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Got Milk? Dairy Farm Shares Theirs at Open Gate Tour
Written by Kelly Kalb Correspondent
2016-10-19

Marwell Dairy Farm offered free hayrides to children and adults during the annual Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour Oct. 16 from 1 to 5 p.m.

        How much milk can one cow produce in a day? Anyone affiliated with a dairy farm can answer that question fairly quickly, but the average person may scratch their head in wonder.

        Through an annual event sponsored by the Penn State Extension, 21 farms across Lehigh County opened their gates to anyone with an interest in agriculture on Sunday. Free tours were provided of the facilities, along with activities geared toward children.

        At Marwell Dairy Farm on Cassel Road in Coopersburg, farmers once participated in the  county's Open Gate Farm Tour, now in its 43rd year. This opportunity allowed adults and children to ask dairy farmers from Marwell just how the entire process comes together while touring their operation.

        Marwell Dairy Farm started in 1959, when Robert Gehman rented the property on Cassel Road. He purchased the property in 1963. The farm spans more than 1,200 acres that are filled with crops for feeding the 69 milk cows, including corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, rye, hay and alfalfa hay. Marwell is also home to a hog operation affiliated with Leidy's products.

        Wendell Gehman, the grandson of Robert and a third-generation dairy farmer, led a tour through the milk house, which is attached to a barn filled with half the cow population. The milk house contains a 1,250 gallon tank that collects and cools the milk until it's picked up by Land O' Lakes collection tanker trucks to be bottled for supermarket sales.

        "Our cows are milked two times a day, at 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., 365 days a year. We rotate the cows so all of them aren't being milked at one time. So half are here in the barn while the other half are outside in the pasture or in another barn being fed," Gehman explained.

        During the tour, 5-year-old Linus Koenig of Spinnerstown raised his hand, "How much milk does one cow make in a day?"

        Gehman explained, the farm measures their milk in pounds not gallons during the process, with a typical cow producing 9 pounds of milk per day.

        A highlight of this year's tour was a calf born that morning weighing in at roughly 110 pounds. "After about 12 hours of labor the calf was born this morning. Typically, the calves stay with mom for the first 6 to 12 hours. We try to keep them away from the other cows just to cut down on disease and sickness for the first eight weeks," Gehman said.

        After a calf is introduced to the other cows, around 2 to 3 months of age, it will feed and take on the typical lifestyle of an adult. By the time a cow is 2 years old, it will have its first calf and, depending on milk production and health, will give birth to four to six calves over its lifetime.

        Following the tour, visitors enjoyed free samples of milk and chocolate milk, as well as Leidy's brand products like sausage and scrapple. Children were able to climb inside tractors and a combine for a better view of the farm and to see what types of equipment are used to harvest crops.

        Eight-year-old twins, Liam and Aidan Day of Pennsburg, were excited to see the farm again for this year's event. They jumped from tractor to tractor, waving to their mother, Jill, as she took photos. "It's fun here. I want to climb in all of the tractors!" shouted Liam.

        A hayride was also making the rounds for visitors, and pumpkins already picked from the patch were free to take home.

        According to Gehman, Marwell Dairy Farm takes pride in its work and enjoys the chance to educate visitors during the event as they ask questions and walk around the farm.

        For more information on the annual Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour, visit www.extension.psu.edu.


 

 

 

 

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