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Hornstra Farms expands its milk production, calf by calf

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  May 9, 2013 03:27 PM

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Several calves have been born recently at Hornstra Farms' Hingham and Norwell locations, as the dairy farm continues its slow but steady growth.

The calves are part of an ever-evolving process of building a herd, said owner John Hornstra.

“We milk like 38 cows right now, and bottle the milk from those 38 cows,'' he said. "And then the young cows are future milk producers. We hope to milk 60 cows when we’re at full production. We’re raising these cows to fill our barn.”

According to Hornstra, cows give milk for only 305 days after giving birth. To keep milk production going, cows are continually bred. Gestation takes nine months, and cows are typically bred again a few months after giving birth.

That process had grown Honstra’s heard from the six he started with in 2005 to the 38 at the farm today, which is soon to have even more once the calves are grown.

“There’s a bunch at Hersey Street and a bunch at our farm in Norwell,” Honstra said of the babes, who are grazing on open pastures.

Farming goes back a long way with the Hornstra family, starting in 1915.

In the early '70s, the family got out of the cow business, but when John Hornstra took over in 1985, he was determined to bring it back.

“I always wanted to have a farm where people could come and see the cows being milked and it being bottled and making ice cream. That’s when I decided I wanted to have a farm locally,” he said.

Hornstra has been building on that dream since then, making improvements to the farm to support the diary operation, and adding milking cows bit by bit.

“Other than having my own children, [farming is] probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Raising a cow, seeing the milk it’s producing, it’s very rewarding,” Hornstra said.

Despite the growth of the heard, Hornstra Farms is not a factory, owners say. Production is done as it was on an old-fashioned dairy farm, and the farmers don’t use artificial growth hormones.

That commitment to fresh, local, and pure has customers coming back after a rough economy.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “We have a wonderful clientele of people that prefer better-quality products or fresher or local. That’s what we specialize in, is locally produced.”

Hornstra Farms will soon be open to the public so people can see the cows being milked as well as come by for fresh produce.

“We’re still under construction, but we’re hoping to be ready for the public sometime … this summer,” Honstra said.

For more information on the farm, click here.

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