Organic Dairy Field Day set June 26 near Goodhue
By Heather Carlile-Thorstensen
GOODHUE, Minn. — A dairy field day will be conducted June 26 by the University of Minnesota Extension at O’Reilly Shamrock Farms in Goodhue.
"We want to promote what we’re doing," said Dave O’Reilly, who helped to transition the farm to organic production with his brothers in 1973. The farm has been marketing their milk as certified organic since 1994.
Today the century farm with 350 cows is owned by Dave, his brother Steve, Dave’s sons — Chris, Casey and Tony — and Steve’s sons, Zach and Ben. Luke, another son of Dave’s, will be a senior in high school and also helps with the farm.
The additions meant the operation went from being run by two families to seven.
"They wanted to farm," Dave said of his sons and nephews. The younger owners are the 4th generation to work the farm.
Field day participants will see their milking parlor with automatic take-off systems and free stall barn for winter housing. Dry cows and transition animals are housed in a separate manure-pack facility using straw and corn stalks with a feed alley.
The farm also features Port-a-Huts that house five to six calves each, usually beginning when they are three to four weeks old and able to leave their hutches. Keeping multiple calves in the 12-feet wide by 21-feet long huts is more convenient for feeding, said Dave. The calves are eventually raised on pasture.
"It keeps a person very humble," he said of raising calves, which the farm uses as replacements. Tony raises the calves now. "It’s a lot of work, but it’s the future of the dairy."
The O’Reillys have 1,350 acres, including about 300 acres of pasture. They grow corn, soybeans, wheat, barely, oats and alfalfa.
The family uses bagged feeds of winter rye, haylage, corn silage and high moisture ear corn as well as large package dry hay. Their own bagger and wrapper gives them flexibility in harvest options.
They also have a liquid manure management system, which was built in 2007.
"There’s always challenges," Dave said.
Weed management is one of them. In the corn fields, they’ve switched from using a rotary hoe to a spike-tooth drag system because their soil was so soft the hoe would rip up everything. They also cultivate between rows.
They cut everything when they make hay, allowing the weeds to be harvested with the rest.
The family takes communication issues seriously now that they have five more owners’ opinions to take into account. Dave estimates they meet once a month on average to keep everyone on the same page.
"What I like to talk about is the family side of (the farm)," he said.
Dave expects light refreshments to be served during the event such as organic cheese and crackers from their processor, Organic Valley.
For more information call the Rochester Regional Extension office at (507) 536-6310.