Off-farm job contributes to successful dairy

Written by Emily Battmer
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When veterinarian Sara Holloway went out in the field wearing rubber boots and coveralls, ready to collect blood and urine samples from cows during a job interview, she had no plans of entering the dairy industry — and no idea that Scott, the dairy farmer accompanying her, would eventually be her husband.

“The only dairy knowledge I had came from vet school and was mostly from a textbook,” Sara says. “I did know a lot about other food animals, but was never interested in being a ‘dairy vet,’ which turned out to be ironic.”

Now, the Holloways work with Scott’s dad and grandfather to milk 160 cows at Twin Oaks Farm, their 350-acre dairy in Bowie, Texas, and are active in the Young Cooperator (YC) program.
As a veterinarian, Sara tries to bring home information from work to make improvements to the dairy, and pitches in to help the herd vet work with heifers, pull calves and treat wounds every now and then.

In return, working on the dairy has made her more attuned to cow comfort and more knowledgeable about dairy-specific diseases, and she says she can now make expert calf-feeding recommendations from her own personal experience. Because Twin Oaks is one of the only dairies her clinic sees, the vast majority of her practical dairy knowledge comes from the Holloways’ cows.

Scott says having that practical veterinary knowledge on hand has been beneficial. His wife keeps him up to date on veterinary protocols and any changes in state or national regulations regarding animal welfare, something the Holloways take seriously. Scott says cow comfort is a top priority on the dairy and something on which he tries to focus.

“She has her say as far as vaccinations and doctoring,” he says. “She always gets her 2 cents in, and it helps being able to call her up anytime. She keeps us in the loop.”

While Sara keeps the family informed on veterinary issues and practices, Scott says it is the YC program that keeps the couple in the know on issues in the dairy industry and the Cooperative.
The Holloways attended their first Southwest Area YC conference in 2010, just a year after getting married, and were chosen as YC advisors. Since then, Sara says she has received a crash course in the dairy industry. As YC advisors, the couple attended the National Milk Producers Federation meeting, DFA’s Annual Meeting, an Area Council meeting and numerous plant tours.

“Not having a dairy background and not knowing really anything about the dairy industry, this was an invaluable experience for me,” Sara says. “I learned so much about DFA, the other co-ops, how milk is marketed and sold and the huge number of products our milk goes to produce.”

Additionally, she says the YC program has given them an opportunity to meet other YCs and see how their farms operate.

“There are very few dairies in our county, so it’s great to be a part of the greater dairy community that I see each year and keep in touch with through Facebook and even Christmas cards,” Sara says.
Scott agrees that the opportunity to connect with other young dairymen has been the highlight of their involvement in the program. He says the couple has gotten to know people throughout the United States, which has increased their awareness of what’s going on in the Cooperative and in the dairy industry at a national level.