Family Dairy Home to Top-Producing Guernsey

6/21/2014 7:00 AM
By Carol Ann Gregg Western Pa. Correspondent

ENON VALLEY, Pa. — Three generations of the Trotter family work at Trotacre Dairy Farm in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. This Dairy of Distinction operation has been milking cows at this location since World War II.

“In 1942, my father was farming along the river in Beaver County,” Jim Trotter said. “The government came along and said he had 90 days to move. They were putting in a synthetic rubber plant for tires for the war effort.”

In 90 days, the family moved to Lawrence County with a typical farm of the ’40s — pigs, chickens and cows on 217 acres.

Jim Trotter took over the farm in 1972 when his father died. The farm continued to grow.

“We have about 500 acres now,” he said. Jim Trotter is 81 and farming with two sons — Bob, 59, and Dave, 52 — and Bob’s two sons — Tom, 27, and Travis, 25.

For many years, it was a Golden Guernsey farm, until Bob and Dave Trotter added Holsteins in an expansion.

“We now have every breed, including Linebacks,” Dave Trotter said. As Bob and Dave’s children became active in FFA and 4-H, they were competing against each other, so the family added other breeds to the herd.

This year, the highest producing Guernsey cow in the world claims Trotacres as home.

When someone from the National Guernsey Association called and said the family had a cow that was showing some impressive numbers, Dave Trotter wasn’t completely surprised. Trotacre Tiller Brenna always was a good milker.

In the early years, Dave Trotter would study the DHIA papers, but as the years passed and things got busier, he stopped paying such close attention.

Then Dave got a second call to tell him that the family’s cow had passed the former world record holder, Breezy Point P Racer, by nearly 1,200 pounds.

“We knew she was a milk wagon, but I was really surprised when we got word about her breaking the record,” he said.

Brenna isn’t treated any differently from any other cow in the herd. As a young calf, Brenna was shown at the fair by Dave’s daughter Cara. The next year, she was too big for Cara so Cara’s sister Abby showed her.

The Trotters credit good breeding and excellent forages for the herd’s milk production.

Bob Trotter is in charge of crops with an eye on the details. Family members work together with their nutritionist to provide the forages the cattle need. Currently, they feed alfalfa.

“First cutting is chopped. Then the alfalfa is baled in semi-wrapped square bales that are also tubed,” Bob Trotter said. “This is straight alfalfa. We cut every 32 days and get three to four cuttings.”

An alfalfa stand lasts about four years. The clay soils and hard winters are hard on alfalfa, Jim and Bob Trotter said.

The Trotters are transitioning to sorghum sudangrass for forage to get more tonnage per acre.

This year, they have double-cropped triticale followed by sorghum sudangrass. They grow an orchard grass/timothy mix on marginal ground to feed to the dry cows.

They also make corn silage using hybrid seed for dairy cows.

The family has been milking three times a day since 2000 — at 6 a.m., 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“Three times a day works well for the cows, and it works well for the workers,” Dave Trotter said. “When we were milking twice a day, I wasn’t able to attend hardly any of my girls’ activities. With three times a day, I could go to ball games and other things, and come home to milk the 10 p.m. shift.”

Dave and his wife, Jill, have four daughters <\h>— Abby, Bethany, Cara and Jamie. They all show cattle and have participated in the Guernsey Association junior program as well as in dairy princess promotion activities.

Abby was an state alternate dairy princess in 2009. Bethany is the current reigning national Guernsey queen, and Jamie is the 2014-15 Lawrence County dairy princess.

Jim Trotter has served as business manager for the Pennsylvania Guernsey Association for 25 years. Last year, the association sent him and his wife, Mary Lou, to the World Guernsey Conference held on Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Jim Trotter has been in charge of the Blue Halter Sale at the state Guernsey Association’s annual meeting. The Trotters have purchased a number of cows there, including Tillie, who is the dam of Tiller, the sire of Breanna.

Dave Trotter’s wife, Jill, is a physical therapist. The building she purchased for her practice in nearby Bessemer was big enough to accommodate other businesses, so she opened an ice cream shop, Cow Licks.

“I love it. You can exercise at one end of the building, walk down the hall and have some ice cream, and then go back and exercise again,” Mary Lou Trotter said.

The Trotters continue to have Guernseys in their herd, not only as a family tradition but also because they believe the a2a2 protein in the Guernsey milk is truly beneficial to people’s health.

There has been a lot of research comparing the a2a2 protein that is available in Guernsey milk to the a1 protein in most milk available to the general public.

In August, the whole Trotter family will be involved in the Lawrence County Fair. Whether it is showing cattle or Mary Lou Trotter preparing food for the family, everyone is involved.

“I think it is important to take time to do something together as a family,” Dave Trotter said. “For us, it is the fair. It is more important to be together than to win champion ribbons — though that is nice.”

Does milk have a lot of untapped potential in today’s competitive beverage market?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

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