COEYMANS HOLLOW - The Stanton Farm, some 300 acres of farmland housing over 1,500 cows and producing millions of gallons of milk a year, threw open its doors and invited the community in on Sunday.
The first-ever Family Farm Day was held to educate the public about where their food comes from and display some of the latest equipment in housing farm animals.
“We milk 900 cows and we have 1,700 total heads, which includes about 800 young stock,” said co-owner Michael Stanton, who owns the farm with his father, Mark Stanton. “We have been here since 1872 – I am a sixth generation farmer.”
The family operates thousands of acres of farmland throughout Albany and Greene counties, and is a major local producer of milk. The farm has been family operated since its inception. The Coeymans Hollow farm covers about 300 acres.
The goal of Family Farm Day was education.
“This is our first time doing this – we wanted to bring people to the farm to teach them and celebrate agriculture in Albany County,” Stanton said. “We work about 2,300 acres countywide. We wanted to let people know where their food comes from.”
The farm produces roughly 6,400 gallons of milk per day.
To maintain that level of production, Stanton said, keeping the animals healthy and content is key.
“Cow comfort is a big deal to us. When cows are happy, they produce healthy milk,” Stanton said.
One of the items that helps in that regard is a “cow brush” – a mechanical, rough-bristled brush that rotates so the animal can press up against it and get their back cleaned and scratched. Each animal also has a “water bed” inside their stall where they sleep at night; the bed is something they get plenty of use from – cows sleep roughly 12 hours a day, according to Stanton.
“If they are happy and comfortable, they produce more milk, and that makes us more profitable,” Stanton said.
Each cow also wears an activity monitor, akin to a pedometer, that checks how much activity they are getting – if their activity levels go down, that could mean a possible health problem that needs to be addressed.
“This technology monitors health and well being,” veterinarian Dr. Stuart Lyman said. “The activity monitor helps in monitoring for their health, their reproductive efficiency – it’s technology people don’t realize is here that makes it possible to care for the condition and health of 900 cows.”
Lyman said people took the tours and expressed interest in how the cows are milked and cared for.
“People who have taken the tour here learned something – no one came with a political agenda. They came here with all kinds of questions, and they were open to what we had to say,” Lyman said.
In order to produce milk, a cow must first become pregnant, and continues to produce milk for some time after the calf is born. Each pregnancy generates roughly 300 days of milk, according to Lyman.
“It’s a cycle of rest and production,” Lyman said. “The cows are treated well – they have food in front of them, they have water and good air quality. To have a productive cow, you need to feed and house them right, and take care of them. That’s the sense I hope people take home with them today.”
One calf was born during Family Farm Day, and visitors had the chance to witness it. Bobby Beebe, 3, and his family were among those who saw the birth. A couple of hours later, Bobby had the chance to see the calf up close and pet her. She was still learning to walk on wobbly legs.
“We got the chance to see a calf being born,” Bobby’s mother, Jeannette Folger-Beebe, said. “He has had a great time today. I think seeing the cow born was the highlight of his day.”
There were plenty of activities for kids and adults during the event, and the chance to try locally-produced dairy products. Brice Skiff, 10, couldn’t wait to hop on board one of the many tractors that were on display.
“My son loves animals and farms. This is right up his alley,” Brice’s mother, Agnes Skiff, said. “He loves this.”
Naheed Mann brought her three children to visit the farm. “They are really having a good time – they like seeing the cows best,” Mann said.
Her son, Rizwan Mann, 11, agreed it was a fun day.
“I like everything about the farm,” Rizwan said. “I have always been interested in farms.”
Milk production is big business in New York state – the state is the third largest milk producer in the country, turning out about 12.4 billion pounds of milk; Albany County alone has 5,000 dairy cows, with about 625,000 statewide, according to a brochure distributed at the event by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County, which organized Family Farm Day.