Born to dairy producers in South Dakota, Pride and Joy owner Allen Voortman has always loved farm life. When he was 10, the culmination of three years of drought put his family's farm out of business, and they lost everything. To Allen's dismay, the family moved west to Southern California. When he turned 21 in 1971, Allen was ready to see the country, and he traveled with a friend all over the United States. At the end of his travels, he ended up in Eastern Washington where he promptly found work on a dairy. Allen started raising baby calves on his own and taking care of other people's dairies while they went on vacation. He took his farm-sitting pay in heifers—raising them until they were cows. This enabled him to build his own dairy herd without borrowing money. He partnered with another farmer in the area, pooling resources to work one dairy operation. Eventually, they sold that farm, which today is the only other organic dairy in Yakima Valley area. In 1978, Allen purchased the land where he and his wife Cheryl would raise their own 2 kids as well as many generations of cows and build the farm they now call Pride and Joy.
Looking back on his earlier farming days, Allen recalls a time the enjoyment he derived from farming was slowly draining out of him. "I came from high production farming—a high-input, high-output operation, and it wasn't any fun anymore," he says. "All I was doing was servicing short-term debt, and not really getting anywhere. But, not anymore."
The Pasture Grass
Essentially, we are grass farmers that also milk cows. M.I.G. (management intensive grazing) has been the focus of our family farm for many years. Our farms are modeled after New Zealand dairy operations using pasture almost exclusively, giving cows the right grass at the right stage of growth. This strategy allows the cows unlimited access to fresh nutritious pasture after every milking.
We manage our pastures with intensive rotational grazing management to ensure the highest possible forage quality. Being 100% grass-fed results in lower production per cow, but improves overall herd health and produces impeccable milk quality. We get up to twelve years of milk production per cow compared to three to four years with conventional dairy practices. When our own lush pasture grass is not available during winter months, we purchase certified organic hay from Simon Family Farms in Fairfied, ID – our supplier for the past 30 years.
We have been using organic methods for more than two decades and became certified in 2005. No chemical fertilizers or chemicals are ever used on our pastures which consist of a salad bar mix of grasses, clover, alfalfa and chicory. Fresh clean water is piped to all of our pastures and the cows have access to minerals and salts at all times.
Being 100% grass-fed results in lower production per cow, but improves overall herd health and produces impeccable milk quality.
We think all of the extra effort for our organic pasture grass makes for happy cows. Our animals' stress levels are low. What the ladies get really excited about is knowing that as they walk out of the milking parlor and get to the end of the lane, premium grass and minerals await them. No one is chasing or pushing them.
In addition to healthy eating, happy also means getting exercise. Pride and Joy doesn't have a sick pen and our 11, 12 and 13-year old cows cover a mile a day, working their way through the pastures. No artificial hormones are used and antibiotics are only used in life threatening situations - and that milk is not used for consumption. (Those cows leave the heard as soon as possible and are not sold as organic.)
We milk a selection of Jersey, Holstein, Ayrshire, Swedish Red, Normandy, and crossbreds. Individual cow health and reproductive records along with our milk component records are available at any time – we are very proud of our herd health and the quality of the products we provide.
No artificial hormones are used and antibiotics are only used in life threatening situations – and that milk is not used for consumption and the cow never returns to the herd.
The famous Border Collies featured in Associated Press articles nationwide and their offspring are always willing to show off their herding skills. The dogs are used in the daily operation of our farms as a low stress mechanism of gently herding. They also allow us to compete with other stockdog owners throughout the Northwest in dog trials. It is one of the few activities that we make an effort to leave our farm to do and enjoy.