Wheelin’ Sportsman

It’s hard to imagine it’s been 4 years since we nervously agreed to allow the National Wild Turkey Federation host their “Wheelin’ Sportsman” event on our property.  The biggest concern; how can we trust a group on non-farmers and outsiders to protect our land during the most critical season of our farming operation.  If that ground or seed that we place in the ground is not treated with the utmost care it will not produce a plant. Without a plant growing we won’t have a crop, and with out a crop we will need to figure out another way to feed our cows.

Earlier this week the local NWTF group contacted me to remind me the kick-off dinner for the event would be Friday. It went through my mind how much I have learned to trust this group. Last year, we were so busy that even though they reminded us, we completely forgot they were out hunting until Sunday after they completed hunting. This year with a new farm manager seriously focused on getting the tractors rolling and getting seed on the ground, we needed to inform him why people would be wandering around our land.

In all reality, we have the easy part. Bridgewater Dairy along with a group of other farmers donate their land for this special weekend. This is the easy part. The handicapped hunters, and the volunteers deserve to be honored for the work they will be doing this weekend. This weekend there are nearly 20 handicapped hunters, and between 1-3 volunteers per hunter depending on the mobility of the hunter. That is a big group for NW Ohio!


Not all of the hunters could make it for the kick-off dinner, but we were excited to see those that could make it out!

Thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation for organizing this event every year, and treating our land and environment with the utmost respect!  www.nwtf.org

So how is the digester doing?

I really need to start a list of the 20 most common questions we get about our farms.  For the energy enthusiasts this is by far the top question.  

“How is the digester doing?”

As dairy farmers we often expect and are thrilled to answer questions like:  How are the cows doing? How are they handling the hot/cold temperatures?  What are you doing for animal welfare?   We love these questions!   Not only do we know how to answer them, but they challenge us to do better!

The digester is always a tough one.  Often, it feels like a service project.  We know it has a significant positive environmental impact, but the operation of it can be messy and there are few events that create immediate positive feedback. 

What an awesome opportunity it is witness and assist in the birth of a newborn calf, or knowing the animals for which you care could be producing a milk that might eventually be packaged in a new healthy product like fairlife milk.  Wow!  How cool is that!  

 The generators are producing electricity that run out of the farm through three large black wires!  Yeah, no the wires aren’t jumping around because they are so full of energy they can hardly contain themselves.

I could tell you hundreds of stories about the challenges associated with the digester, but there are many positives as well.  Those aren’t stories for today, today is about learning cool things.

If you have been tracking us for awhile you may know that about 8 years ago we installed a methane digester and two 600 kWH generators capable of providing electric equivalent to the usage of more than 400 average sized homes.  

Anyone have a guess how many hours our generators have on them?

Generators, digesters and pumps all have maintenance issues, some of which we do in house, and some of which we hire out to more skilled technicians.  The really exciting piece of information is that we now have the ability to do a complete overhaul ourselves. 

This is way above my technical ability to describe, but kudos to our team for all their effort.  Generator 1 has run over 30,000 hours since we installed it!  Currently, Generator 2 is carrying the electrical production, but tomorrow that will change.  

The best news is there is very little wear on the overall engine, with some “minor” engine repair this engine is expected to be like new again, and we learned a lot about the operation of these engines in the process.  After some exercise time on Generator 1, we will likely shut down Generator 2 for its overhaul.

Confused about how generating green energy off cows might be a dirty job?  Ask Mike Rowe.  Dairy Cow Midwife provides some great examples of the differences between animal care and digester care!   Or if you know someone on our farm, just ask them about the great digester clean out event last year.  

Drones are among us…

While the rapid adoption of drone’s might be a scary addition to the farming world, there are some pretty cool things being done with drone’s here in NW Indiana.  

Check out these cool photos taken of our manure hauling operation. IMG_2351IMG_2344 IMG_2352



*Bridgewater Dairy and its entities do not allow the use of drones over its operations or properties without written consent.

Winter 2013-2014

Yes, this has been a tough winter for all of us.

Here is a round up of this winter’s numbers so far. Winter By The Numbers

The snowiest winter and the fifth coldest winter ever, and if the forecast holds up we may be getting more snow next week.

Yep, we are ready for summer!!! Although this snow might not melt until June at this point.

If you haven’t read our post in January about “milking cows in a snow storm” you should and then add 4 more snow storms only slightly less stressful than the first. Yep, it’s been a challenging year.

A feel good story… One of our own.

Whether its working outside in below zero temperatures, or in the extreme heat; knee-deep in cow manure or helping assist in the birth of a baby calf;  working long hours to plant a little seed or gazing over a beautiful corn field.  Dairy Farming has its challenges but it also has its rewards.

Bridgewater Dairy Group is proud of all the employee’s that help make us an excellent dairy farm.

Bridgewater Group often feels like family to us, and we know that everyone that helps make Bridgewater Dairy a special place has a life outside of Bridgewater Dairy.  They all have families and other passions and hobbies beyond Bridgewater Dairy and we love to take a part in their lives whenever we can.  

Recently Southwest Airlines put together a blog entry about one of our families. I encourage you to check out the link to the Southwest Blog.

How Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program Brought Life to My Family – Video link

Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program Provides a Helping Hand to our Patients – story

Brian and Amy Shaw have 6 children, two of these are adopted with special needs.

Thanks, Southwest for honoring one of our employee’s and thanks to the Shaw family for being part of our greater family.

Zachary Meck, nephew, cousin, dairy farmer..

This week one of our own was welcomed with open arms through the gates of Heaven. Not only was Zachary Meck, a nephew and a cousin to Bridgewater Dairy, but he was also a fellow dairy farmer. His passion for the Dairy Industry shined through to the end.

Zach and his brother Jeremy milked 170 dairy cows in Berks County, Pennsylvania. He will be missed. His Brother Jeremy will continue the tradition of Farming and Dairying in Berks County.

Chillin’ with the Meck Brothers.

Dairymen show support for Meck.

Lancaster Online

The dig out. Milking cows in a snow storm. Continued..

It feels like a month passed by in the last 3 days. We are all glad we made it through one of the worst storms in 20 years.

Our new landscape.

I’m sure each and everyone of us could tell stories of harrowing situations. We could probably write a book! Maybe, I’ll tell just a couple.

Around 3pm, Sunday January 5, 2013, it seemed the storm has missed us. And yet, in just a few short hours everyone in Midwest knew this was big.

Suddenly, Leon, Eric, and Chris became Snowcat operators. The only problem was we were just in 4wd pickups. We had employees that needed rides home from work, and needed to make sure the next shift could to continue the care for our cows throughout the storm.

Keeping the roads clear near the dairy facilities became paramount. Bridgewater had Adam on our big John Deere 9630 tractor with a silage push blade. Adam made the snow storm at our Montpelier location look an inch of snow, from a transportation perspective. But the Sub-Zero temperatures were taking their toll at all 3 locations.


Bridgewater – Indiana Dairy in Fremont, Indiana and Oakshade Dairy in Lyons, Ohio weren’t as fortunate. Unfortunately, these two locations fought difficult road conditions and undersized equipment along with the challenges of sub-zero weather.

Amazingly, not one drop of milk was lost. The trucking companies went through heroic situations to get the milk out. Now, that may not seem that important to most, but let me explain. Not only is it our source of income, but it is also tied to the health of the animals and the morale of our employees. If we were to discontinue the routine process of assisting the mother cows let down their milk, they would quickly be subject to many types of infections. As any mother that has breast-fed a child knows that as the mammary gland gets full anticipating their child (calf’s) next feeding the pressure can be intense. Unless mom let’s her milk down, she will be prone to infection. But there are also baby calves that need fed, and mother cows that just calved, that also need TLC (Tender Loving Care). We love milk! We work hard for our cows, and care for the quality of our milk. When any employee witnesses good quality milk being poured down the drain it is one of the top 10 depressing things we see on a dairy. Even though our work during these times is about the cows health, if milk goes down the drain because a milk truck couldn’t make it to the farm, it can give everyone that is working through the frigid temperatures a major sense of loss.

Truthfully, If we are getting the cows taken care of during these times, that’s really all that matters, but keeping morale up is hard enough when faced with tough times!

Northrup Trucking, Bynum Transport, and Indian River Transport pushed hard into difficult situations to get the milk out. At one point at Bridgewater – Indiana, Moody and Crew Farms plowed a road through a farm field so a loaded milk truck could get to a better part of the road.

Not only were we dealing with logistics of employee’s and milk, we were dealing with wind chills of 30 below zero. We have great respect for the dairy farms in Kansas, North Dakota, and Wisconsin deal with this stuff all the time, but we are just not prepared for this type of extreme weather.

Over the last few weeks we have been preparing our water troughs, and other sensitive water lines for extremely cold temperatures, but in our area 0 degrees is extreme. 15 below zero is unthinkable! We barely survived the unthinkable. I don’t think any cows went with out water for longer than a few hours. If we wouldn’t have had hard working individuals working to keep the water flowing, some cows might have gone with out water for 2-3 days. Just imagine for a minute working with water outside for hours on end when the temperatures are below zero. “Hero’s!!”

Then, there are the calf feeders. hauling milk and feeding milk to calves. In frigid temperatures. The calves are protected, but the guys doing the work are not, they are faced with the elements while caring for these fragile little creatures.

I could go on and on, this is tough stuff. We worked hard and we have awesome teams at all three locations that dug in and helped us survive.

There were a lot of “Hero’s” through this storm, and we employ a lot of them!

As the dig out continued into Tuesday January 7, and Wednesday January 8, Bridgewater township was ecstatic to have Adam and the 9630 help clean some roads they couldn’t touch. In Morenci, Michigan we still had a couple key people who lived on roads that hadn’t been cleaned since Sunday. Since all the tasks at Oakshade had been accomplished, we sent our payloader out to help.

Yep it’s been a rough week. Below are some pictures of what Dairy Farming in Antartica looks like. We are ready to move back to Ohio!

I should add there are dozens of individuals that helped us at each location, and as time permits I may write more stories about the issues that they encountered.

Brian Shaw, Jason Bryant at Oakshade kept operations moving, despite a very limited crew.

Juan, Eric and Lowell (Butch) went above and beyond to keep everything clicking at Bridgewater Montpelier, Oh.

Eric, Guadalupe and Alejandro barely saw their families for three days as they kept Bridgewater-Indiana alive.

Again, it all comes down to people, and team work. I love these cows, and the people that make everything click.

Thank you!!

Bridgewater Dairy. Montpelier, Oh. (Pictured below)

Bridgewater – Indiana Dairy (pictured below)

Oakshade Dairy (pictured below)

These are just stories about our experience in Northwest Ohio during the storm. We are incredibly thankful for the road crews, emergency health professionals, fuel station attendants, hardware stores and all the individuals that helped keep our counties functioning! Thank You!

We are also aware that other dairy farms did not fare as well as we did. Their stories are important as well.

Please recognize that farmers all over the world are working hard to put food on your table.