Big changes at local farm

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Aug. 9, 2011
Part of the Mapleleaf Farm milking herd heads for Hardy Road during their twice-daily trek for milking. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Part of the Mapleleaf Farm milking herd heads for Hardy Road during their twice-daily trek for milking. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Four times a day, 40 cows from Ned Ellis’ Mapleleaf Farm have been making the trek across Hardy Road. Heading one direction, the girls are in a hurry; their udders are full and they’re eager to reach the milking barn. “On the way over, they pretty much run across the road,” said Ellis.

But at 7 a.m. on Aug. 5, the cows had already been milked and were heading toward their temporary shelter across the road. Fencing, trucks, farm equipment and people marked a temporary path, designed to keep the cows in check during their trek. A few were tempted by the succulent grass growing alongside the path, but some gentle encouragement from a stick-wielding Ellis kept them in line. “That went pretty smoothly,” said Ellis, after carefully securing his herd. “It isn’t always that smooth.”

This twice-daily trek has been going on for several weeks now, and Ellis hopes it will end by mid-August. It was made necessary by a large-scale overhaul of one of the main barns at Mapleleaf Farm. Changes will allow for better ventilation, more room and an overall more comfortable environment for the cows. The barn was originally built in 1980. “I wanted to change how it works for the cows,” said Ellis.

Changes such as increased roof ventilation, roomier stalls, a reconfigured birthing area, and the utilization of sand bedding will make things more pleasant for the herd. New, retractable curtains will allow for warmth in the winter, but better ventilation in the summer. “These are the cows that have had calves within 60 days,” said Ellis. “That’s the highest stress period, so you want them to have the most comfort, the most ventilation.”

Another big development at Mapleleaf is the addition of a 190-foot bank of solar panels. Purchased partially via a grant, the panels are expected to provide an average of 40 percent of the power required of the farm’s barns. “There’s no way you can do it without a grant,” said Ellis, “it’s way too expensive.” But once the final work is done, hopefully by mid-August, the panels should significantly ease the financial burden on the farm, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the business.

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