In the early spring of '97, they were blasted by a nor'easter that dumped almost 40 inches of snow in two days time, pushing him towards the second big change. "That was when we decided to switch to seasonal dairying." Seasonal dairying, Ron explains, is when you "dry up" the cows before Christmas so that there's no milking to be done until spring when the cows begin to calve. The heifers are all bred at the same time, so they calve roughly at the same time. And then they all start milking at the same time. "I loved going seasonal because it simplified management," Ron says. "Every group of animals is at the same stage of development." In '98 he decided to change over his herd from Holsteins to Jerseys. "They do better on grass, they're wonderful to work with and they give excellent milk," Ron says.
Plus, he had more time for his family. Ron laughs, "The first year I thought I'd made a mistake when my wife decided I had enough time to paint the house." But, he says seriously, even when they first switched to grazing, they noticed a huge difference. "Before, I was getting up at 3 in the morning to milk and didn't get back 'til 6 or 7 p.m. I wasn't getting to know my kids at all. I would try to read to them at night and they had to keep elbowing me to wake me up so I could finish reading the book to them. Once we started grazing, I was able to go to my kids' baseball games and other events. I felt like a father again. And going seasonal just took it a step further."
Personally, Ron feels healthier, too. "I walk a lot out in the pastures when moving the cows around and get a chance to really see my land and all that's beautiful about it. When you're on a tractor killing yourself all day long you don't see any of that. The people I know who have switched to grazing have the same general feeling, that it makes farming fun again."