Emerald Veil Jerseys, Oregon

Bob Bansen is a fourth-generation dairyman farming at Emerald Veil Jerseys, Oregon with his son and family. They milk a 200-cow herd and manage 500 acres of organic pasture. Bob’s favorite day of the year is in spring when the cows are set out to pasture and reunited with grass after winter. He’s never missed this “Spring Dance” in his life and even kept his kids home from school when they were growing up, so the whole famliy could celebrate this joyous occasion with their herd.

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Emerald Veil Jerseys Oregon

Bob Bansen: There’s definite challenges to staying in this industry. There’s some massive, massive farms producing the lion’s share of the milk now.

And while you’re not seeing any decline in milk production you’re seeing a decline in number of [farming] families, which is not a positive thing because we want to be here.

We want this lifestyle. We want to, we want to stay in the industry.

But if you are in the red and you financially just cannot make it then there’s only one way out that’s to walk away.

So I’m concerned not only about the dairy industry but every other section of ag, too. About how sustainable it is and how as families we can stay in the business.

I’m Bob Bansen. I have an organic dairy here in Yamhill, Oregon. We milk 200 cows plus accompanying young stock.

info slide of Emerald Veil Jerseys in Yamhill, Oregon

I’ve got a 500-acre farm, all pasture, although we do harvest some hay off of it also. So it’s kind of dual purpose grounds.

I’ve been shipping to Organic Valley for 15 years.

I’m fourth generation dairymen. I’ve got a son who is the fifth generation who’s working with me on the farm. I got four grandsons so hopefully that extends to a sixth generation. That would be the goal.

Sizing The Herd To The Pasture

All my girls are named I don’t use numbers. So yeah, I recognize everybody. And I really kind of feel like it keeps the cows here too, because I have a bond with them.

So Penny is right down there standing. Penny is Penny to me. And I know Penny’s mother and you know so, she’s got a, she’s got a whole history.

Jersey cows grazing on pasture at Emerald Veil

We keep our herd at this size, 200 milk cows because it fits our acreage.

We don’t want it so large that the cows are no longer comfortable and capable of pasturing and grazing.

During the grazing season we feed no forage inside whatsoever. So 100% of their forage is from what they graze. The system is set and works and we will keep it that way.

When Cows Do Their Spring Dance

The best day of the year is the day in the spring when we open the gates and let the cows go. When the weather has dried up enough and the temperature is warm enough to grow grass.

We let the cows out and they go out and they do their spring dance. And it’s just their celebration of being outside and having fresh grass.

And it’s a spectacular thing to watch every year and I’ve seen it every year for my entire life, never gets old.

Young Jersey cow on pasture looks directly at the camera

We’ll bring the kids over, let the kids stay home from school to watch it. Now that would be my grandchildren that were doing that with. Everybody’s happy that day, that is Christmas, New year’s, the whole bit, 4th of July – all wrapped into one. And it’s spectacular.

Dealing with my animals dealing with nature itself makes getting out of bed real easy in the morning.

There are days when I don’t have any reason to do it, but I’ll just go for a ride around the farm just to take it in.

We’re going to do what we can to keep it going.

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