2018-02-06 / Opinion

Dairying in Bovina by Thomas Ormiston, Part II

This is the second part of an article by Thomas Ormiston about farming in Bovina, published in 1896 in the Fifty-sixth annual report of the New York State Agricultural Society:

The first Jerseys were introduced in 1879, by … Duncan Campbell, and J. G. Ormiston. Two bulls and one heifer were bought of Thomas Fitch of New London, Conn. The year following, W.L. Rutherford and Mr. Campbell bought ten heifers and a bull from the same person; and again, the next year, Mr. Rutherford made another purchase of eight or ten heifers of Mr. Fitch. In 1870, James E. Hastings bought a three-year-old heifer, with calf by her side, from W.B. Densinore, of Dutchess County, N.Y. None of the “Fitch stock” or Mr. Hastings’ heifer were registered; but all had pedigrees tracing to importations. A few years later, Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Hastings both went to Mr. Densmore’s and bought heifers that were registered, and each a registered bull, and began breeding registered stock. Mr. Rutherford... sold his entire stock and his farm to Wm. L. Ruff who has, since 1880, carried on the business, introducing new strains of blood from time to time.

J. D. Mitchell was the last to enter the field as a breeder, but he did more than any other man in the county to raise the standard of registered animals. He sold a fine herd of grades and invested $3,000 in cows and heifers at sales in New York City and New Jersey. The venture was not a financial success, but he introduced the best Jerseys ever brought into the town. The herd of 12 cows — while used especially for breeding — when the calves were fed some new milk — made 365 lb. of butter per cow, that was sold. That yield has never been equaled by any registered herd in the town.

With the improvement in breeding, began the improvement in feeding and care of live-stock. Formerly, all live-stock was driven out to a stack and there fed, every day during the winter, and, when hay was scarce, they were fed on “browse.” No grain was fed, except, perhaps, a little rye bran to a cow that was a little “off.” They generally dropped their calves about the time they were turned to grass. One hundred pounds of butter to sell, was considered a large yield in those days. Now the average yield per cow in town is over 200 lb. in a good year...

I have no means of knowing just how much feed is brought into the town and fed now, but I know some men who buy a ton per cow. Not all the improvement is due to buying feed, for I know one man having a small herd who made and sold 215 lb. per cow, without buying one pound of feed, and nearly all the grain raised on the farm was fed to the team; but the cows had all the rough feed they wanted. I recall one other case where an old Scotchman kept a few cows in fine condition without feeding any grain.

The butter is all made in private dairies, except six farmers, who sell their milk. Until 1870, the small pans were used, and a few are still in use. The large, shallow pans with water around and below, were just introduced, though some were superseded by the deep-setting process, and, in a few instances, these have been exchanged for the separator. There is another thing in which the town stands ahead, the average high quality of its dairy butter. Rev. W. L. C. Samson has been living here over one year. He made the statement the other day, that he had always used the best “Elgin Creamery” until he came here, but had never eaten such good butter as he found in Bovina. (Elgin is in Illinois and was considered the ‘gold standard’ for butter in the U.S.)

It is a very difficult task to give any adequate idea of how dairying is carried on in Bovina, in such an article as this. Not all of our farmers have been successful, but those who have, were very careful about the little things, in all the details in every department; in the selection of the cows; their care and feed; and in the care of the milk, cream and butter.

Ironically, less than three years after this article, Ormiston made the decision to leave Bovina and start farming in Maryland in 1899. The Ormiston family spent just under a decade there, coming back to the family farm in Bovina in 1908.

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