As lifelong agriculture advocates, Clark and Mackenzie Egelston are proud to be part of a multi-generation family farm in Fultonville, NY. Clark is the 4th generation of his family farm and joins his father, Dennis, as a co-owner and partner. While Clark focuses on herd management, his wife Mackenzie joins him as the calf manager on their 280 cow Jersey farm.
Why do you farm every day?
It’s extremely rewarding. We are literally building our life and future together, as a team – setting goals, trying new tactics and constantly focusing on how to make our farm as successful as possible. Family tradition is also very important to us. We are proudly carrying on our parents and grandparents’ legacy as educated agriculturalists. This lifestyle can’t be beat!
One of the most important aspects of our farm is being good stewards of the land. We do this through practices such as crop rotation and recycling bi-products and nutrients. We are also dedicated to increasing public awareness of “true” agricultural practices. In the fall of 2016 we hosted the Montgomery County Sundae on the Farm event where over 2,500 local residents came to visit our farm and see how we produce milk.
Explain what you do on your farm that impacts the future of the industry.
Genetics. Farmers now have the ability to run genomic tests on their herd to most accurately pair them during breeding. We are very focused on increasing the average genetic scores in our herd because we know that doing so will allow us to produce more milk with healthier cows. Clark is also a stickler for record keeping. He has created specific spreadsheets and programs which track our input costs, income, and overall profit which are vital in terms of making informed decisions on an everyday basis. With this set-up we know exactly how much money we are making per cow and where we need to mediate costs.
What is the biggest challenge you face in the dairy industry?
Price fluctuation is hands down the most difficult problem the dairy industry faces. Price changes have become extremely volatile in multiple areas – most notably milk price and feed costs. It takes a lot of self-control and forward thinking to get through the downward swings and hold back when income is high. Quality labor is also an issue for farms of all sizes. We need employees who are willing to work just as hard as we are and who care about the quality of the job they’re doing. Our cows deserve the very best and it’s frustrating when you can’t find employees who are dedicated to the job.
If you could tell consumers on thing about what you do on your farm, what would it be?
We love our cows. I think many consumers have the misconception that the only “good” farms are the small, organic ones. Even though we are milking a few hundred cows, our farm is in no way a “factory” and each cow gets specialized treatment and consideration. Clark always quotes the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” when explaining dairy farming to consumers. If our cows are anything other than happy, healthy, and well cared for, then they won’t make milk and we won’t make any money. No one can have a successful farm without paying close attention to the health and well-being of their animals.
We always encourage everyone to always ask questions! Farmers are more than happy to tell you about any aspect of what they do, so don’t be shy!