Providing the Full 4-H Dairy Experience

1/26/2013 7:00 AM

Doody Family Balances Life with Dairying

Laurie Savage

Maryland Correspondent

DAMASCUS, Md. — The Doody family, like many other American families, is a busy one.

John is a partner in his own law firm, while Michele works as an epidemiologist for the National Cancer Institute. Seventeen-year-old twins Julia and Ian have full schedules of school and 4-H activities.

Because of their love of the dairy cow, the Doodys decided to add milking to their to-do list.

“We grew up around the farm, and our dad was so enthusiastic and involved with 4-H that we naturally got into showing and dairy judging. We have been helping to raise dairy cattle for our entire lives, but we got very involved in showing when we joined 4-H at age 8. Everything kind of evolved from that early start,” Julia said.

She and her brother are the third generation on the farm started by their grandparents, John and Bernice Doody, who moved there in 1955.

“Dad had always worked as a herdsman for other people and got his herd started by working out a deal with the owner of the last farm he worked before he went off on his own. He got to keep one of every four calves he raised for the owner,” John said.

The elder Doodys rented their farm for five years while building the herd and equipment inventory before they purchased Wyndo Farm. By the mid-1970s, the herd was completely comprised of registered Holsteins.

“A major driver of this transformation was the involvement of my sister, JoAnne; my brother, Richard; and me in 4-H and showing cows around the county and state. Mom and dad had a true partnership in running and managing the farm through those early years. Everyone knew how to work and how essential all working together and working hard was to the family success,” John said.

The farm bred winners on the tanbark that also milked and classified well.

Wyndo Lucky Empress Ina, twice excellent, scored 91 (2E-91) was named reserve grand champion at the North American Livestock Expo in 1979.

“ Rosie’ was the middle cow of our first three-generation excellent cow family group,” John said.

Another memorable cow, Wyndo Fury Susie, scored excellent three times, scored 91 (3E-91), produced 180,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime.

“At our peak, we had six excellent cows, 50 very goods and 50 good plus, with just over 17,000 pounds of milk herd average and 104 percent BAA. Every animal in the herd was homebred, something in which we took great pride,” he said.

After their father suffered a stroke in 1985, John and his brother took over milking and running the farm.

“His absence left a huge void that had to be filled. My sister and her husband, Paul Leatherman, joined us about six months later. I was attending college part-time and worked on the farm full-time until Dad’s stroke, after which I quit school to work on the farm full-time,” John said. “Ultimately in 1992, we had our best year for milk production but the lowest profit margin, which created a tight financial situation.”

The animals were sold privately in March 1993, but John and his sister raised heifers and rented the cropland.

In the meantime, John and Michele met in 1989 at a barn dance to which friends dragged them. They married two years later.

“The farm was actively milking at the time, so John was both working and going to school. After the herd was sold in 1993, John went back to school full-time,” Michele said. “Within eight years, he had completed his bachelors, masters and law degrees, and we had had twins.”

Several show animals were purchased when Julia and Ian started showing. Those animals then calved.

“We had placed some milking cows on other farms, but we wanted Ian and Julia to get the full 4-H dairy project experience of milking and showing animals of all ages and life stages,” John said.

They started bucket milking two of the family’s best show cows they also planned to flush. A third milking cow was added. There are about 55 total head at Wyndo, including recipient heifers.

The family, especially Ian, has been working to modernize the facility with a new milking system.

“I researched the costs and benefits of the system and worked with Agri Service to design it. I made a presentation to persuade my aunt, uncle and dad to put in the system, and I presented my goals and objectives for the project,” Ian said.

The process involved climbing into a muddy trench to fix a water line and building a new room inside the original barn.

Most likely the herd size will not increase, particularly due to busy schedules and college looming around the corner for the twins, their dad said.

“We like the opportunity to take care of our cows and learn new things,” Julia said.

Each won the master showman title at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and public speaking awards. This year, both were on the Maryland dairy judging team that traveled to Louisville, Ky., and their father serves as the county dairy judging coach.

Julia added another responsibility to her list, serving as the Maryland Dairy Princess.

“My time as dairy princess so far has been very busy and a lot of fun. One highlight was when I spent the day at the Damascus Heritage Museum’s dairy day, reading books, passing out milk and cookies and presenting my skit,” she said. “I enjoy talking to people everywhere, who may know a lot about farming or who may have never seen a cow in their lives.”

In the future, Ian plans to become a veterinarian and hopes to attend Virginia Tech. Julia is considering studying medicine or biomedical engineering.

Even with the busy schedules that keep the family on the move, John and Michele say they would not change any of it for their children.

“We feel that the 4-H dairy project is the ultimate laboratory for life. Where else can Ian and Julia learn about biology, chemistry, philosophy, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, motivation and so much more?” Michele said.


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