairy Farm, bigger is most certainly better. The Oesch family, who runs the dairy, shared their story when they chose to participate in an Internet video series produced by Dairy Good, a consumer-focused website owned by Dairy Management Inc.

The video series, called The Udder Truth, features three dairy farmers disputing myths in the dairy industry. Annie Link, whose great-grandfather started SwissLane Dairy Farm, was asked to talk about how big farms aren’t factory farms.

“For us, we want people to see that farms come in all shapes and sizes,” Link says. “We all are passionate about what we are doing, no matter if we have two cows or thousands of cows. The way we see it, caring for more cows means we are connecting with more people. We aren’t some corporation — just a big family very passionate about what we do.”

Link estimates there are about 100 family members in the Oesch family, and of that large group, 30 family members live within two miles of the farm and 19 of them work on the dairy every day. SwissLane employs 50 people and more than 35 percent of employees are family.

As Link says in The Udder Truth video, “just as our family has grown, the farm has grown right along with it.”

SwissLane milks 2,000 cows in Alto, Mich. Although that would classify the dairy, which has been around since 1915, as a large farm, they are proud to say they have been a family farm since day one.

The Oesch family made its biggest jump when they doubled their herd size from 500 to 1,000 cows from 1999 to 2000, and they have continued to expand ever since. Currently, they milk 1,500 cows three times a day in the main barn. They also have 500 cows in what they call the “robot barn,” which utilizes robotic milkers.

“We definitely would rather buy cows instead of sell them,” Link says. “It’s safe to say we just love cows.”

The Oesch family is passionate about promoting the dairy industry. This is the 10th year Link has been providing tours of SwissLane, called Dairy Discovery. The tours are designed for school trips, groups, birthdays and other special events. Dairy Discovery gives visitors a holistic view of what happens on a dairy farm. Guests can do everything from bottle-feed calves, get lost in a hay maze, learn about dairy nutrition and much more. So far this year, Dairy Discovery is averaging six tours per week.

“The idea to start Dairy Discovery actually just came from me being a new mom in the community,” Link says. “I was running my kids to piano lessons and sporting events. I started talking with other parents, and one of their first questions is always what do you do for a living. People were always so shocked when I told them I was a dairy farmer and they had so many questions for me. I think there is definitely a need for it because people want to know where their food is coming from and we absolutely love showing them what we do.”

In addition to running tours to promote the dairy, Link is also active on social media. She utilizes Facebook, Twitter and a blog to show what is happening on the dairy. With just a quick photo and a post to social media, she is able to share her story with anyone.