Cows pampered to produce quality milk for artisan cheese
By JULIA HOLLISTER
For the Capital Press
POINT REYES, Calif. -- Brian Waymire, a herdsman at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. in Marin County, walks to his office as the early morning fog drifts across Tomales Bay and envelopes the cow barns.
"I never know if I will have to 'pull a calf' or breed another," he said. "So, every day brings something new with the 287 cows in my care."
Waymire, 23, grew up on a farm in Hanford, where his family grew row crops, cotton, walnuts, tomatoes and other crops. His mother came from a dairy family. This interest led him to California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, where he graduated with a degree in dairy science with a minor in agricultural business.
He interned with local dairymen every summer and learned the business through hands-on experience. He has been employed at the dairy since June.
"With traditional farming there is a consistency in day-to-day operations," Waymire said. "But it is very different here. My main job is getting the best quality milk for the cheese. That means providing cow comfort and happy cows."
The Giacomini family dairy's Holstein and Brown Swiss cows, which provide milk for the company's artisan cheeses, are pampered. A veterinarian visits every two weeks and a nutritionist comes once a month to develop a diet for the cows using organic feed such as alfalfa hay and silage that are grown on the ranch. Cotton seed, granola pellets and almond hulls are also included.
"We try to get the cows on pasture when we can," he said. "The average weight per animal is around 1,500 pounds. We like bigger cows because this strength allows them to walk up the hill to the pasture."
The dairy's cows produce 81 pounds of milk per day, across the board.
Waymire admits dairy farming, like other agricultural businesses in California, face daily challenges. He also predicts dairy farming in the next 10 years will experience more technological advances.
"I think today's biggest challenge is environmental regulations and the volatility of commodity prices," he said.
"I wish the government would take away the price subsidy for ethanol production and put it on a level playing field."