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By BRAD BOWMAN
The Henry County Local
Terry Rowlett tells the farmer’s story in words and action.
Rowlett farms 1,000 acres of land with his family. Rowlett is on the board of directors of the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, which recently featured him in the ‘Dedicated to Dairy’ multimedia campaign. The campaign aims to inform the public about life for the dairy farmer and their stewardship for land and livestock. The SUDA website offers blogs from real life farming families, video interviews and family recipes. For Rowlett the campaign offers much more.
“We are trying to get the message out about what dairy farming is all about,” Rowlett said. “We want consumers and the public to know what we do and not believe a lot of the misconceptions they see on the news and television.”
Rowlett mentioned the overall misconception that dairy farmers mistreat their animals. For Rowlett, animal husbandry extends beyond a product or market price and speaks more to his passion as a farmer.
“There is a misconception that a cow is robbed from its mother and put in a pen immediately after birth,” Rowlett said. “We want to raise a good healthy calf. A calf will be put into a stall with straw until it is old enough to be in larger groups. The mother is with the calf all evening and the calf is observed very closely. The baby will receive its mother’s milk and we watch the mother very closely too to make sure everything is okay with her. All dairy farmers have to take care of their cattle because it is their livelihood and the future of their operation.”
Rowlett mentioned other misconceptions like breeding. According to Rowlett, his cows need to rest in between pregnancies. After a cow delivers a calf, the cow will rest 60 days before it is bred again and, if bred properly, the cow will calve again in 11 to 12 months.
“We will milk the cow 305 days out of the year,” Rowlett said. “We will cease milking her so that she can consume the amount of nutrients for her calf to be a healthy offspring.”
Rowlett’s cows go out to pasture and mingle between the outside elements and his barns. Rowlett only keeps his herd in a barn when he expects bad weather. Rowlett emphasized the need for care, and after visiting the World Dairy Expo, installed a surveillance system.
“We had a high mortality calf rate and my wife wanted to start looking over the calves. One winter it was really cold and she went to check on the calves,” Rowlett said. “I got worried and went to the barn to check on her, but couldn’t find her. I went to a maternity pen where a mother had had a calf and my wife was curled up with the calf trying to get it warm.”
Rowlett said with the camera system his wife can now monitor the calves wherever the couple may be. From the comforts of home or in Hawaii, Rowlett can bring up the video feed on a laptop. His wife can closely monitor them and the system has paid for itself.
“We were in Bowling Green and she noticed something wasn’t right. She called home and saved a cow and calf just from what she saw on the screen,” Rowlett said. “We have three focused on our maternity pens. Each camera observes two pens. I am careful to not install too many cameras because I don’t want my employees to think I am watching them.”
Rowlett, a second-generation dairy farmer, said although he doesn’t have any children of his own; he considers his employees his family and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Oscar Rivera has been with me for 20 plus years and his wife has been with us almost as long. I love them just as if they were my own children and family,” Rowlett said. “Before my father passed away he told me Oscar could be a good hand if he was willing to learn and I am very fortunate to have them work for me.”
Rowlett saw a strong work ethic in Rivera, his wife and now Rodrigo Ruic, who like Oscar, works hard with ambition.
“He will be just as good a hand as Oscar,” Rowlett said. “Rodrigo is young and he wants to learn. They come here and they want to work to make money for their family’s at home. They are like family to me, too, and I pay them just as I would anyone else. We had a hard time finding help and I am very proud. I still consider my farm a family operation.”
Rowlett decided to return to farming after earning a degree in agricultural sciences and business management. His father was a farmer and it was all Rowlett knew.
“I knew sitting behind a desk just wasn’t for me. I had several job offers, but I love what I do and money doesn’t buy happiness,” Rowlett said. “The product we make is one of the most nutritional things from nature. We need to be passionate about it.”
Land stewardship and animal husbandry play an essential part in Rowlett’s passion for farming.
“You see a calf as a new life come into this world and know it is the future of your operation, you take care of that animal just like your land,” Rowlett said. “The good Lord isn’t making any more land. It will erode or be consumed by housing one day. You have to be a steward of your land in order to have something for the future.”
Rowlett posts status updates daily on his personal Facebook account. Just like the SUDA campaign, Rowlett wants to put a face on the dairy farmer so people understand from who and where their milk comes from.
“It tells our story and what we are actually doing on the farm,” Rowlett said. “If we lost a cow I will post it. We had a cow that couldn’t calf and we had to do a c-section for the cow, so many people replied they didn’t know that about cows. It brings a different meaning to people that don’t know how about farming and it educates people on what happens on a real life farm.”
Rowlett says his compensation comes in the form of comments.
“My days are long but I just try to post what we do on the farm, Rowlett said. “I will post about the weather, our preparations so people get a grasp of what we do and how our choices we make today affect the outcomes for tomorrow.”