Kentucky Ag News
Tony Cowherd and his 13-year-old son, Caden, who Tony hopes will follow him as the fourth generation to run the family dairy farm.
300-cow herd is poised for the future
Third-generation Taylor County dairy producer hopes to pass the family farm down
By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. - Cowherd is an appropriate last name for a man with a herd of 300 dairy cows.
Tony Cowherd, 47, co-owns Cowherd Acres, a third-generation Kentucky Proud dairy farm in Taylor County, with his dad, James, 74.
“I’ve never not been in the dairy business,” Tony said. “For me, it’s just like gettin’ up in the mornin’ and brushin’ your teeth, except I go milk.”
Tony’s grandfather, W.A. Cowherd, built his first milk parlor on the family farm in 1945.
“He started out selling cream, then transitioned over to milk in 1945,” Tony said.
Cowherd Acres has changed quite a bit over the past 72 years. Automatic takeoff milkers enable the farm to milk 300 Holstein cows three times a day.
Studies have shown that comfortable cows give more milk, so Tony provides his herd with soft beds of compost or sand.
“For cow comfort, we like the compost-bedded pack barns,” Tony said, noting 220 head enjoy those accommodations.
Tony also installed a sprinkler and fan system that keeps his cows cool during the summer.
“Sprinklers soak the cows, then fans dry them,” he explained. “You cool the cow from the evaporation of the water. Imagine spraying yourself with water then standing in front of a fan.”
Tony attributed two things for the success of his dairy business.
“One of the big things is we sell to a really good company, Prairie Farms,” Tony said of the Kentucky Proud processor in Somerset. “They have a lot of quality premiums.
“But there’s no substitute for production,” he added. “You gotta keep it up.”
Tony offered advice for dairy farmers struggling with low milk prices.
“Hang in there; it’ll get better,” he said. “It [the dairy business] has always been up and down.”
Kentucky’s dairy industry has changed dramatically in the last 72 years. There are fewer farms with fewer cows producing far more milk per cow – each dairy cow in Kentucky produces an average of 2,101 gallons of milk per year, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported. Kentucky dairy producers took in an estimated $179.2 million of farm cash receipts from milk sales in 2016, according to NASS.
“Even though we’ve lost [dairy] farms, the farms that stayed have continued to grow,” Tony said.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Gov. Matt Bevin, and other state and industry officials hoisted jugs of Prairie Farms milk and “toasted” Tony and the state’s other dairy hard-working farmers May 30 at an event on the lawn of the state Capitol. Bevin signed a proclamation naming June as Dairy Month in Kentucky at the event.
“Milk is an all-natural product,” said Tony, past president of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council and a new member of the Kentucky Agricultural Council. “It’s self-sustaining; the cow is regenerating milk … It’s a good, wholesome product.”
Tony also owns Cowherd Equipment & Rental, which sells and rents forage, storage, and feeding equipment.
Tony’s youngest farmhand is his son, Caden, 13, who Tony said “is very interested” in becoming the fourth generation of dairy-farming Cowherds.
“We’re gonna try to continue to expand,” Tony said, “for the next generation.”