By Lauren Wanko
On the hills of Hunterdon County, dairy farmer Heidi Kovacs calls in the cows. They’re ready to be milked.
“Essentially a dairy herd would be a barn full of mom cows so I would refer to myself as a lactating specialist, taking cares of moms and babies alike,” she said.
These Jersey cows are part of Sugar Maple Jerseys Dairy Farm in Stockton.
What’s a Jersey cow?
“It’s a breed of a dairy cow. They’re known for their high components such as butterfat and protein in their milk. They also require less feed,” Kovacs said.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture indicates the dairy industry is a $31.1 million commodity in the state. There are 58 dairy farms in New Jersey.
The Sugar Maple Jerseys are milked twice a day in 12-hour intervals starting at about 5 a.m. They all file into the dairy barn and chow down on hay as owners Kovacs and Greg Zdepski sanitize the milking equipment before they start the process. Then the cows go through their own sanitization process of sorts. It’s called teat prep.
“Teat prepping is dipping the cows with an iodine, then driving them with a sanitary cloth and stripping out, fore stripping the cow of milk for milk quality just to make sure that there are no infections or anything wrong with the cow so that we’re sending quality milk into the tank,” Kovacs said.
Then the farmers put the machine on the cow. They milk four cows at once. It usually takes two to five minutes per animal. These Jerseys produce about six gallons of milk each per day. The milk funnels through a stainless steel pipeline into a receiver jar and ultimately ends up in a refrigerated bulk tank. Every other day the milk is delivered to a commercial creamery to be pasteurized. In June, Kovacs plans to have their milk bottled off site for direct retail.
Sugar Maple Jerseys typically milks about 35 Jersey cows here on the farm. They spend most of their time on pasture. From May through November, the farmers are constantly moving the graze line. That’s the area where the animals eat. And this ensures that the cows are always eating fresh grass.
Now that the warm weather has finally arrived, these cows will graze and lounge in the open fields all day. Except when it’s time to be milked.