Dairyman follows in father’s footsteps
By LEE JUILLERAT
For the Capital Press
BONANZA, Ore — With four young children, Richard and Julie DeJong never want to be without milk. That’s why having their own dairy, the Langell Valley Dairy, helps.
Milk is part of the daily diet for the DeJongs and their children, Joel, 7, Emma, 5, Caleb, 4, and Trinity, 2. It’s a childhood that mimics Richard’s, who grew up drinking milk, helped his father hauling grain buckets, bottle feeding and operating tractors.
“It’s in my blood,” says Richard, 35. “I was born and raised here. I knew when I was 6 years old this is what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The DeJongs live a short walk from the dairy’s complex of buildings, barns and pens. Also nearby are his parents, Bill and Sandra, who moved to the dairy near Bonanza from Southern California in the early 1970s.
Richard and his father work as a team — “We talk a lot of things back and forth, run everything through each other, and make it work.”
They oversee a dairy that includes about 1,300 Holsteins, including 500 milk cows, on 500 acres of irrigated fields. On an average day the cows produce about 5,000 gallons of milk, which are trucked to Darigold in Medford, Ore. The DeJongs have four milkers and four others who feed and handle other chores.
The cows are milked three times a day, 22 hours a day. Other hours are spent tending the herd and cleaning the milking parlors and equipment.
He attended Dordt College in Iowa, where he earned an associate degree in agriculture, but was anxious to get back home. Now he’s excited to see his own children grow up.
“We’re raising our kids out here,” he says, noting the workload “was so much heavier. Just getting your cows fed took all day long. Now we’ve gotten to a place where everything’s so automated.”
Running a dairy is still a 24/7 hands-on job, but the routine includes studying data on each cow’s butterfat, protein and output on his office computer. Monthly milk tests for each cow are part of the dairy’s routine “so I know what every cow is doing.” Through genetics, the DeJongs have mostly same-sized cows that weigh 1,200 to 1,300 pounds and stand 5-feet tall.
“All the animals are evaluated,” he says. “Your genetics just get better and better. Genetics are your money-maker.”
He’s proud of his work and dairy.
“You find something you love to do, you do it,” Richard says of working and living on his family dairy. “There’s always a lot to do, but nobody’s telling you what to do.
And,” he adds with a nod toward the refrigerator, “we are never without milk.”
Langell Valley Dairy
Owners: Bill and Richard DeJong
Location: Near Bonanza, Ore.
How long farming: 40-plus years
Number of cows: 1,300, including 500 milk cows
Acreage: 500 acres irrigated fields
Cooperative: Milk shipped and sold to Darigold