By Sherry Bunting
HARRISBURG, Pa. — It’s not new for women to have important and essential roles in agriculture and dairy. What is new is to see the spotlight shine on the leadership of women — to have more opportunities to talk with other women about naturally healthy milk and dairy products, the science and care that go into their daily work with the cows and the land and what it feels like to work with three generations of family.
This was the message of three dairywomen who are part of the third generation at Dotterer’s Dairy, where 1400 cows are milked near Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. Each has her own management role on the farm.
They were on hand to talk to the public during the fourth day of the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show in January at the Calving Corner. That was the day the exhibit designated as a celebration of women in dairy.
The women of Dotterer’s Dairy — Candice White, Lori Butler and Amanda Condo — had the opportunity to inspire young girls that day as they have at other events since the airing of the Land O’Lakes Maggie Rose She-I-O video production last summer.
The song and video speaks to how women are ‘re-writing the rules’. While interacting with the public at the Calving Corner, they said they want to inspire young women to follow their dreams.
“It’s that message that we hope inspires the younger generation to know they can follow their path, and do everything they want,” says Lori.
As part of the third generation involved, they are the daughters of two brothers who are the second generation at Dotterer’s Dairy.
Their husbands are not involved in the dairy farm, and they themselves, did not expect their paths to lead back to the farm either.
They want young women to know the opportunities there are in agriculture, and they believe hands-on experience is a great teacher.
Each has specific thoughts about what it has meant to learn from their dads.
“Working with family is not always perfect, but it works,” says Lori, who is the feed manager.
“To have my 92 year old grandfather working in the same field as me, my dad and my brother, that’s hard to describe.”
“Ditto,” says Amanda, who does the books and financials and fills in with other hands-on chores around the dairy.
“Seeing family every day and being able to continue on with what my grandpa, dad and uncle have done, and hopefully the next generation some day.”
“Friends from high school wouldn’t believe I would end up back on the farm, but it pulls you back,” adds Candice, who manages the dairy operations and herd health.
She recalls the farm’s first public open house two years ago when hundreds of friends and neighbors came out for food (including ice cream and other dairy products of course), farm tours and fellowship.
“My best friend from high school said she had no idea we did all this,” Candice relates. “She had been to our house many times throughout our school years, but never to really learn and see what the farm is all about. That made me realize just how many people around us can really learn from us about what we do.”
Today, Candice is serving a second term on the board of the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP), and she was a recipient of one of four Forward Under 40 Awards presented last November at the 2018 biennial Dairy Girl Network national conference.
She says she has learned to be more confident in reaching out to consumers after taking the Driving Dairy Discussions training through American Dairy Association North East.
In being part of the filming of the She-I-O video, Amanda says she loves the part where her 12 year old daughter, Alexis, is pictured working on the farm.
“I’m super proud of her,” she says. “Anything you want takes hard work and that’s what we learned growing up on a farm.”
Candice chimes in that working with her nieces and nephews around the farm is a high point. She took a nephew along to a PDMP forum last summer to learn cow handling from Curt Pate.
“It was fun to see him practice,” says Candice. “That little boy picked it up, and it makes you proud.”
“My son is always pal-ing around with Candice,” says Amanda. “She teaches him things. She’s resourceful. He didn’t have boots one day, so she made makeshift boots with breeding sleeves.”
All three women enjoy the different aspects of their work. They especially like being able to take part in decisions in the herd and farming operations and see the outcome, the response.
“Dad’s still teaching me things every day,” Candice affirms. And she in turn passes it on.
They agree that communication and respect are keys to working with family.
“You have to communicate and know to pick your battles,” says Lori.
“We all have our own areas and have respect for each other,” adds Candice.
As for the She-I-O video production with Land O’Lakes and country singer/song-writer Maggie Rose, the women each have a favorite line.
Candice likes the part about a future on the farm.
Amanda likes the part where her daughter is pictured to the words “Don’t ever say she’s just a girl.”
And Lori likes the line about “re-writing the rules.”
But they are quick to point out that women have been instrumental in agriculture for a very long time.
“It’s not new for women in dairy to have important roles,” says Amanda. “What’s a little new is we’re not taking a back seat.”
They want young women to know that whatever it is they choose to do, work at it, learn, and be inspired to have confidence.
In its second year at the Farm Show, the Calving Corner featured cows from four Lancaster County dairy farms.
In addition to appreciation for women in dairy, the fourth day of the exhibit at Farm Show also focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum themes.
Attendees that day also saw women in the role of veterinarian as Dr. Haley Springer, Penn State, gave children the opportunity to experience an interactive dairy demonstration that brought in science and technology — doing mock ultrasounds with jello and candy.
Other days of the week celebrated farmer appreciation, military appreciation and law enforcement appreciation.
Some background here on Dotterer’s Dairy: The three generation farm was founded by Paul and Jean Dotterer in 1951. Of their six children, Larry and John continued in farming — Larry more with the cows and John with the crops. Their brother Charlie works full time with the farm now in agronomy and the third generation is taking on leadership roles in the growing business.
The farm is home to 1400 milk cows. The family farms 3000 acres. In October, they won the Forage Superbowl contest at the 2018 World Dairy Expo with a Mycogen BMR entry.
Lori appreciates what’s done in the fields. “It’s very important to my job feeding the cows,” she says. “We try to be out in field when the crop is ready and get the equipment out before it’s ready so we can go when it’s time. We try to go at the optimal time and try not to rush.”
She’s proud of the fact that they do 100% cover crop on all of their land going into winter. Her brother Doug runs the combine and on the side of the combine is a seed spreader rigged up to seed while he’s combining – a one-shot task.
Dotterer’s Dairy has been interseeding for four years, experimenting with 30 acres, then 60, and now interseeding 500 acres of corn per year. Throughout the balance of the cover cropping program, including the spring rye, they do quite a bit of broadcast seeding, along with some drill-seeding. In addition to red clover and annual ryegrass, they experimented with some sunflowers this year and have used tillage radishes.
They grow over 600 acres of BMR corn silage, accounting for about 60% of the total corn acreage. More of the conventional corn acres are used for grain as they’ve increased the percentage of BMR corn that they grow.
Milk production is a focal point — along with herd health and cow comfort — so they do all they can to make high quality feed.
For Candice, production, health and cow comfort go hand-in-hand as well. Two years ago, she took the Udder Comfort fresh cow challenge.
“This stuff is phenomenal,” she says. “Not only is it easy to use, we also see the results.”
In addition to consistent milking protocols, a strong emphasis on herd health and keeping cows comfortable in the freestall barn, Candice implemented a fresh cow protocol for spraying all fresh udders with Udder Comfort 3x/day for at least 2 days after calving (6 to 8 applications).
The 1400-cow herd averages 85 pounds of milk/cow/day with SCC averaging at 100,000.
She appreciates what she has learned from her father, saying she would follow him around growing up and learned to IV a cow at age 7 or 8. She loves having those opportunities now to pass her knowledge on to her nieces and nephews as they follow her around the farm.
Like family-owned-and-operated dairy farms throughout the country, the Dotterers express the enjoyment of working with family, and the family members involved in the partnership or in working full-time as employees are committed to what they do. Women are part of the leadership team, and it really is a team effort as they enjoy everything from working the fields to managing the feed to caring for the cows and producing high quality milk.