Jon is a third generation dairyman who milks around 200 Jersey cows twice a day on his Oregon family farm, Double J Jerseys. He spent six years working for his father learning the dairy business and purchased his own farm in 1991. Jon began pasturing his herd on mostly grasses and clover 15 years ago. He uses an intensive, rotational grazing system in which the cows are grazed in three-acre paddocks, the electric borders of which are changed every 12 hours. Every 16 days the cows begin the rotation all over again. Research is a daily matter on his dairy farm. Jon is constantly monitoring cow feedback (milk production, health) to measure success of any new changes made to the dairy.
“Most people think Christmas is the best day of the year, but they’re wrong,” says Jon. “Best day of the year is the first day of spring, when the cows go back out to pasture.”
Jon wouldn’t dream of keeping his cows indoors year-round, as happens at confinement dairies nationwide. He must bring them in for winter, to guard the herd from bitter weather and the land from being stomped on when wet and fragile. But the day that the skies clear, Jon opens the gates.
For months afterwards he sleeps with his bedroom window open, listening for rain. “In springtime, we do a thing called ‘The Dance,’” he says. “We dance them outside, then dance them back in if the weather gets too bad.” It’s extra work—his father always just kept the herd in until spring was absolutely certain—but it’s worth it to Jon.“My approach is that whenever there’s grass growing, my cows will be grazing. That’s what they’re meant to do, after all. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Jon farms with his wife Juli and their children. The Bansens joined the Organic Valley cooperative in June of 2000. Jon is currently one of the Cooperative’s Dairy Executive Committee Representatives for Oregon. He is also a contributing writer for Graze Magazine, focusing on cow nutrition.