Summer. It speaks of hot days spent on the beach; cooling off in the water, and lying lazily in the warm sand, sitting under the porch drinking lemonade, and watching the neighbor kids run through sprinklers.
Ideally, summers are spent in search of sun, sand, shade and relaxation.
Much the same can be said about Aaron Gasper's cows. During the hot summer days of Michigan, the cows at Lew-Max Holsteins spend their days relaxing on sand bedding under the cool shade of a barn; they are misted by sprinklers and large fans, and can grab a cool drink of fresh water to quench their thirst.
To keep his cows comfortable, Gasper houses his animals in a freestall barn, which features beach sand bedding that conforms to the cows' udders; the cows are cooled by fans and sprinklers, and are offered continual access to fresh food and water. The cows are free to walk, stand, lie down, eat and drink whenever they want. "It's all those little things that make up one big thing, which is giving our cows the highest quality care we can, and asking in return for the cleanest, purest product available: milk," Gasper said.
A fifth generation dairy farmer near Lowell, Michigan, Gasper grew up on his family's farm, Lew-Max Holsteins. Gasper was raised with an understanding of the hard work, long hours and dedication it would take to run a successful dairy farm. While it can be a demanding job, he also enjoys the freedom it allows him to spend time with his family, and the opportunities to teach his children the same values he learned growing up on a farm.
Those values include the quality of care he gives his cows. "Taking care of these cows is one of the most important things we do," Gasper said. He takes a comprehensive approach to caring for his animals, looking at every angle of comfort, care, health and nutrition. "The cows are eating a more balanced diet than you and I are, and they are cooler in hot weather than we are."
The ability to work closely with a group of people that share the same values and work ethic, and the opportunity to raise his family on a farm are both reasons Gasper wouldn't have it any other way. He appreciates the life he has, and takes pride in providing wholesome, nutritious milk for his family, those in Michigan, and the nation. "It's our job, our duty and our passion." he said.
Gasper and his wife, Andrea, enjoy sharing their passion for farming through the Michigan Dairy News Bureau, where they focus on educating people about on-farm practices and the environmental and sustainability efforts they use every day.