As part of the New England Convention meeting & sale festivities July 27-28th, I got the chance to tour just five of the many outstanding herds in the Pinetree State. While the weather ranged from cool and rainy to hot and dry, the underlying constant in the whole trip was great cows and even greater people! Enjoy this brief tour through Maine, and be sure to visit for yourself if you ever get the chance.
Brigeen Farms Inc., Turner, Maine
Transition. That’s the first word that comes to mind when visiting the Briggs and Bullard families of Brigeen Farms. The family has successfully transitioned from a small family operation to a large, commercial setup, without missing a beat in the development of their registered cow families. Betsy Bullard took me through the pens where they’re milking 430 right now, with cows housed in some existing, renovated barns as well as the newest freestall barn built five years ago. Cows are bedded with all sand, and grouped in just-fresh, 2-year-olds and high cows.
Both Betsy (Briggs) Bullard and her husband Bill Bullard were former employees of Cargill Animal Nutrition, which Betsy said was extremely useful in preparing them for the work they’re doing now. “We both came away with our time at Cargill with ideas on how to farm, as well knowing that in order to succeed and take over the dairy from my parents, we had to keep conversations open and all be willing to change with the times.” And it’s worked very well.
“Some cow families can just thrive and adapt in any type of environment,” said Betsy. As a whole, the group has tremendous size and frame, and good legs. Some of the cows Betsy pointed out included a VG Shottle from Outside Gigi, a few young daughters of Rabur Populist (Shottle x Outside), a VG-89 Jasper x Golden Levi x Broker Lass who has Stanley Cup, Sid and Aftershock embryos coming, and a VG-85 Bolton from a Shottle just to name a few.
Breeding decisions are still a group effort, but lots of young sire semen is used on the 60% registered herd. “Now that we can use young sires with high genomics, we really think it’s fantastic! We have more information to base our breeding decisions on. Genomics hasn’t changed the true, basic principles that we breed from, they’ve just helped us narrow down the decisions.”
On a clear day, cows and people can both get a beautiful view of nearby Mount Washington. More sires used in the milking herd include Bolton, Aftershock, Braxton & Baltimore. There’s also a many good young milking Allwyn daughters, and several members of the family’s two most prominent cow families, the “G” family and the Robins.
Cows are fed a 60% forage diet, and that’s why frames are so important. “With grain prices going sky-high, we need cows that can utilize and convert high forage diets,” explained Betsy.
Just down the road is the former site of Wauregan Farms, which the Briggs/Bullard families have acquired. This is the main heifer facility where animals are kept from birth to breeding.
In the breeding age group of heifers sired by Marvelous, Baltimore and Braxton, just to name a few.
Group housing is clean, dry and comforable inside the transitioned tie-stall barn of Wauregan. “As with any type of setup, there are challenges and especially in group housing, you have to be careful of ventilation problems. We put in tunnel ventilation last year and are really pleased with it.”
Also installed in the heifer barn is an auto-calf feeder. Betsy said the weaning transition is fantastic. “Calves socialize well and we see less post-weaning problems. They also have a good, even growth rate as a group and because they can feed multiple times a day, you don’t have a large amount of calves bawling all at once. From an animal rights’ perspective, they are free to roam around the pen and they’re full and comfortable all day long.” The system has been in place for nearly two years.
Sure to follow in his parents’ footsteps is Will Bullard, Bill & Betsy’s youngest child!
Be sure to visit www.brigeenfarms.com for more professional pictures of the cows and additional information on each of their cow families.
Conant Acres, Inc., Canton, Maine
Driving north of Turner, you’ll find the Conant Acres farm, home to Duane & Betty Conant, Dennis & Heidi Conant, Steve & Debbie Keene, Brian & Sarah Keene, and Matt & Natalie Sneller. A true family operation, the 75-head of cows features 15 milking Goldwyn daughters, four milking Alexanders and two milking Sanchez daughters. Current service sires include Dempsey, Windbrook, Lauthority, Gameday, Gillespy and Topside. They are also still using Goldwyn to flush with, and some Sanchez & Alexander.
As you walk through the barn you’ll find picture perfect udders on nearly every cow. The family has worked for years to develop a high type herd, and as a result of careful breeding, they now have the luxury to cull hard on those cows that don’t quite measure up to rest of the herd.
Conant-Acres Gold Raven (EX-92) – Most of the Goldwyn daughters have been bred to Sanchez or Windbrook.
Conant-Acres Malachi Ruby (EX-91)
Conant-Acres Jaspr Paige (EX-92)
Conant-Acres Gold Patsy (EX-92)
Three beautiful young Alexander daughters, from left: Conant-Acres Alex Simone (VG), Conant-Acres Roxane (VG) and Conant-Acres Alexander Piper (not yet scored).
There are also three *RC cows in the barn that are being worked with extensively – Scientific Durham Halo (EX-92 sister to Debutante Rae who will be flushed to Colt 45-Red; Conant-Acres Talent Tahoe (VG-89, 2y) who was flushed to Redburst and Dirigo Malachi Ruby (pictured above – a daughter of an EX-93 Goldwyn daughter of Robin).
Conant Acres also has a very exciting heifer barn, with some beautiful Atwood and Aftershock heifers you’ll definitely be hearing more about in the coming months. In fact, there are 10 Atwood heifers and 15 Braxton heifers there, as well as others sired by Lauthority, Sid and Jordan.
The Dream Team! Part of the work-force that makes Conant Acres run is Matt Sneller, Duane Conant, Steve Keene and Dennis Conant.
The next generation to take over…Gerrit Sneller, Matt & Natalie’s very adorable & easy-going son!
Be sure to check out the Conant Acres website for more at www.conantacres.com.
You can’t travel far without seeing lobster signs!
Part of the New England charm are small, very well-kept churches.
Watch for Part 2 of Touring in Maine coming soon!