Though she grew up on a conventional farm, Daley's educational experience included exposure to different agricultural models and ways of farming that are better for both environmental and personal health. "The organic way is a much better approach," she says, "but not everybody feels that way." Professor Daley has received "hate mail," and had veterinarians tell her she's being irresponsible. "You just have to stick to your convictions," she says. Lucky for the cows, apparently. "By caring for our animals organically, we decreased our vet bills by 75%."
"When people wonder what the heck we're doing, we try to explain that we have to teach students how to look at life in different ways. Organic dairying is an environmentally friendly way to produce milk, and the big shocker is that you really don't need all the chemical band-aids typically used in conventional agriculture. It's all mindset."
Professor Daley relies on a network of regional organic producers (she's got several Organic Valley producers on her speed dial!) to consult on the dairy operation as well as to help develop an applied research program which enables students to design studies and gather data on various aspects of production—from pasture content and composition to animal health care—that will result in published research that is sorely needed in the industry. "For instance, it's very difficult to find any published journal articles on alternative treatments for dairy cow mastitis," Professor Daley says. "We've started a study on how to use garlic to reduce high somatic cell counts in cows. Using a protocol of garlic and whey protein that was put out there by [Organic Valley veterinarian] Dr. Paul Dettloff, the first round of tests was 80% effective. You could only hope that you would get that kind of success rate with antibiotics."
But it's more than tests and studies and teaching, Professor Daley says. When the pastures are "popping," she loves to watch the students turning the dairy's 75 Jersey and Jersey cross cows out on the grass. "The students were as excited watching them as the cows were about getting out there. They were happy because the cows were happy."