By Janet Kehres
Three generations of Albrights have been in the dairy business since the late 1940s at the family farm in the Firelands near Willard.
Joel Albright and his wife Mary Beth are the third generation of the family to work the farm.
Their two children, seven year old Lauren and five year old Luke, will be the fourth generation of the Albrights in the dairy farm business if they choose to stay in the business. Currently, Lauren enjoys the cows and has been training with the cows for the fair while Luke likes playing in the sand and with the cows.
The Albright family were dairy farmers in the 1940s until brucellosis, a bacterial infection, wiped out Allen Albright’s (Joel’s grandfather) herd of 24 cows. In the early 1970s he built the milking parlor that is still in use today. Allen’s son Fred and his wife Becky returned to the family farm in the summer of 1977. At that time, the pair still taught school while helping Allen on the farm. In 1985 Fred quit teaching to work the dairy full time. At the time they were milking about 150 head.
Fred’s son, Joel, had dairying in his blood at an early age. He exhibited his first Jersey calf at the fair when he was five years old and thus began a life long love of the farm.
Joel met Mary Beth while studying agri business at Ohio State. He taught vocational agriculture at Crestview High School beginning 2001 and continuing to help on the farm. She is an educator at the Erie County 4-H Extension Office.
Joel left teaching this past year to help the family run the farm. His sister Krista also helps. She too, is a vocational agriculture teacher. She also left her teaching job when she married and moved further north-west in Ohio. She said she is considered seasonal, summer, weekends and a part-time helper.
After the herd began to grow, Joel said, a new freestall was built in 2003. A second free stall was built in 2011 to accommodate an additional 200 cows being added to the herd. The milking parlor was also retrofitted at this time, to a double 16 parlor and milking went from twice a day to three times a day.
Also installed was a sand lane flush system after building a third freestall barn in 2014. Joel estimates the system has saved 90 percent of the sand used on the dairy because it can be cleaned and re-used. A silage pad was built in 2016. He added the pad got the stored silage out of the mud and improved the feed quality.
Eight robotic milkers were installed in March 2018 with the ninth to be installed soon.
Currently they have Time for Cows Management System (T4C) which monitors and manages the cows.
Recently, the following construction was completed:
New robot rooms to house the milking units, a new milkhouse, 80 new freestalls, bulk storage for palleted feed, alley scrapers for freestalls that cannot be flushed and the flush system and sand lane.
Incorporating technology was an opportunity that will enable Albright Dairy to reduce the cost of production through a reduction in labor expense, improve efficiencies and a add a higher level of cow management that will result in increased production. Joel added the strategic management change will maximize the strengths of the Albright operation which are cow and feed management. It will minimize the weaknesses such as labor management, aging and inefficient milking facilities. Furthermore, the project addressed the long term threat of labor availability and increases in wages he added.
Two computers keep track of every cow on the farm and controls the robots. It will either let a cow get milked or if it is too soon, reject the cow from being milked.
The cows come into the milking process on their own. Fred said the cows can be milked from 2.7 times per day up to four times a day.
Milk is measured by pounds. If a cow is producing 80 pounds of milk per day, it is doing great. During the hot and humid days, the cows don’t eat as much and therefore don’t produce as much milk.
The Albrights have two stainless steel tanks in the parlor. One is smaller and called a “buffer”. It holds the milk and keeps it cold until the large tank (hold 6,000 gallons) is available. When full, the large tank can fill a milk truck.
Dairy farmers sell by the hundred-weight, one hundred pounds of milk. Most dairy farmers need to get about $18 per hundred-weight to break even, but the average price right now is about $10.50. “The market for milk is more volatile than the stock market,” Joel said.
The Albrights have accomplished a lot in the last couple of years. They were in the Top 3 Jersey Herd in Ohio for milk production in 2015 and 2016.
They were number two in Ohio and number eight in the United States for herd size 300-749 cows in 2017.
The Rolling Herd Average (RHA), the average of milk produced by the average cow in the last 365 days peaked in 2017 at 22,300.
The amount of milk shipped doubled from 2011 to 2016.
The herd size was increased from 340 cows in 2012 to over 500 in 2018.
Joel was the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) Young Jersey Breeder Award Winner and the third generation to work on the Albright Dairy Farm.