Name: Rosemarie Burgos-Zimbelman
Farm Name: Rio Blanco Dairy
Where is your farm located? Maricopa, Arizona
How long has your dairy been in business?: 22 years, this is our 23rd year.
How long have you been involved in the dairy business?
I was born and raised in the dairy business, my father is a dairy nutritionist. My grandfather and him also had a dairy in Honduras.
Tell us a little bit about your dairy farm:
We currently milk about 2000 jersey cows, we raise all of our calves there as well. We farm about 1100 acres of land where we grow some of our hay and/or silage. We started off as a Holstein herd (black and white cows) and then switched to a Jersey herd in the early 2000’s.
What is unique about your farm?
Our cows are Jerseys. Different than most cows you see that are often black and white, our are golden brown and a smaller breed compared to Holsteins.
What do you like about being a dairy farmer?
The animals and the ways we are able to help people get food. There is a big disconnect between our schools and where food comes from, in today’s world it’s nice to be able to tell people what it is really like to take care of these animals and feed a hungry world.
Tell us a little about your experience as a dairy cow nutritionist:
Being a dairy cow nutritionist is challenging, fun and no two days are the same, which is the same for a dairy farmer. I get to work with many dairy owners and managers helping them decide what to feed their cows, which are based on cost and nutritional value. My job entails going to dairies, collecting samples of ingredients we are using to feed the cows, analyzing it at our lab, and then formulating rations for the cows depending on age, stage of life, milking or not milking, etc. Different stages of life require different requirements and it’s not a one recipe fits all model. Dairy cows diets are better managed than people, my job is to keep them healthy through nutrition, so little intervention is needed. Cows love routine and it’s vital that the diet doesn’t change frequently or that they get fed at the same time every day.
Why is cow nutrition such an important part of dairy farming?
Because a healthy cow is a happy cow and happy cows produce milk that feed a lot of people.
How does your dairy care for the cows?
We make sure our baby calves get colostrum right away, we feed all cows correctly so they are meeting all their vitamin and mineral requirements, we scrape their bedding in the corrals so the ground does not get hard and its comfortable to lay on, we clean their water troughs so they get clean water, we milk them correctly, we have our hospital pen in case they get sick.
How does your dairy practice sustainability?
Healthy cows have longer lives and pass on immunity to their baby calves so in turn every year we are becoming more sustainable. Cows produce more milk today than they did 50 years ago so efficiency and feeding cows correctly has also been improved upon. We are more efficient today than we ever have been as an industry.
What common misconception do you want to set straight about dairy farming?
Cows are better fed than people, if every person had a personalized meal planner like dairy cows we would be a healthier world.
There are a lot of myths of dairy products that are put out there by animal activists to scare people so they will stop eating dairy products.
We love our cows!! We love animals in general otherwise we wouldn’t be able to be in this business, its demanding, unpredictable, and the return is not always what you hope it would be. We have years where we risk losing everything we have for these animals. We do this for our love of animals.