There’s one thing that’s always on our farmer-owners’ minds. Cow care.
Why, you might ask? Because, to make the highest quality dairy products, we need the highest quality milk. And to source the highest quality milk, our farmers dedicatedly give their cows the utmost care.
So we’re bringing you stories from the farm, all about the cow care that ultimately leads to the delicious, Tillamook dairy foods you eat at home. We’re kicking it off with: “cow passion.”
Caring for these animals is a 24/7 job. And given all the time, attention and commitment it requires, it’s a job that calls for a ton of heart.
While speaking to our Tillamook farmer-owners, they shared stories that exemplify their sincere passion for dairy farming and cows – a passion that’s been passed on through multiple generations of dairy-farming families.
Tillamook Farmer-Owner Bearl Seals is renowned for his cow fervor. “My dad is just a cow nut,” said Bearl’s eldest son, Tom. “That’s kind of his life.”
Bearl’s parents were dairy farmers, so he grew up caring for cows. His passion for the animals started early and extended beyond the family farm; as a member of the local 4-H chapter, Bearl studied and mastered the anatomy of cows. Today, you can wander into a room in his barn and find a shelf, crowded with his old, 4-H trophies. Proudly displayed, they show how, even as a kid, Bearl’s forte was cows.
Bearl has passed on his passion for cows – first to his sons, and then to his grandsons. He gave each of the boys their own heifer when they were 6-years-old, which allowed them to start their own herds. All three of his sons have become Tillamook farmer-owners, and his eldest son, Tom, is even a member of our Co-Op’s Board of Directors.
After visiting Bearl’s farm, we traveled down a winding, Tillamook road to eventually arrive at the farm of Tom Seals. While we were there, Tom told us a story about how he inherited cow-passion from his dad.
Staying true to the Seals’ family tradition, Tom, his wife Jennie, and their son Coltan – who won the Junior Champion for his heifer last summer – eat, sleep, breathe and talk all things ‘cow.’
Many of the animals on their farm are descended from cow families that originated on Bearl’s farm. Tom pointed out one cow, whose family he’s raised for over 35 years. “That’s one thing that makes our Jersey cows really fun to work with – you know their ancestry,” Tom said. “You know who that cow’s mother was, and grandmother was. You work with them through the good times and the bad. You have a respect for them.”
You know who that cow’s mother was, and grandmother was...You have a respect for them.”
In a story all about cow passion, we’d be remiss not to mention Tillamook Farmer-Owner Taryn Martin, who runs the calf care program on her family’s farm.
Akin to how cow passion has been passed on through generations of the Seals, it’s been passed on through generations of the Martins, from Taryn’s grandfather and father, to her. “I was born into this dairy farm and the first thing I learned how to do was calves. I’ve known how to do calves since I could walk…”
Taryn also shares her passion for cows with her brothers. “My brothers and I, we look at the farm, and there’s so much cows can teach you. There are so many life lessons – patience is one of the lessons they’ve taught me the most. Because you can’t force them to drink...”
Taryn’s fervor is apparent in the way she talks about and handles the calves, even when they’re reluctant to drink. She guides them to their bottles; gently blows on their furry faces; scratches their backs, to encourage them to feed.
Pointing to one of the calves, she said, “Her nickname is going to be Texas now because she has [the shape of] Texas on her forehead.” Moving along, Taryn stopped at another calf. “This is Rosebud. You can kind of see why – she’s kind of got a pink, red look to her.”
I was born into this dairy farm...I’ve known how to do calves since I could walk…”
When asked why she loves dairy farming and working with cows, Taryn echoed the sentiment expressed by Tom Seals. “One reason – and it’s a big reason my dad does it and loves it – you get to see genetic advancement in a whole species...Here, you can look at a cow and see characteristics from years and years, and generations and generations, between cow families, and see how they’re still carried on…”
Looking to the future, Taryn said, “It’s cool to see those characteristics in cows, knowing that one day, if you decide to move the [family farming] legacy on, [it’ll be the] same thing for your kids. I think that’s the reason why we do it.”