Blue Sky Farms | Dairy Photography
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017
I spent two days at Blue Sky Farms late last fall, and loved meeting their people and learning their story. I often feel I sound like a broken record, but people in agriculture are just good, good people. They’re innovative, intelligent, have common sense, work hard, and they care. They care about other people, and they care about their animals. It makes me feel whole inside to hang around people like that. With all the negativity and sensationalism mass and social media bring into our lives, it’s these places that I look around, breath in the fresh air, and think to myself, “It’s all gonna be alright.” Good people with good intentions with good values still exist, and they exist in much larger quantities than watching the news might make us believe. That being said, here are the animals of Blue Sky Farms and the people who care for them:
After the calves are born in the dairy, they’re brought here and put into their own pens with buckets of fresh water and feed. Warm milk gets delivered daily, too! We finally caught up with the waterer mid-morning. He’s driving through, filling the calves’ buckets with fresh water. After 80 days in their hutches, they’re all put in the same pen and will transition throughout a series of pens until they’re big enough to give milk. The guy on the right in the picture above is K.R. He showed me around both days and was the lucky recipient of my 97430128 questions about dairy farming! K.R. grew up on his family’s dairy farm and was so knowledgeable about the industry, where it’s been and where the future is. He and his wife, Robin, invited me to dinner while I was there and made me the sweetest gift basket filled with the dairy’s milk products, locally made salsa and even a bottle of wine! Isn’t that so thoughtful?! In this picture, team members are weighing new calves on a scale before placing them into their pens. Harry, the CEO of Blue Sky Farms, sat down to chat with me after lunch. I learned how he’d immigrated to North America working his way from the Netherlands to Canada to Texas. He told me about opening the first dairy and their expansion since then. His is truly a story of the American Dream. I’m always inspired by people who build their life from the ground up, and he and his wife have certainly done that! After we’d chatted for awhile, he told me about his small herd of buffalo and asked if I’d like to go see them. Coming from the Bison-obsessed state of North Dakota, I was like YES! How cool is this?! Harry, pointing out the bull. They know his truck and come to it, because he’s usually got something good for them to eat! Ok, back on task to the dairy: This is a rotary milking parlor! This giant wheel spins very slowly. The cows step into it, and workers are stationed all the way around the wheel. The workers have a variety of tasks, they:
Clean their teats
Put on the milking machine
Watch for any milking machines that need to be adjusted or reattached
Put teat dip on their teats after the milking machine is removed
When they get to the other side, the cows back right out of the rotary parlor and the next one steps in. No one even has to be there making sure they get on and off, they do it all by themselves! It’s fun to watch. ???? Cows waiting to get on the rotary milking parlor decided to check out the clicking sound of my camera. The milk is stored in large tanks on the dairy and then is pumped into a tanker that transports it to the facility that will pasteurize and package it. Blue Sky Farms is a part of Select Milk Producers and ultimately part of the brands & products of fairlife.
We started bright and early with doctor’s appointments for these cows. The vet was on-site to check and see if they were pregnant or not. The wand you see in this worker’s hand scans the cows’ eartags and records their preg check results into the computer system. It’s all very hands on (or in this case, hands in!) and technology makes the milk-making process as efficient, and therefore productive, as possible! Pretty cool, huh?
Everyone here was so kind & courteous of the photographer running around (and trying not to get in the way)!
The vet is from Australia and chatted away with the rest of the team as he worked the business end of each cow. All in a days work! This is Justin. He manages this particular dairy site and took over this morning’s tour while K.R. was in meetings. He and his family love this work so much that we even took their Christmas card photo at the dairy entrance with their favorite cow! We talked a long time about all the work that goes into making sure these cows are healthy and comfortable, and really just how much they’re cared for. For example, there’s someone watching the cows around the clock while they’re giving birth, ready to help if needed! Here’s Justin’s family photo we took at the end of my last day on the dairy. Sweet, isn’t it? It was a joy to get to know them. As the day wrapped up, I took one more shot of Justin and K.R. talking together before we went our separate ways. One of my biggest takeaways from this shoot is that the people here are not only nice folks who know how to run a business, they’re also genuinely friends. I feel like so many people freak out about larger operations, but at the end of the day, they’re still family farms. The majority, like this one, are family owned, with several other families pitching in and helping out. These are the type of people who have worked hard for everything they’ve got, the type of people who love their work so much they make it a part of their Christmas card. And they do all of us in agriculture proud.
To learn more about Blue Sky Farms, visit their website at https://blueskyfarms.com/.
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