Dairying for tomorrow

Martinsburg farm recognized

Caroline Zimmerman puts a blanket on a calf at Dry Creek Farm.

MARTINSBURG — A local farm recently received a significant award for its high quality of animal care.

Dry Creek Farm of Martinsburg recently received an American Dairy Association North East’s Dairying for Tomorrow Award.

The award recognizes local dairy farmers and showcases on-farm practices that will help sustain the dairy industry now and into the future and are given in three categories: animal care, community and consumer outreach and environmental stewardship.

“It was exciting. It was our first year under American Dairy Association North East. We won out of 20 participants. It is the whole northeast — for us to get plucked out — no one knows you are out there,” said herd manager Caroline Zimmerman, daughter of farm owners Douglas and Veronica Smith.

Dry Creek Farm was a well-deserving winner, said Rick Naczi, CEO of American Dairy Association North East.

Mirror photos by Walt Frank Caroline Zimmerman walks through the barn to check on the dairy cows at Dry Creek Farm. The farm recently received an American Dairy Association North East’s Dairying for Tomorrow award.

“The calf-raising program at Dry Creek Farm set the Smith family apart from other nominees because they incorporated strategies that have improved the general health of their young stock that will eventually move into the milking herd. Caroline Smith Zimmerman manages the calf program, raising them in pairs, which encourages increased feed consumption and growth. The Smith’s veterinarian has seen an improved success rate in average daily gain and healthier animals as they mature to breeding age,” Naczi said.

“Overall, cow comfort is the Smith’s top priority — keeping cows cool in the summer with fans and sprinklers, comfortable in the free stall barn with mattresses covered with sawdust for cows to lay on, access to clean feed and water all day, and automatic cow brushes for cows to scratch themselves,” he said.

Dry Creek Farm was nominated by Dr. Jennifer Kauf of Dairyside Veterinary Service, Martinsburg.

“I nominated Dry Creek Farm for this award because I feel that they do an exemplary job with cow care and comfort. They work very closely with me to develop and monitor programs that prioritize cow and calf health. They are outstanding, passionate about their jobs and continually trying to improve. I am excited to see the family recognized for their progressiveness and for their opportunity to promote dairy products in our community.”

Dry Creek Farm is a multi-generational farm along Piney Creek Road in Huston Township. It was started with seven cows by Marion and Verna Smith in 1937.

“My parents are third generation; my siblings and I are fourth generation,” Zimmerman said.

Cow care is at the forefront of Dry Creek Farm and several improvements have been made during the last five years.

“In 2017, we revamped our calf-raising program and our reproduction program to optimize health and growth. We have accelerated our calf-feeding program to improve growth and overall health,” Zimmerman said. “In September 2017, we completed a new free stall barn to provide ultimate cow comfort.”

Today, Dry Creek Farm includes 400 acres of land and rented land, grows grains and forage, and is home to a 230-cow dairy herd.

The farm produces 500,000 pounds of milk a month, which is shipped to a Dairy Farmers of America Cooperative. The farm has supplied milk to nearby Ritchey’s Dairy for about 75 years.

Milk from Dry Creek Farms is delivered to customers where demand lies, primarily in Virginia, and is used to produce high quality dairy products enjoyed by consumers worldwide.

The farm has changed over the years.

“Through each generation there has always been an attempt to bring in the latest technologies, practices and protocols as much as possible,” Zimmerman said. “Everything we do is what any small business would do to bring things up to speed. Many of the buildings have changed and the configuration of the farm has changed to maintain our business model and improve it.”

Support from others — such as the Bedford Farm Bureau, Penn State Extension and the Center for Dairy Excellence — has been the key to the farm’s success.

“One thing that needs to be recognized is how the community is set up for a farmer to succeed,” Zimmerman said.

The overall award winners in each category received a farm video and photo shoot. Also, the farms received a $1,000 donation in the farm’s name to their local school to help implement a dairy smoothie program in the cafeteria.

“We bought a commercial size blender for Central High School. I thought that was extremely cool, not only is ADANE doing broad things, they are on the ground locally in the schools. They are focused on everywhere from small town schools to large cities and do as much promotion as they can. It was nice to see our community get a direct benefit from this other than a plaque,” Zimmerman said.

Dry Creek Farm is prepared for the future.

“We have a transition plan in place, which was started in 2016, a 10-year plan. The transition plan helps establish what everyone’s role will be, how the control will be distributed over time. Me and my brother Brandon are now employees of the farm, then we will become partners with our parents and then we will purchase the farm to become owners and operators,” said Zimmerman, whose husband Aden is a full-time employee.

However, Zimmerman is not sure what the future will bring.

“The herd size is hard to predict. Optimally, you would increase your herd size. Our acreage is just enough to feed our cows. We would need some more acreage for crops and build buildings. If something comes up for sale, we would pursue it. We may diversify into other areas but we can’t make a concrete decision on that. We need to take advantage when opportunities present themselves,” Zimmerman said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.