Archive for Beverly Donavon

8 of the greatest Dairy Love Stories in the World

Now I am sure, when you think of the most romantic professions in the world, dairy farmers may not come to the top of the list.  Over the years we have found many great love stories here at the Bullvine.  From the engagement of Bryn Quick and Mark Hornbostel at World Dairy Expo 2013 (Read more: World Dairy Expo Proposal – First comes cows then comes vows!) to those that have fallen in love with the show ring (Read more: For Love of the Ring!) to those that love their cows so much (Read more: The Magic of Francesca).  However, this Valentine’s Day we decided to share with you eight of the greatest dairy love stories we could find.

“Love Endures – Even Through Heart ache” – Jessica Valentine

I’ve thought and thought since I saw this contest about how I could possibly put into words my love story.  It finally came to me tonight in the last hours possible on the night before Valentine’s Day while we are in the midst of a storm that has me snowed in at home taking care of animals and children and my husband snowed in at the farm taking care of cows, while fighting the flu.

I never really met my husband, you see we have just always known each other.  I grew up showing beef and riding horses and Mark’s family is a dairy family several generations deep, from the same small town.  I could tell you so many stories of how our love started.  Like our first date going to a bingo for the Maryland judging team to go to Europe.  I broke my femur getting into his truck and had to beg the EMT not to cut my jeans off– it was our first date for Pete’s sake!  Or how he gave me a sweet little Ayrshire heifer for Christmas one year, or how his favorite old show cow who was battling cancer wouldn’t eat or drink or get up when he was out of town so I carried her feed and water to the farthest corner of the field hoping to keep her going till he got home to see her put down.

But the story that I want to share is how our love has endured.  I always thought that the hard part of my life would be growing up with a bone disease that makes my legs break very easy, requiring numerous surgeries and hospital stays.  I never imagined that would be a piece of cake compared to learning how to put my family’s lives back together.  In 2011 we were living the dream.  A wonderful strong marriage, three beautiful little boys and a job managing a dairy doing what we loved.  Then the unthinkable happened and in a devastating accident we lost our youngest son Karsin the day before his 4th birthday.

It’s been said that 82% of marriages that lose a child do not last and there have been times when I thought we to would become a statistic.  But love is not about giving up when things get hard.  Love is a lot like being a dairy farmer.  , It takes a lot of sweat tears and determination to keep it afloat.  Our love is stronger now than ever because we have seen each other at a level that not many will see.  We have seen each other completely torn down and I watch with pride as all of my “Valentines” rebuild.

But that’s not where this story ends.  In our love story there was a bit of wonder that happened in our darkest hours and that was watching our dairy/ farming community surround our family with support.  Being the center of that outpouring of Love was something that I can never explain and I believe that my other two sons have a sense of confidence today because of that love.

So my love story is a mix of love for my husband, my sons, and the camaraderie of dairy people and, of course, for our beautiful Ayrshire cows.

“Amanda’s First Calf” – Amanda Coulter

The seed of a life’s dream took root in the breast of a young girl on a cold November evening thirteen years ago.  Like most children, the girl was loved well by her parents.  In addition to this, the girl benefited from the circumstances of her family.  She received the extra care and attention as an only child is afforded with the bonus of a father who took his little girl everywhere with him while working his dairy farm.  Naturally, the resulting emotions of the girl were to emulate her “Daddy.”  The girl wanted so badly to do and be as her father that she continually asked for a calf to start her “own” herd.  Her father would always smile and tell her “When you are bigger and can take care of her on your own.”  For years this was a daily conversation between the two as they went about their day.  Father doing what needed done and daughter following behind his every step.  The father was a good and decent man who cared for his only child greatly.  While not telling the girl any of his thought, he wondered what calf would be the best for his little girl to start her own herd as she put it.  The father was very careful in the breeding of his cattle and the results were a herd anyone would be proud of.  One way the farmer was able to achieve this was to implant the embryos of the better cows into the not so productive ones.  He also had the foresight to keep many embryos on hand in a liquid nitrogen tank that was serviced regularly.

For several years he had been watching, worried and anxious as the calves were born, looking for the perfect one to present to his girl.  On a cold November evening the farmer made his way to the house looking for his little girl with a very determined look on his face.  Since it was late and the girl was only five years old, she was fast asleep in bed.  The father knew this as the mother never wavered on bedtime for their child.  The mother believed that a regular schedule and chores kept a child healthy and knowing about responsibilities.  Determination firmly planted, the farmer made his way to the child’s room.  Father whispered in the girls ear to wake up until she was aware enough to hear and understand what her father was saying.  “Come with me, I have something to show you”.  The man quietly said as he gathered his girl up in his arms.  So the mother got to see her husband carry their girl out into the night in her footed pajamas and wrapped in her blankie.  Mother watched out the window as her little family disappeared into the barn.  With hopes that this would indeed be a good night for her child, the mother went back to her duties.

In the barn, the father carried the girl to the farthest corner where the pens for the sick, injured, and soon to birth cows were housed.  Seeing a new baby in one of the pens, the girl said excitedly, “Look daddy you have a new baby”!  The father bent down right beside the box stall so his little girl could see closely and clearly the small calf lying on the straw inside.  The girl stroked the newborns yet soft hair while enjoying this wonderful sight.  The family believed every new birth was a wonderful thing.  New animals were a continuation of their plans, hard work, and their family business.  Also every new birth was a goal to achieve for an even better cow.  While she was doing this, the father whispered very quietly in his daughters ear…………”I named her Amanda, would you like to have her”?  The little girl’s brain could not keep up with all the emotions running through her.  The first thing she could say was, Amanda?  That is my name!  The second thing was I could have her!  Father very seriously told his child that “She is everything you need to have to start your own herd” The child could only beam and say that her calf was beautiful!  The father very seriously said “yes she is” JOY JOY JOY ran through her body as she cried, I want to go in, I want to go in!  I want to see all of her!  Thankful that he had remembered to snatch up her little boots on the way out the door, the father helped Amanda kid into them and opened the box stall door for her.  Keeping a close eye on the calf’s mother to make sure she didn’t get over excited and hurt his child, he settled his little girl by her very first calf lying on the straw, letting the two Amanda’s get to know each other.  Amanda kid told her dad that she would be able to pick her calf out of the group when she was put there because Amanda calf had a backwards seven on her face and spots like saddles on both her sides!  The father laughed and said that he believed that she would be able to pick her animal out anywhere at any time even after she grew into a cow and lived in the milking herd.  After quite a while of Amanda kid enjoying her precious possession, the father figured it was time to let Amanda calf rest and get Amanda kid back to bed.  The father told Amanda kid that it was time to go.  Amanda kid was so upset that a tear actually slipped down her cheek.  Very concerned now because Amanda kid NEVER cried, even when she was hurt quite seriously that spring and still carried the scars from her injury, this very miniature grown up just didn’t cry!  The father conceded and said they could watch from outside the box stall for a little while longer.  Happy with that, the girl sat on a bale of straw beside the stall to enjoy watching her new Amanda calf.  Amanda kid asked her father who the father and mother of her new calf were, as she was already learning about bloodlines and genetics.  When he told her about her calf’s parentage, she was very confused.  Facing her father she said “That is impossible!  Her dam is the very first cow YOU ever owned and was the start or YOUR herd!  She died before I was ever born.”  Still as serious as the little girl Amanda kid had ever seen him, the father replied, I have been saving her very last embryo for a very long time waiting for something special and I think you are pretty special…..  The little girl knew instantly that she would remember her daddy telling her that and the feeling of love that went with it for the rest of her life.  The little girl’s chest was hurting with all the wonderful feelings she was experiencing.  She loved her daddy so much and she loved her Amanda calf too!  “Wait until mom hears” she tells her father as he carried her to the house.  “I get to take care of Amanda calf every morning and every night!  She will grow up to be a great cow!  I will be a farmer!  I have my own calf!”  The mother was very excited for her little girl and hugged her a lot!  Amanda kid felt very important!  This was the most wonderful night of her whole life…  It was very late indeed when Amanda kid got back to her bed and finally fell asleep that night.  However, she was up before dawn and headed down to the barn with her daddy to help him and start her life as a herd owner.  There were so many things to do and so many plans to make.

“You Make Me Dairy Happy” – Monica Streff

I would have never guessed that a sunny Monday in June 2010 would be the beginning of my life as it is today.  I had just finished visiting with a dairy farm that I do consulting work for and jumped back in my truck.  As I started out the driveway, I began checking out my missed calls, voicemails, texts, and emails.  I noticed a phone number I had not seen before had left a message so I figured I should check it out.  I could barely make out the message other than “call me” and the phone number.  I started dialing the number with some hesitation as I had no clue what it was in regards to or who I was calling.  The gentleman on the other end answered on the first ring and started our conversation as though we had been long time friends.  He explained his situation to me.  They were looking for a different consultant to do their nutrition work and they had seen I had stopped several times before since I left my card each time.  I indicated I was in the area that day and could visit with him briefly if he had the time.  He proceeded by saying, “Sure do. Why don’t you come find me?  I am cutting hay.”  I thought to myself, sure, I have no clue where he may be cutting, but why not?”  He continued, “Pull in the driveway by the house and follow it around the bends to the west.  Don’t let the construction send you in the wrong direction.  Just stay on the road and keep coming straight back.  You will find me.”  I started thinking, Lord, what did I get myself into.  I arrived at the farm, pulled in the drive by the house and started my attempt at following the road.  He wasn’t kidding when he said, “Don’t let the construction send you in the wrong direction.”  I started driving towards an alfalfa field where I could see a BIG RED TRACTOR and a disc bine.  As I was getting out of the truck, he jumped out of the tractor and headed my way.  “Hi, I’m Jeremy, some people call me Bob, you can call me whatever you want, Jeremy, Bob, idiot, whatever.”  All I could do was giggle and smile.  And from that day forward our friendship began.  Our friendship continued to grow over the months as I did consulting work for the dairy, and the Schwittay family started to feel like an extended family to me on my “up north” days.  As October approached, he began poking and prodding me about if I was going to World Dairy Expo.  I told him I was as I had Ayrshire cattle that were being shown there as well as I would be working in a booth there.  He simply asked, “What day you taking your cattle down?”  I answered and he asked if he could go along.  If you ask him, he says that was our first “official” date, but that did not happen for a few more weeks.  Every day since that day in June 2010, I have continued to grow and understand what unconditional love is.  We have been through our struggles and achievements like anyone else and continue to be the best of friends.  Our life is not easy.  We have the dairy farm, we started a custom calf & heifer operation two years ago, we market our registered cattle, we have rental properties, and I continue to work full time as a dairy consultant.  Others always ask us, “How do you guys make this work?  You mix business and professional and all you do is work.”  Our answer is simple…we love each other unconditionally, we are each other’s best friend, we make the best of every situation, and have trust in one another.  Who wouldn’t love working with their best friend every day.  As I sit in the house writing this I think about in the last two weeks how much I miss my dairy love.  I had surgery on my foot and ankle and have been confined to the house until I can walk again.  I have had time to really think about how much I take for granted the time we get together.  If it is showing cattle, chopping corn silage, leveling off the silo, or moving heifers; I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody but him.  He has a way to always put a smile on my face no matter how bad the situation is.  He is my biggest cheerleader, my business partner, my best friend, and my rock.  Jeremy Schwittay is my Dairy Love.

“Nobody is Perfect until You Fall in Love with them” – Jess Peter

As all great love stories start, I met him when I was drunk at a party.  The school we attended was known as a “suitcase college,” so the great weekly party was held on a Wednesday night.  These parties were known as the “John Deere Parties,” creatively enough, their namesake was derived from the gentlemen who held said parties.  I know you are probably quite impressed by the creativity and uniqueness that is beaming from this story already!  Being a small community college in Iowa, it was safe to say, the dairy and John Deere Tech students knew each other quite well.  But, when I looked around, there was a new face.  I was promptly introduced to him and told “he’s a fitter.”  “Fitter, huh,” I scoffed.  *It is important to note that, at this time in my life, I had only worked on commercial herds.  I was much more interested in stall dimensions and whether or not the farm installed brisket boards.  So he responded, “Yes!” and I spoke out very confidently, “Cows have numbers, not names.”  We realized we did not have much in common, so our first meeting was brief and uneventful.

Fast-forward 2 years, I had transferred to Iowa State along with five friends from the community college.  It was my 21st Birthday and ironically he was down visiting.  Sadly, I was seeing a mutual friend at the time, but over the course of the years we did become closer friends.  This could be greatly attributed to the fact that my interest had also changed.  All of my friends were involved with registered cattle in some way, shape or form.  I had made the collegiate judging team and slightly abandoned my “commercial roots.”

Again, we are fast-forwarding to that next spring semester.  I was taking it off to do a Genetics Internship in Wisconsin.  It dawned on me that he was the only person I knew in Wisconsin.  We reunited again on my Birthday.  This time it was at a dive bar in northern Wisconsin.  After that night we talked and texted back and forth on a regular basis.  *Did I mention I had a boyfriend at the time?  Oh, I didn’t?  Okay, well I had a boyfriend at the time.  So, back to our love story…in the next few weeks the Bulterview Parade of Perfection was being held in Elkhorn, WI.  I drove down for the sale the night before and we went to the sale the next day.  After this weekend, I called it quits with the guy from back home.

We became what you would call “Facebook Official” the weekend of the Siemers Spring Showcase, for the rest of my internship I traveled on Fond du Lac to see him when he was working sales at the Great Northern and stayed a couple nights at the “Siemers Hotel.”  Since then I have moved to Wisconsin the timeline of our relationship is traced by sales and shows along the way.  With this, our herd and our hearts have continued to grow.  I know he is a keeper when I tell him I want to buy Ayrshires, and he gets Jeff Stephens to sell a great one, right out from under his nose!

It’s not the type of story that blows you away with overdone notions or drama.  We are perfect for each other, right down to the type of cattle we like.  Sometimes I think he likes them a little too dairy and refined, and I know some days he thinks I like them a little too coarse with a little too much strength.  It’s safe to say we balance each other out.  It’s just as simple as that, two people, one love and one passion.

“True love lies on the other side of the alley” – Ken McEvoy

Everyone has a love story, a person or animal that touches you, changes your life, the way you think the way you feel.  Can you feel the shivers down your spine the first time your eyes met?  What’s your story?  Every story has a beginning middle and an end.  The only problem is our love story will never end , so we start in the middle, where we are today.  We live in the house he lived in for 20 years, but until the last few years it wasn’t a home.  It was a place where I ate and slept, now it’s filled with the sound of little feet running across the floor, the smell of brownies in the oven and the sight of my wife’s beautiful smile.  Our little farm, our little house and our little family makes for a beautiful life and it all started, because she said hello, which brings us to the beginning.  Like most farm couples we met at a fair, a place where our love for cows allowed us to meet.  A place where my family has shown for nearly 70 years in a barn named for my father.  A barn where for those years for us were tied only Holsteins.  But that one summer in walked a girl with two Brown Swiss heifers.  Little did I know that she and those two heifers would forever change my life and the color scheme in our barn.  It was love at first sight.  Not the kind of run around love.  A one look and you know you were meant to be together forever.  So whether your love be red black or brown there’s always the chance your true love lies on the other side of the alley.  For me my love will always be the girl “from the other side of the alley”.  My wife, my rock, mother of my children and the glue that holds my world together.  That’s our love story.

“Grandpa’s Love” – Eileen Gress

My dairy love story starts around Christmas of 2005, when my Grandpa fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine – he purchased for me a pair of twin Ayrshire bull calves.

For most people in the dairy industry, a pair of twin bulls would be the furthest thing from a dream – particularly stocky bulls as these were.  But for me, these calves – which I named Bob and Tom – weren’t going to be steers, or even breeding stock.  They were going to be my oxen.

My mom had a team of oxen when she was my age that she raised and trained to wear a yoke and pull wagons in parades and at exhibitions.  Some of my earliest memories were sitting on Mick or Mike’s backs as Mom led the complacent steers around the yard, and I very distinctly remember the day that, at a ripe old age, they were both buried in the front pasture.  Their horns are now mounted on our living room wall, along with a photo of them in full parade gear.

The want for a team of oxen of my own started a few years after, when I was starting in 4-H.  Every time we had bull calves born, I hoped that maybe they’d look identical enough that mom would let me keep them to train.  But each bull inevitably left for market, and I went back to leading my show heifers around, wishing.

A friend of my grandpa’s told him about these twin bulls that he’d kept, that were intended to be a 4-H project for his nephew – but when the nephew lost interest, he was left with a pair of weaned bull calves without a purpose.  I was more than happy to bring them back home, and I spent hours with the pair, teaching them to lead and marking down milestones in a scrapbook I kept.

We dug out the yokes that Mom had saved from her team of oxen, and started breaking them to yoke when they were around seven months old.  Their horns were just beginning to grow up and out, and would eventually take the iconic Ayrshire shape without any training.  I spent as much time working my oxen as I could, and was excited for their parade debut to take place.

Mom and I dressed up in prairie dresses (which my grandma and I had sewn, together) and yoked Bob and Tom up for the Memorial Day parade in our town.  Bob was my nigh ox, and Mom walked alongside Tom.  They pulled a white wooden sled, upon which my little brother rode and tossed candy out to parade-watchers.

Bob and Tom were a hit.  They were tied with our show cattle at the fair every year, and drew people from all corners of Wayne County to come see the oxen.  We took them in our Memorial Day parade, and a Holiday parade in a nearby county, and they loved the attention and excitement of people.

As they grew, my love for them did, too.  It was my job to feed and care for them every day, and it was rewarding to see their personalities develop.  As twins, they were closer than they might have been if they were simply herd mates, but these brothers loved each other and rarely left the other’s side.  I could always count on Bob being on the left side of the bunk, and Tom on the right, and that was how they walked through the pasture and were yoked as well.  Bob was more timid, while Tom was outgoing and friendly – and loved shoes.

My boys loved going on walks, and to fairs, and loved being petted and washed.  They also loved breaking through the electric fence and gallivanting through the fields, tearing up alfalfa buds and decimating the new oats.  Though I’d like to say my love for them was unconditional, I could have done without wild ox chases early in the mornings before school.

Sadly, Bob fell ill just after their sixth birthday, and no amount of sticking my poor Bob like a pincushion could reduce the swelling in his hocks.  He lost weight rapidly, and we knew that if he went, Tom would follow quickly after – they were brothers, after all, and there was no way that one could live without the other.  It was with a lot of tears and whispered goodbyes that I loaded my best friends onto the trailer one Wednesday morning in mid-October, and waved at them as they left, dust trailing behind them as the trailer went down our drive.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of my boys, and their horns will soon have a place of honor next to those of Mick and Mike’s on our living room wall.  They were my best friends, and my confidants, and the greatest gift my Grandpa could ever have given me.  I cherish each memory and photo that I have of me and my boys, and though I miss them, I know that I’ll get to see them again in the great green pastures, happy and healthy as they come to greet me.

“Who Got The Real Deal” – Beverly Donovan

My dairy love story begins with a youngster named Francis Wickland.  At age 17, Francis went shopping for an Ayrshire show heifer at the very well-known, well-respected Alta Crest Farm in Spencer, Massachusetts.  He picked out a beautiful fancy heifer and had an agreement with the owner that he would be back after he saved some more money from his job on the town road crew.  After a couple of months had passed, he got a call from the owner saying that somebody else was interested in purchasing that same heifer, and did he still want to buy her?  Francis told the owner that although he still wanted to buy her, he didn’t quite have enough money, so he should sell it to the other person and that he would buy a different heifer that he also liked which was more reasonably priced.  The other person was Mildred Sanford, whose father was looking to buy a fancy show heifer to add to her herd of prize-winning Ayrshires.  Mildred got the fancy heifer Francis originally picked out and Francis bought the other nice but much less expensive heifer.


Francis and Mildred ended up showing against each other all show season, and Mildred’s heifer won her class every time and won most, if not every Junior Champion, too.  Francis’s heifer was always in a pretty close second place, and throughout the competitions, he got the chance to know Mildred better and to tell her that he was the one who had that beautiful heifer on hold when she went to buy it.  At the Eastern States Exposition Youth Show in 1938, Mildred’s heifer was once again named Junior Champion and Francis’s heifer was Reserve Junior Champion.

So after competing all show season and getting to know each other better, they  became friends and went out together…not as each other’s date, but with other dates in a group of friends.  Over the winter, they ended up dating each other, and 3 years after they first became friends because of a beautiful Ayrshire heifer, they got married.  Francis joked with two of his daughters and a granddaughter that he was the one who got the real deal when buying a heifer back in 1938:  he bought a nice heifer without spending a lot, plus he got the fancy heifer he really wanted (along with the other prize-winning cows Mildred owned), and a great wife to boot, so he did pretty good, didn’t he??!!  Francis and Mildred farmed together for 55 years and raised seven children who all showed Ayrshires.  Five of their grandchildren joined 4-H and showed Ayrshires, and one of them still shows Ayrshires and sells milk to the same milk cooperative that her grandparents did for so many years.  Francis and Mildred are my grandparents, and once upon a time, they fell in love with the same beautiful heifer, then fell in love with each other and always were in love with farming and their family at their Golden Sunset Farm in Chesterfield, Massachusetts.

“Frannie’s Magic Inspires Others” – Brittany Robinson

My love for cows came naturally for me.  My story begins when I started raising Holstein bull calves.  I loved the baby calves, feeding them and caring for them.  I started to raise a few heifers here and there, no registered calves or anything with real quality that I knew of.  I started thinking about showing, and realized I needed to save up some money.  I went to the first registered dairy sale I came across, which happened to be in April of 2012.

Not too long before this, Facebook suggested Beverly Donavon as a possible friend.  I added her in February 2012 and then looked upon the magic or Francesca.  I was transfixed on the beautiful story this woman and cow told.  I reached out to Beverly, congratulating her on her gorgeous cows and great success.  We struck an across US Facebook friendship, Washington to Maine.

I ended up seeking advice on how to find a beautiful show calf!  I was ecstatic to be getting a few words of wisdom and encouragement from a seasoned show lady.  I had the show bug and that first sale you could have knocked me over by blowing on me, after I bid and purchased my first little show lady a  December 2011 Braxton daughter!  Oh man I was on top of the world.  The first person I told was Bev over a Facebook message.  I continued to follow the Deer Hill powerhouse story and talked sparingly with Bev.

I added another dream to my list and that was to visit Ayrshire heaven on earth known as the Deer Hill Farm and meet that lovely, decorated cow Frannie and her wonderful owners.

All dreams can end at a moment’s notice and this day is one I will never forget.  I was sitting in the movie theater.  I happened to check my Facebook and read the impossible.  Tears streamed down my face, just as they are now as I type.  The great Francesca was gone!  How could it be?  She was not any part of me by any stretch of the word, but I had been touched by Francesca’s magic.  One of my dreams was gone forever but the story or Beverly and her cow touched my heart and rocket launched my dream of becoming a show lady and breeding my own cows.  I love my cows and wouldn’t have my life any other way.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

My own personal dairy love story is a little different.  You see my one true love didn’t end up  being some amazing farm girl.  In reality she was about as far from being a farm girl as you can get.  She grew up in downtown Toronto, and on her first visit to our farm, she asked if she could tip a cow.  So you ask how this becomes a “Dairy Love Story”, well I will get to the part of the story.  You see as my wife has been exposed to the dairy industry more and more since we met and she has grown to understand the passion that we all have and has started to develop her own passion for the show ring.  She encourages our three children and works right alongside them during calf training, calf feeding and runaway calf catching.  This past year she even exhibited at our local show and gets as excited on proof days as I do,  She graciously accepts teasing about cow tipping but she has no idea how often she flips my heart as I watch her growing dairy love.

Special thanks to the amazing artist Gary  Sauder  (Read more:  GARY SAUDER: The Muse in His Studio) and great team of Beverly Donavon (Read more: The Magic of Francesca)  and Richard Caverly (Read more: Richard Caverly: A Passion for Perfection – Winner Gives All!) for all your assistance with this competition.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you dairy lovebirds and congratulations to all the those who’s stories where chosen, you each will receive a print of Gary’s latest painting of Frannie.

Please like and share the love!!!


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“Farmed and Dangerous” – The Dairy Farmer’s Never Ending Battle with Public Perception

Chipotle Mexican Grill is not new to pushing the edge with their advertising.  This time they have plans to launch “Farmed and Dangerous,” a Chipotle original comedy series that satirically explores the world of industrial agriculture in America. (Read more: Chipotle to Launch “Farmed and Dangerous”)  When I saw this, ad it brought to light again the constant battle farmers and especially dairy farmers face when dealing with public perception.

There is no question that consumers want their food to be fresh, cheap and 100% natural.  With the emphasis being that, they want it cheap.  All consumers would like to believe that the milk they drink comes from cows that roam lush green pastures and frolic with their friends all day long.  The challenge of course is that it just doesn’t happen that way.  In order to produce the volumes of milk that is needed at the lowest cost, the need for larger “agribusinesses” or the negatively perceived “factory” farms is not a choice but a necessity. The thing is any well run dairy operation knows the first requirement for maximum efficiency and production comes down to how well you treat your cows and how comfortable they are.  Cow comfort is one of the biggest indicators of profitability on any dairy.  If the cows are well fed and comfortable, the dairy is running at peak efficiency, even “factory farms.”

That is why this new “Farmed and Dangerous” video from Chipotle offends me as much as it does.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to walk among the cows on many large farms.  The consistent management goal found on all of them is maximizing cow comfort.  I recently watched an informative video by National Geographic – Megafactories about a 135,000 head dairy in Saudi Arabia owned by Almarai.

The problem is that messages like the one from National Geographic get lost.  Instead consumers see repeated messages like the one by Chipotle and assume that they are seeing the way things really are.  Since starting the Bullvine, we have tried to do our part to provide consumers with an accurate and positive perception of dairy farming…  (Read more:  Dairy Carrie – Diary of a City Kid Gone Country, Michele Payn-Knoper – Standing Up and Speaking Out for Agriculture!! and TOM HOOGENDOORN- Family man, Farmer & Our Face to the Consumer!).  Unfortunately, the challenge is that the message is simply not making it through to the general consumer often enough or clearly enough.  Yes large agribusinesses do try to put a positive spin on food production and I get it that it’s not always as sweet and rosie as the image they would have you believe.  Having said that, they certainly don’t need companies like Chipotle undermining these efforts.

I have been fortunate over the years to be exposed to many different cultures and backgrounds.  This has led to a very diverse group of friends on my Facebook feed.  Since I post all the Bullvine featured articles on my Facebook wall, I often get interesting feedback from those who do not come from a dairy background.  While most often questions about arise from them wanting to understand what this whole “Genomics” thing is about, the interaction gets me thinking about the effect our Facebook feeds have on the general consumer’s understanding of agriculture and milk production.

With this in mind, I started looking through my list of dairy friends’ Facebook posts.  For the most part, it was just the same as any other groups, except there are a lot of pictures of cows.  With #felfie’s and other pictures adding a nice touch.  Then I started to see some things that most consumers would just not understand.  One such piece of content was a trend that is going viral, #necknominations.  Necknominations is a drinking game where participants film themselves “necking” liquor, then nominate a friend to do so as well.  This was not the first time I had seen these.  I have actually seen many.  After one such time, a fellow dairy industry member wondered what effect this would have on the general consumer’s perception of dairy farmers.  As I think about this, I find that, while it’s not a “positive” thing for dairy farmers, it certainly is not an isolated event for them either.  It has become viral worldwide.  Unfortunately it even lead to the death of a young man.  This really has me thinking about the power of Facebook on consumer perception.

What I have come to realize is that Facebook does have great power and it can be in a very positive way.  I have seen items like the poem (Just a cow) that highlights just how much dairy farmer’s love for their cows can go viral along with the stories that share the day-to-day challenges that all dairy farmers face in producing clean, wholesome milk.

One video that I think does a great job of  showing  exactly what it means to be a dairy farmer, is the recent video the Canadian Dairy Xpo produced called “So God Made a Dairy Farmer”.  Working off the very viral Super Bowl commercial by Dodge Ram, this video is narrated by the unique voice and great dairy advocate and legendary auctioneer, David Carson.

It highlights the daily challenges dairy farmers face and it is messages like this one that I wish more consumers would see and relate to.  Please like and share this in your Facebook feed, so that more consumers can understand exactly what it means to be a dairy farmer.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that as the world’s population grows, there is going to be greater and greater demand for dairy products.  With that comes the pressure on prices, which will lead to larger and larger dairy farms.  While I understand we all don’t have the time to take up consumer education like Dairy Carrie or Michele Payn-Knoper, there are effective  things that each of us can l do.  On your Facebook feed, be sure to post as many positive images of dairy farming as you can.  Whether  that is a new born calf (yes Jerry Jorgenson, you do this well!) and be sure to let consumers know just how much you love what you are doing and the pride you have in taking great care of your dairy cattle.  Real farmers actively sharing and communicating is definitely the most honest and effective way to give consumers a positive perception.  While it may not seem like much, every little bit helps!?”


To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



Richard Caverly: A Passion for Perfection – Winner Gives All!

Richard Caverly (award)No one is ever truly prepared for massive peer recognition such as that experienced by Richard Caverly when his name was announced at the 2013 recipient of the Klussendorf-Mackenzie Award at The 47th World Dairy Expo. (Read more: Maine Native Wins Klussendorf-Mackenzie Award)  It was obvious that Richard was deeply moved. “This honor to me is so humbling.  The generation I competed with is an amazing group!  There is no way to compare yourself to the likes of Mark Reuth, Joel Kietzman, Ken McEvoy, Paul Petriffer, Scott Hussey, Barrie Potter and the list goes on!  (Read more: Charlie McEvoy: As Good as Gold)  This is a generation who competed with dedication and passion!  They were not at the show to try to sell you their cow, they were there to win, and every cow was special to them!  This generation learned from the generation before them and learned early how to do it all.  They are specialists, only they specialized in every aspect of the show.  The wheelbarrow is as familiar to them as a pair of clippers.” Richard sums up his admiration with this unforgettable phrase.


“They would make a hummingbird look like it had no work ethic!”

Now that’s a picture to keep in your mind’s eye from now on, whenever you think of those men and women who have the perfect touch when it comes to working with cattle.  The ability to lift each animal they are focused on to a whole new level.  As Richard Caverly heard the applause which signified that he had earned a special place among dairy industry peers, we wonder which came first for him– the passion? Or the perfection?  Richard himself would humbly divert the attention and tell you that he owes most to the people themselves– his wife, family, friends, dairy co-workers and mentors.

Caverly’s Love Cows and Produce Champions

Richard’s passion lifelong passion for cows began young and began at home. “My start with cattle came at an early age, as my father “E.C.”, along with his two brothers Frank and “Pudge”, were owners of Caverly Farms in Clinton, Maine.  They started their Ayrshire herd as a 4-H project that was their own responsibility, as their father was the head of the highway commission and constantly “On the road”!  They received help from my great Uncle Edgar – my wife Beverly’s Deer Hill herd resides on his farm today.  The brothers bred and developed many All-American and All Canadian cattle, including the a Royal Junior Champion in the ‘60’s and 1978 Madison Grand Champion and Reserve Junior Champions.  The farm is unique in that along with these dairy champions my cousins have had National Champion with their Beef Shorthorn cattle as well.” Richard appreciates these strong family ties. “I am blessed with amazing family support, all the way from my Uncle Frank to my youngest sister, Leah.” He then zeroes in on the one who means so much to him.

“Of everyone in my life, my wife Beverly Donovan is my biggest hero.”

It isn’t surprising that Richard and Beverly share a common vision for what they believe in. He proudly identifies the strengths of his soul mate.  “Her passion for success and her dedication to making sure her animals get their due is unmatched!  Commitment should be her middle name as she truly puts the Ladies of Deer Hill at the top of her life.  She is thankful for those who have helped her, and she is free with her help to others.”

Picking a Winner – “It Starts with Seeing the Potential”

When someone becomes exceptional at what they do, we want to credit it to some extra special gene that propels their performance. Laying no claim to special powers Richard feels success is simply a process. “For me, I enjoy watching an animal reach her potential. You need to identify what you can do to help her reach it. Then it is very special to watch a cow rise above and get to the level that you envisioned.  There is an extreme amount of trust given to any individual blessed with the care of an animal.  Most important is the trust of the animal. It takes a lot of dedication to properly care for and handle them.  I have many tired friends who share the passion; their dedication wakes them up on cold damp mornings and it is their commitment that makes them stand out in such a demanding industry!”

Richard’s Role Models “They believe vacation is a place where they can take their animals!”

Richard has learned from those he admires. “My Uncle Frank at 72 is still the hardest worker I have ever known along with the biggest supporter of my endeavors!  Craig Hawksley the breeder of Sweet Pepper Black Francesca is a man I idolized as a kid.  Craig is perhaps one of the most under-the-radar people I know as his passion for breeding is unmatched!”

Richard’s Dairy Tale “Follow the Bread Crumbs

The stories of those who have led Richard on his journey are many and important to him.  “Steve Briggs and his family developed a friendship with my family before my time. Then they trusted me when I was young, helping me every step along the way.  Steve has the “Hansel and Gretel” approach as he feeds you one bread crumb of knowledge at a time yet allows you to learn so much through patience and dedication. “Richard has been accompanied by fine dairy teachers and teammates too. “Ernest Kueffner and Terri Packard are the most attention-to-detail, micro-managing team that I know!  Rick Allyn – I remember when we were kids and he put up a topline on an Ayrshire yearling heifer I held for him. That was a thousand heifers ago for him! Ralph Gushee went to shows with my Uncle Pudge throughout North America and luckily he took me on many trips with him throughout life!  Jim Strout is a very dear friend who along with son Jamie and friend Wayne Schofield have taken countless hours and invested them on the road and at home with the Deer Hill ladies as well.”

When Talking Cows, Every Word from Nabholz Counts!”

Perhaps the secret to Richard’s success not only has to do with how hard he works at his craft but at how hard he listens and learns from those around him.  He appreciates even the smallest daily input. “Bill Taylor is always good for an early morning text to check on me while he is mixing feed.” and values words from his heroes.  “Norman Nabholz, with his wisdom and intellect, five words can inspire!” (Read more: HALTER, PEN and GAVEL. That’s Just the Norm) Steve White and Mike Duckett took time from their own endeavors to help with Francesca.  David Wallace, who shared a friendship with my family, allowed me into his own family and always encouraged me.”  Some of Richard’s mentors were the silent type. “Gary Bowers is perhaps the quietest achiever in the industry.” No matter how they have shared their expertise with Richard, he is convinced that they also share a special skill. “All of these people get 26 hours out of a 24 hour day and take advantage of all 8760 hours a year gives you! “ Above and beyond that they have inspired Richard to the realization that “The friends you make along the way truly are always priceless!”

The Caverly Cavalcade of Firsts!

With justifiable pride this Maine native looks back on dairy cattle that he has sent to bask in national and international spotlights. “Glenamore Gold Prize makes me smile even today. So many times I was seen as “The guy who clips Prize”.  She had about as much hair as an eel, yet her success made people think I had magic clipper blades!” And the list goes on. “Oak Ridge Bruis Helga she was the first cow to have an Allen Hetts Memorial Trophy come to Maine.  Moy-Ayr Bell Beladina at 97.1 is North America’s highest classified cow ever.  This massive cow spent countless hours being paraded around by my cousin Vanessa who barely came to her knees.” His hard work earned him some fantastic memories. “Nadine’s first championship while still owned by Potwell is something I shall never forget. She made Peter Stern proud being named Supreme in Ohio and later I would work with her again with Patrice Simard at World Dairy Expo – that cow made two good friends proud!”

Richard’s Recollections – The Stuff Legends are Made of!  

There have been times when this behind-the-scenes star maker is thankful for that old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words.  One of Richard’s most awesome experiences has been preserved for posterity. “Ashlyn, Tobi, and Delilah were part of the US tandem that took the Royal by storm and Han Hopman took a priceless photo of the three with Legends Dyment, Frasier, and Brown on the straps and Empey making his final decision!” (Read more: Han Hopman: Shooting Straight at Holstein International)  For Richard, that was the shot of shots and goes into Caverly history along with this story of international success that he had a part in making. “I’ll never forget Butch Crack on the strap of Crackholm CV Roview the 2x Brasillian National Champion for the Morro Aguido herd of Claudio Mente.” And the love list goes on. “Veronica and Melanie. One trip to Ontario and two legends are acquired.”

Iconic photo by Han Hopman of Ashlyn, Tobi, and Delilah.  Three cows Richard had the pleasure of working with in his career.

Iconic photo by Han Hopman of Ashlyn, Tobi, and Delilah. Three cows Richard had the pleasure of working with in his career.

Sweet Talk. Bitter Sweet Memories.

Whenever stories are told — and there will be many, many of them — Richards thoughts will always turn to one particular cow . “Of course that is  Sweet Pepper Black Francesca, four consecutive years as National Champion to her name!” Once again it goes beyond the winning. “Most important of all Francesca made the dreams of so many people I love come true.  Francesca and Beverly showed the world that no matter who you are, or where you come from, with passion and dedication you too can achieve your dreams!”  (Read more: The Magic of Francesca)

“The Passion Too Strong to Resist!”

The 23rd Duncan Mackenzie Award winner is philosophical about the future. “Countless things change in life.   New opportunities arise.   Great things from the past remain just that, in the past.  Each generation finds its own way eventually, as it is the job of the preceding generation to help with the progress of the next.” And helping with the next generation is where Richard is focusing his talents next. “The decision has been made to work with George and Michael Liberty developing the Juniper Elite Holsteins, while continuing with wife Beverly and her Deer Hill Ayrshires as well.  George is an enthusiastic young man at the age of 19 with a dream and passion for the Holstein industry driven to take his father’s love for Juniper Farm to high levels.  It means leaving a job working with a wonderful family the Flood’s who I shall miss, yet the opportunity to work with great genetics both Ayrshire and Holstein is a passion too strong to resist.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy industry moves forward with those like Richard Caverly who can inspire each of us with his passion, perfection, persistence and hard work. To Richard we say, “Well done!” and thanks for sharing the spotlight with all those you care about. They are a special part of your story. We at the Bullvine and your friends, family and hummingbirds salute you as you take a well-deserved place beside the exceptional examples of dairy industry character, sportsmanship, ability and endeavor exemplified by the Klussendorf-Mackenzie Award. Congratulations Richard Caverly!

All the best for all your days!!!”

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