Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 6

?FARMER
ASK A

email: askafarmer@phoenixfeeds.net
to have your questions answered!

Tell us about the operation of your
dairy farm, including the significance
of its name.
Annie (my wife) and I operate Green Dream Farm in
Franklin, Vermont, where we milk around 400 cows
and crop about 400 acres. Green Dream was actually
the name of a Jersey farm that made some great ice
cream near UNH where I went to college. They are
no longer in business and the name just seemed to suit
the landscape and the setting we are in. Our herd is
predominately Holstein but we do have some Brown
Swiss and Jersey/Holstein hybrids. I started working
at this farm in 1992 as the herdsman and in 1997, the
owner and I partnered with a neighbor who managed
the crops, machine maintenance, and heifer raising.
We disbanded the partnership in 2004 and it made
sense for Annie and me to lease the farm since we
owned our house right next door. We leased for a yearand-a-half before buying the farm. We invested our
efforts and money into the herd and purchased only a
skidsteer, bucket loader, and a tractor/mixer. All our
fieldwork is done on a custom basis, which helps keep
our focus on the cows. We are finally getting to a point
where it seems like it makes sense to own more of
our own machinery to gain a little control of how and
when the fieldwork gets done, but I'm trying to keep

6

Perspectives Magazine

things simple so we'll go
slowly on that front. Like
a lot of the lovely land
in Vermont, our farm is
hilly, stony, not very well
drained, and more suitable
to grass than corn. While
we can produce very high
quality haylage, most
of our corn silage is purchased and very costly. We
have started installing some tile drainage, which may
help us bring more corn into the rotation but I don't
have big complaints about the quality and quantity
of haylage we've produced. Growing our heifers has
always been a big challenge for us because there are
no facilities for them and the land base is not quite big
enough. In the past we have kept them until breeding
age and then sent them to a custom grower either
just confirmed pregnant or ready-to-breed. Recently
we acquired a farm adjacent to us with some barns
and great grazing infrastructure where we hope to
keep most of our heifers in our own care. I need to
recognize in this brief description of our farm that
anything we've been able to accomplish has only
been possible with the good help of our 4 full-time
and 2 part-time employees along with our custom
operators.
Your wife is a veterinarian. What role
does she play in the operation and
management of your business?
Our kids Max (age 8) and Jillian (age 6) like to say
that Annie is the "captain of the house" and I am
"captain of the barn." Whatever they mean by that,
Annie's role at the farm is substantial (and hopefully

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ASK A FARMER

CHRIS WAGNER

GREEN DREAM FARM
FRANKLIN, VERMONT

they listen to me once in a while at home). Annie does
weekly herd checks, manages vaccines, herd health
protocols, surgeries (hopefully not many), calving
assists, dehorns, fresh cow milk cultures, and whatever
else you would expect a vet to be involved with (even
neutering all the stray cats that show up at our barn).
Annie is also the bookkeeper for the business, having
organized my shoe boxes full of invoices and bank
statements into QuickBooks early on in our marriage.
As such, she works with our tax accountant and other
financial advisors and is present at all team meetings
(when she isn't at work at the small animal clinic in
town). With our employees, Annie is usually in the
lead in organizing and scheduling meetings also. As
for me, I just put a pencil behind my ear, grab some
rectal sleeves and insemination gun, and try to look
busy when she shows up at the barn.
What do you find to be the most
challenging aspect of dairy farming?
The most challenging aspect of dairy farming for us
is the volatility of milk prices. For me, bad weather,
disease outbreaks, labor issues, or whatever I can
think of is simple to deal with compared to not
knowing what we will get paid for our milk next year,
or for that matter, next month.
You've always been known to embrace
innovative dairy farming technologies.
What are some of these that have been
very successful for you-and what are
some that have not been as effective?
I try to keep my eyes and attitude open to any ideas
and technologies that will help our operation, big or
little. I'm not eager to be the first at trying something


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Perspectives - Winter 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Winter 2016

Contents
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover1
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover2
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Contents
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 4
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 5
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 6
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 7
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 8
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 9
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 10
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 11
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Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover3
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover4
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