When you’re enjoying a dish of ice cream, you’re probably not thinking about its high levels of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B12 and riboflavin.
You are also unlikely to think about the farm family that dedicates their lives to ensuring Arizona residents have access to flavorful, high-quality dairy products.
One example is the Van Der Toorns, who operate Boschma Farms, with about 3,000 cows on 60 acres near Tolleson. It’s been a family affair since 1970.
“We live in the house where my wife grew up,” Jason Van Der Toorn says.
Family heritage and providing a unique lifestyle for his children are primary reasons Van Der Toorn gave up a career as an electrical engineer to become a dairy farmer.
“My kids have the opportunity every day to run around on 60 acres of farm ground. They have the opportunity to go out and feed calves,” Van Der Toorn says in a video about the family enterprise. “My son, Jacob, comes out every night with a pail, goes to the barn and grabs milk out of the tank and brings it home. It’s quite a blessing.”
Running a dairy farm is a 24/7 job. As a result, it’s important to find ways to make the process efficient and productive. The health and comfort of the cows is the top priority because their milk production is key to the overall success of the farm.
“On the dairy farm, nothing is ever quite good enough,” Van Der Toorn says. “You’re always looking for places to make things more efficient — make things more comfortable for the cow — to make things more comfortable for the employees that are working with the cows.”
Van Der Toorn spends 3-4 hours a day collecting and analyzing data to keep the cows healthy and spot inefficiencies. He attributes the technology to increased profitability and to improved health and wellness of the cows.
To be a successful dairy farmer, Van Der Toorn relies on personal experience and on shared information with others in the farming community through organizations like Arizona Milk Producers.
The three Van Der Toorn children are active participants on the farm, as well. Their typical day starts at about 5 a.m. They gather milk and take care of the calves. In winter, they put blankets on the calves to keep them warm, and in summer they keep the young calves cool.
Cows are well treated at Boschma because milk production is better when cows have minimal stress and good health. As an example, throughout the day a tractor pushes feed to provide easy access for the cows. This helps keep the feed clean and ensures the cows don’t have to work too hard for their food.
Once cows are fed, they are washed to make sure they are clean before milking.
Afterward, more cleaning takes place in the commodity barn. In addition, feed samples are collected and inspected.
There are rewards that extend beyond the hard work of being a dairy farmer. Van Der Toorn notes one of his family’s favorite times on the farm is when the cotton seeds bloom and the barn looks like an Arizona winter wonderland.
The Van Der Toorns hope the underlying values learned on the farm, such as discipline, respect, responsibility and accountability, become life skills for their children in whatever career path they choose.
The Arizona Milk Producers are on a mission to promote good health and nutrition by highlighting the people (and cows ) that make it all happen.
These five families have unique stories but all share the desire to dispell common myths and misconceptions about dairy farms in Arizona. From sustainability to caring for cows, read how these families are keeping the tradition of dairy farming while paving the path for future generations.
Jason Van Der Toorn uses technology to run dairy more efficiently and recycles cow manure into organic fertilizer.
Read more on how Boschma Farms are leaders in sustainability and continues to evolve the modern day dairy farm.
Craig Caballero might have played baseball for the Detroit Tigers but dairy farming has always been in his blood. Being involved in the United Dairyman of Arizona and Arizona Milk Producers is just part of how he keeps his farm up to speed on latest developments.
Read more about Caballero Farms here.
Healthy cows are happy cows and Rosemarie has her PhD in Dairy Nutrition to make sure her dairy cows are happy and well fed. Rio Blanco Dairy makes sure their cows have the best nutrition to make premium dairy products and keep their cows healthy.
Read more about Rio Blanco Dairy here.
Dehorning cows significantly decreases the risk of injury to farm workers and other cattle but the process can be harmful. Bill Kerr and family are changing that by breeding for polled (hornless) cows.
Read more on how this 4th generation dairy farm is changing the dairy farm industry.
This dairy farm has been in business for over 100 years and uses Jersey cows for premium cheesemaking and milk.
See how this dairy farm plans to continue the tradition into modern day dairy farming.
Arizona Milk Producers is a non-profit nutrition education organization whose mission is to contribute to the achievement of optimal health for all Arizonans by providing leadership in nutrition education based on the concept of a balanced diet, including milk and milk products, in accordance with scientific recommendation.