Spring Valley Farms: Still Milking
Tucked away in a corner east of Springdale in Spring Valley, Ark., is a Grade A dairy appropriately named Spring Valley Farms. The story of Hayden and Betty Scates begins when Betty was working next to Hayden’s mother Truley at the Wilson chicken plant. This is one of those mother knows best stories. Truley insisted that the couple meet, so Hayden took Betty out for her birthday dinner on Jan. 19 and married her on April 26, 43 years ago.
Hayden laughed and said, “I started milking on the 28th.”
Betty inherited the 94-acre farm from her parents, Elvin and Leath James.
The farm has become a family operation with daughter, Christy, and grandsons, Laramie and Garrett, heavily involved. Hayden still does all the milking, while Christy does most of the chores with Garrett and Laramie, who works for Tyson, putting out hay and filling in where needed.
The acreage is divided into six pastures, one for the dry cows, two to three for the milking cows, one for the heifers and one for their grandson’s horses.
The herd consists of 70 cows in milk and, at the moment, and a registered Jersey bull from Perkins, Okla.
The herd began as Holsteins with a registered Holstein bull, but as their children, daughter Christy and son Brook, grew and were ready to show, new breeds were introduced. Now the herd is very mixed with mostly Jersey as well as Holstein, Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorns.
“I would like to have all Jersey because they are smaller and therefore easier to handle as well as with a good butterfat test,” Hayden said. “Because of their size, they don’t eat as much and you can have more cows.”
Betty added, “It doesn’t hurt that they have a nice temperament and are really cute.”
According to Hayden, the Brown Swiss influence is important because they also have high butterfat content and the breed is hardy, which counteracts the Jerseys more delicate health.
Christy explained that she believes the best dairy cow is a Jersey/Brown Swiss cross, partially because of improved hardiness and because of the difference in calf size. A typical Jersey calf is 40 pounds though a few as small as 15 have been born and thrived while a Brown Swiss calf is usually 75 pounds. That larger size is difficult to handle.
“That big calf will try to climb up on you if you’re not careful,” Betty said.
In order to raise the healthiest calves possible, Hayden likes to let the mommas dry off two months before calving in order to give her a rest and fresh start. Hayden is a hands-on farmer and decides when it’s time for rest by “bumping them” to feel for calf size. The Scates keep all of their calves. Heifers are retained and used as replacements, while bull calves are banded and raised for 4 to 6 months before being sold at the sale barn. Money from that sale then buys hay for the year. The Scates purchase 500 round bales of mixed hay per year because the acreage is used only for grazing and spraying for weeds is not possible with dairy with their land dragged every spring so that cow manure provides the fertilizer.
The Scates use 18 percent dairy feed purchased from Evans Feed in Green Forest 60 miles away because the mill produces exactly what the Scates want. The Scates farm uses rural water because, according to Hayden, cows do better with fresh water, especially when it’s hot.
The milk produced at the farm is sold to Dairy Farmers of America and ends up at the Hiland Dairy processing facility in Fayetteville.
Hayden is appreciative of the fact that their milk truck doesn’t come until around noon so that he has an easier milking schedule than some. The cows are milked at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Nonetheless, it is an every day, all day job like all dairies.
Hayden thinks the biggest challenge in the dairy industry is operating costs. He explained that years ago they were paid $13 per hundred with feed costing $4 while now they receive $16 per hundred, but with feed cost at $13. Hayden said, “Maintaining profits is a constant battle.”
This last breeding cycle, the Scates decided to start a commercial beef herd and crossed 30 Holstein cows with an Angus bull to produce their first crop of calves, which are due soon. The couple decided it was time to start a commercial herd, possibly as retirement. However, Hayden admitted that retirement just wasn’t happening because milking was in his blood he would milk until the end.
Another recent addition to the Scates operation is two Hampshire sows purchased by Hayden and Betty for showing by the two youngest grandsons. The intent now is to sell some of the litters and to test whether or not that’s a profitable venture. The Scates also have 10 dairy nannies and one billy. Babies are due in June, some of which will be sold.