Change is usually for the better; what do you think?

The five-mile stretch of country road that I call home has seen
enormous changes in the past twenty years. What has happened on our
road is similar to what is happening here in Ashtabula County, in
Ohio, and even across the United States.

Twenty years ago, there were six dairy farms on our road. All of them
were sending Grade A milk to market. This is the milk that is picked
up in tanker trucks and used primarily for fluid milk that consumers
buy in cartons or jugs. All of these dairy farms milked about 40 to 50
cows. Each farm also had at least 10 to 15 dry cows (ones that were
not giving milk at the time), 20 heifers (young cows that hadn’t had a
calf yet), and anywhere from 10 to 20 calves of different ages.

These all added up to about 300 milking cows, 90 dry ones, 120 heifers
and 90 calves, for a total of 600 dairy animals. Today there are no
dairy farms on our road shipping milk. There are remnants of one dairy
farm for a total of about 10 dairy animals in the entire five-mile

Twenty years ago on this same road there were six horses. Two of these
were work horses and four were riding horses. Today there are at least
25 horses, most kept for pleasure riding. The increase in the number
of horses has been enormous.

The economic impact from the loss of so many dairy animals is huge.
Feed mills that used to deliver tons of dairy rations (corn, oats,
bean meal, and minerals mixed together) to these six farms no longer
get calls. The milk truck drivers who used to have six stops to pick
up anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of milk no longer have any
farms to serve. Suppliers of milk house equipment, pipeline
replacements, soap and cleaning agents for pipelines and bulk tanks
lost six customers.

Then there are less obvious changes. The milk inspector and the milk
company fieldman no longer have any farms to visit or inspect on this
part of the road. With about 600 dairy animals in a small stretch,
there were always numerous calls to veterinarians. These calls used to
be for calving problems, cow vaccinations, herd checks for pregnancy
and dehorning just to mention a few herd health issues.

Now there are calls to veterinarians about horses for health checks,
immunizations, and many other problems. Horses also need farriers to
shoe them and work on their feet. They have to have hay, horse feed,
and tack (equipment such as saddles and bridles for riding.) Since
many people show their horses or haul their horses a distance to ride,
there is a need for horse trailers of all sizes and trucks to pull
these trailers.

What is obvious as you drive this small section of road is that there
are new houses. Twenty years ago these were hay and corn fields. Now
they are yards, gardens and horse pastures.

Change is usually for the better. However on this one I’d have to say
I’m sitting on the fence. What do you think?

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the
Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.