Sundae on the Farm
WHERE: Welcome Stock Farm, 285 W. River Road
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
MORE INFO: 885-8995 or http://saratogafarms.com
The milk produced at Welcome Stock Farm may travel across state lines, but the Holstein embryos produced there cross continents.
“This is truly a national seed-stock farm,” said Dr. Brad Pedersen, a Delhi veterinarian who visits every couple of weeks to collect and freeze the embryos collected from cows that are being bred for good health and high milk production.
While cattle breeding has been a lifelong interest of 77-year-old farm patriarch William Peck, he also knows about milking. He built the farm’s milking parlor when he took over from his father in 1969.
Today, his adult sons Willard and Neil are building a new $2 million milking parlor. It isn’t quite finished, but milking is scheduled to start late next week.
“This new parlor is a lifetime investment in the business,” Neil Peck said Thursday. “Our dad did it as a lifetime investment, and now we are.”
This Sunday, the public will be able to have a look.
Welcome Stock, which is among the largest dairy farms in Saratoga County, with about 1,600 animals, will host the county’s annual Sundae on the Farm event.
The award-winning annual tour event lets several thousand people visit and see the inner workings of a farm. Welcome Stock is at 285 W. River Road, about four miles north of Schuylerville. The event will run from noon to 4 p.m.
Welcome Stock has been in the Peck family since 1836. William Peck is the fifth generation to work the same land; Willard, known as “Bill,” 44, and Neil, 39, are the sixth generation; and Bill’s four young sons are a potential seventh generation. Bill Peck is also the Northumberland town supervisor.
Today the farm has 690 milking Holsteins — more than twice what it milked just 15 years ago. There are also about 675 heifers as future replacement stock. The farm also keeps 150 bulls for its thriving sideline selling genetic materials and embryos, which have been purchased by farms as far away as Australia, Argentina and China.
“Bill Senior has developed this all his life. It’s not something that just happens,” said Pedersen, who was working at the farm Thursday. “There’s a huge market for them internationally, and also a huge market domestically.”
The cows on the farm produce about 6,000 gallons of milk per day, with milking in the 45-year-old milking parlor going on around-the-clock. The milk usually goes to an Agri-Mark dairy cooperative processing plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, where it is turned into Agri-Mark products like Cabot cheese and butter and MacAdam cheese.
The new milking parlor will allow employees to milk 40 cows at a time instead of just 14, an expansion the Pecks hope will lead to shorter milking hours. “The goal is to produce more milk with the same workforce,” said Willard Peck.
The Pecks currently have 15 employees. To support the operation, they own 1,100 acres of pasture, crop and woodlands, and rent another 700 acres, in both Saratoga and Washington counties.
When designing the new milking parlor, Neil Peck said the brothers never seriously considered installing robot milking machines, though one Washington County farm has installed them in the past year to cut labor costs.
“Our feeling is robots don’t live in the community or shop. We have a responsibility as a business to the community. We’d rather circulate the money,” Neil Peck said.
On Sunday, the farmers know they’ll be showing their operation to many people who don’t know much about modern agriculture. Just in Northumberland — which has one of Saratoga County’s few remaining concentrations of working farms — dozens of farms have disappeared in the past 50 years, and those that survive have mostly gotten bigger — often much bigger, as Welcome Stock has.
“Everybody used to have an aunt or uncle or a cousin with a farm,” said Bill Peck Sr. “Now at lot of people are two or three generations removed from it.”
His son Bill, as town supervisor, sometimes talks with people with complaints about slow-moving vehicles on the roads or other facts of agricultural life.
“As town supervisor, I get complaints every once in a while, but I explain to them about the importance of agriculture, how it has been here for generations,” he said.
With the computerized technology in the new milking parlor, herd managers will be able to keep closer track of each animal’s health, and the milk collected will be refrigerated and loaded into a tank truck almost immediately.
That reduces handling, which can break down the beneficial milk fats and proteins, Neil Peck said. “You keep more of the fat and protein,” he said.
The Sundae on the Farm tours will give the public a chance to see the milking system. With its state-of-the-art electronics, it is unlike any other milking system in the county, said county planner Jaime O’Neill, one of the event’s coordinators.
“It’s pretty fascinating to see the amount of technology and what they can do with the milk,” she said.
Activities during Sundae on the Farm, all of which are free, include tours, children’s activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, live music, agricultural exhibits and demonstrations by area chefs.
Ice cream sundaes made with local fudge sauce, maple syrup and pie will be available, along with other prepared foods. There will also be a farmers market.
The event is sponsored by the Saratoga County Agricultural Promotion Committee and moves from farm to farm each year.