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Dairy lights up for Christmas

Cannery waste from local operations supplements herd's expensive rations


For the Capital Press

David Hale, 65, is a Vietnam War veteran and has been involved in dairy farming since before his military service.

He grew up in California working on the dairy farm of an older brother, then began tending it himself when his brother joined the military.

Hale's "blended family" today includes sons Gary, 36; Dave Jr., 38; Jason, 21; Marsha, 34; Kelly, 31; and Kristin, 27. The two older sons are regular workers on the Cloverdale, Ore., farm, and he now has three other employees, including two milkers.

After his military service, he worked on various dairy farms until the early 1970s when he purchased the Cloverdale property -- only 40 acres and an untended, old farmhouse then -- and slowly added a registered Holstein herd, building it to the 200-plus animals he has today.

At least in the winter, it's not hard to find his home. That's because he decorates it with so many Christmas lights during the holiday season that "you can see our place at night coming either north or south long before you get to either town."

That 1890s-era farmhouse is on 235 acres of lush Siuslaw Forest valley land 2 miles north of Hebo. His house has a Cloverdale address, which is 4 miles away.

But the pastureland and acreage on which the "Christmas beacon" home is sited has been supplemented in recent years by a rented 30 acres nearby, where he keeps his heifers and dry cows.

His 235 Holstein cows -- 210 are milkers -- each produce 70 to 75 pounds of milk per day. That's fortunate, he said, because the volume is necessary to make money in dairying. Other costs are skyrocketing, particularly fuel and feed costs.

Milk being a perishable commodity, and with supply and demand fluctuating with each month, margins are constantly squeezed, he said.

"High feed prices -- up to 70 percent of our winter costs now -- take the biggest bite out of our check, so it's tight," he said.

He pastures his cows as much of the year as is practicable in the wet north coast, which is "nearly all of their feeding time." Supplemental feed, up to 3,500 tons per year, comes from cannery waste from the Salem and Stayton area, good-quality alfalfa and grain concentrate.

He has added 20-some Jersey cows to his herd mix in recent years, saying all of his cows "are getting a lot of natural food (from his rich pastureland), which might have something to do with making our milk so good."

Hale-Valley Holsteins

Location: Cloverdale, Ore.

Owners: David and Deborah Hale

Years farming: 43 years

Co-op membership: Tillamook County Creamery Association

Total cows: 235, milking 210

Employees: Five, including two milkers

Quote: "High feed prices -- up to 70 percent of our winter costs now -- take the biggest bite out of our check, so it's tight."


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