By Mary Fox

The Telaak Dairy Farm of Little Valley has won a “2013 National Dairy Quality Award in recognition of their commitment to quality milk production.”

The award, sponsored by Merial, GEA Farm Technologies, Ecolab, IBA Select Sires, National Mastitis Council and Hoard’s Dairyman, is one of seven gold awards given to farms in the state. Out of 200 applicants from all over the U.S., 56 farms were awarded as Platinum, Gold and Silver winners for their high-quality milk consistency.

The Telaak dairy farm is a family farm run by three partners, brothers Don and David, and recently David’s son, Michael, has joined the business.

The farm was started in 1951 by the Telaak’s parents, Fred and Dorothy, who were milking 50 cows at the time. Don, David and their five sisters all had chores on the farm beginning as small children. They all graduated from the Ellicottville Central School. One sister, Barb, still helps on the farm.

In 1984, the Telaak brothers bought into the business and increased the herd to 120 head. In 1994, they took over the business, doubling the herd to 240 head and replacing and updating six buildings and much of the equipment.

The Telaak brothers have divided up the responsibility for the operation of the farm with each in charge of different areas. Don basically sees to the crops and machinery maintenance. He also loves giving tours and explaining the operation of the farm. David attends to the cows and farm maintenance.

“I can’t think of anybody I would rather work with than my brother,” said Don.

David’s wife, Joyce, does the bookkeeping and maintains each cow’s records.

“We trust each other in doing what’s right for our designated areas, but we get together to make decisions on big changes or purchases and hold farm meetings with the two families,” said Don.

Don’s wife, Lynn, was a Cattaraugus County 4-H agent for 21 years. She now teaches animal science at Olean BOCES.

David and Joy have four children, Michael, Doug, Michelle and Kim, who work on the farm part time, but other than Michael, they have other careers they are pursuing.

Upon graduation from Ellicottville Central School, Michael served in the Air Force for six years. Upon discharge, he attended the College for Dairy Science in Morrisville, N.Y., before going into partnership with his father and uncle.

Michael’s work on the farm includes reproductive management, taking care of the breeding program, milking, feeding and general farm work.

Only dairy cows are raised on the 1,200-acre farm, 900 acres of which are tillable for corn, oats, wheat and hay. A recent investment is a manure holding tank, a cement structure 150 feet around and 14 feet deep into which manure is piped from the barn. The manure is later used as fertilizer on their fields.

The farm supports 750 cows, calves and heifers, of which 350 are milked three times a day at 5 a.m., 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., producing 13 tons of milk every day.

The cows, divided into groups of 24, enter the milking parlor to be milked. Digital technology records their vital statistics and amount of milk given. It takes about five hours for two employees per shift to milk all 350 cows.

The milk is piped from the milking parlor to the milk room, where it is filtered and cooled, before it goes into one of two holding tanks to await the milk truck that comes every day to take it to the Upstate Niagara Co-op in Buffalo.

Young female heifers are artificially inseminated when ready to have their first calf at about two years old. Their calves are fed a special dry milk formula until weaned at about six weeks old. After having the first calf, the heifers will go into the milking herd.

The Telaak farm is a contented place where the cows have giant brushes they can activate to get a good scratching, wherever that may be, and the employees are happy at their jobs.

“Don is a great employer,” said Vicky Brennan. “He makes sure we have all the ‘tools’ we need to do our job.”

“Who really earned the award,” said Don, “is the people working here, and I want each one listed in the paper so they get the credit they deserve.”

They are Rachael Atwater, Jim and Vicky Brennan, Mike Chinchen, Jerry and Jeanette Ellis, Justin Green, Dan Rzucek, John Salisbury, and a Telaak sister, Barb Toth.