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Dairy is family business for the Andersen clan

The Aberdeen Times of Aberdeen, Idaho

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The Seagull Bay Dairy, located northeast of American Falls, has been in business since 1980. Alan and Norma Andersen started the dairy with 100 milking cows, some of them purchased from Alan's father, Lyle. Currently, there are 600 mature cows housed in the dairy, with about 520 of them giving milk at any given time. With each cow giving about 10 gallons of milk per day, an average of 5,200 gallons are daily sold to Gossner Foods in Logan, UT.

In 2005, the family wanted to expand, so purchased a dairy in Declo and renamed it Andersen Dairy. It currently houses about 1,200 cows and is managed by Ben Andersen.

Alan and Norma moved to Burley and left the management of Seagull Bay Dairy to their son, Greg Andersen, although they are still very much involved with the business. Greg and his wife, Gwen, currently live with their children in the house his parents built.

Other than brief forays to the Phillipines and BYU, where he majored in animal science and minored in business, Andersen has lived in American Falls since he was six months old and graduated from American Falls High School in 1998. Andersen said he loves being a dairyman.

"I chose to do this," said Andersen. "I enjoy this community, farming, and the good people and business partners here."

Andersen buys his feed locally, consisting mostly of hay, corn, and straw.

The life of a Seagull Bay Dairy cow begins when shortly after birth, she is sent to Jerome to a feeder. Bull calves are usually sold, although if they are registered, they are kept as breeding stock.

After the cow weighs about 300 pounds, she is sent back to the dairy where she is bred for the first time via artificial insemination.

"We don't have any bulls on the property," said, Andersen. According to him, bulls cause too much trouble.

After a nine month gestation period, the cow gives birth and soon thereafter enters the milking herd. She is typically about two years old at that time. After a year of lactation, the cow is allowed to go dry for a period of time, usually about 60 days, before she is bred again to begin a new cycle.

The milking shed can process about 16 cows at one time. First, the cow's udders are washed with water, then a cleaning solution is applied to the teats before the hydraulic milking machine is attached. The cows stand placidly, used to the routine, as they get washed off and spoken to.

After their udders are empty, they wander back outside to continue eating - a process that seems neverending - while the next group of cows wanders in to be milked.

Each load is tested each time for antibiotics, and if any trace is found, the entire shipment is thrown out.

Because of the size of the herd, Andersen has to keep the cycle going 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and employs three shifts of workers.

Infertility is the usual reason to sell a milk cow.

"Although we'd much rather keep them," said Andersen. Artificial insemination is attempted about 10 times before Andersen gives up.

A lucrative sideline for Andersen are his registered cows. The Seagull Bay Dairy website devotes space to those registered cows that are for sale. The glossy black and white Holsteins are posed against green grass, white fences, and snowcapped mountains, making picturesque images.

The cows at Seagull Bay Dairy are all Holsteins, but Andersen Dairy houses Jerseys and crossbreeds as well as the more familiar Holsteins.

The dairy business is a complex one, and it has been a tough year for dairymen, according to Andersen. But he tries to follow good, sustainable business practices and produce quality milk, sell quality product, and run a good business.

Sometimes he even makes a profit.

Copyright 2010 The Aberdeen Times, Aberdeen, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 31, 2010

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