Recently, I left my home in northern Illinois and made the hefty drive out to Sacramento to start a summer-long internship with AdFarm. While I had no idea what to expect, I did know one thing: this midwestern corn girl was going to experience agriculture in a whole new way. California is the epicenter of agricultural diversity, and I intended to soak up as much of that as possible. Recently, I had the opportunity to do just that during an AdFarm trip down in the California Central Valley. This experience came in the form of a fairly impromptu visit to Giacomazzi Dairy.
Dino Giacomazzi is a fourth generation dairy farmer. He has an interesting story, as do all farmers. For several years, Dino lived away from the farm, working as a road manager for rock and roll bands. Special circumstances brought him home, and he’s been running the dairy and its related farming operations ever since.
From Left to Right: Libby Hall, AdFarm Digital Strategist; Dino Giacomazzi; Kelly Rivard, AdFarm summer intern; Josh Lysne, AdFarm Digital Strategist.
Our group meandered around the dairy, with Dino in the lead telling us all about various aspects. As we took in the sights of the dairy, Dino taught us some pretty significant facts about his family’s operation. One of the major points he highlights was their dedication to smart conservation practices, especially in the crop farming side of the operation. Dino’s operation raises all of the forage crops that they feed the cattle, including alfalfa hay and corn and wheat for silage. With careful planning, a stringent irrigation program, and conservational tilling methods, Dino maintains great yields of a nutritious product while ensuring continued long-term fertility of the soil.
AdFarm Strategic Lead Katie Pinke poses next to a mound of wheat silage. Prior to today, none of us midwesterners had known wheat could be used for cattle silage!
After we finished looking at the feed storage area, we headed into the barn. There was a que of heifers waiting to be milked, and we were very impressed with how content and calm the animals were. “Cow comfort is the number one thing we do,” Dino explained. The cow’s welfare and happiness has a direct correlation to the operation’s success, and Dino understands that very well. For that reason, he takes a very scientific approach to the happiness of his cattle.
According to Dino, a few years ago research was done to track the body temperatures of dairy cows. Using tiny ingested thermometers that could be scanned for data, it was found that cows are at their warmest when they stand close together in line prior to milking. Moreover, the data collected showed that it took a full 24 hours for the cows to return to a more comfortable body temperature. Because of that research, Giacomazzi Dairy changed their approach to cow cooling and adapted their facilities to enable easier cooling of the cattle. Even as they stood waiting to be milked, the animals were completely at ease.
As they stood waiting, the cattle seemed calm but curious. This one even moved closer to the railing and checked me out as I stepped forward to take her picture.
While we stood under the fans in the milk barn discussing how calm, happy, and well-socialized the cows seemed, Dino mentioned something that caught our attention: Giacomazzi Dairy is the oldest in the state of California. Founded in the late 1800’s, this dairy is rich with tradition and history.
We are incredibly grateful to Dino for his generosity and hospitality. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at his place, and were thrilled to spend time with another great member of California’s agricultural community. Dino’s operation is a great example of the sort of story agriculture needs to share. Giacomazzi Dairy is an innovative, research-driven, and welfare-focused operation, yet at the same time has a very rich and long-standing history. Where else but agriculture can you find such a perfect balance of advancement and tradition?
Kelly Rivard, is country girl, agriculture advocate, passionate communicator, Gen-Y’er well-versed in social media and AdFarm intern. She can be found @kmrivard on Twitter.