By Frankie Gambonini, All West Communications Intern
Pete Mahaffy grew up on his family’s dairy in Coos Bay, Oregon and has lived there almost all his life. However, his father left the dairy business in 1994 and Mahaffy ended up going to college for horticulture. Yet, similar to many other people who have grown up surrounded by the dairy industry, it’s just not that easy to leave behind! After working for another dairyman after college, Pete decided it was time to head home in 2003 and carry on his legacy as a third generation dairy farmer.
In the 13 years since, River Bend Jerseys has become a thriving organic operation on the southern stretch of Oregon’s coast. They successfully built a new barn, milking parlor, and manure pit, along with leaving the original barn to stand proudly at the front of the farm. Pete, along with his wife Kelly and children, have approximately 150 Jerseys on their 250 acres of property.
One of the interesting advantages that Mahaffy has had in regards to pasture management has to do with the dairy’s coastal location. For fertilizer, they use shrimp and crab husks, which is not only effective, but saves the fish processors in the area the cost of paying transportation fees to ship it elsewhere.
When it comes to breeding decisions on the farm, look no farther than All West/Select Sires’ very own Darryl Olson. Olson, along with All West SMS Evaluator Jeff Cochran, get together with Mahaffy to select which bulls the operation will use. According to Olson, the main factors considered when choosing bulls are feet and leg composite, udder composite, body capacity, the A2A2 gene, and inbreeding avoidance. These traits are important to River Bend Jerseys as the cows have to walk long distances every day to get to pasture. Concentrating on strong feet and legs, adequate body capacity, and quality udders helps ensure that these organic cows are genetically compatible with the demands of their environment and can last a long time.
River Bend Jerseys has always used Select Sires’ top proven bulls in their lineup, but their focus on the A2A2 gene is more recent. Cows that have the A2A2 gene produce A2 milk, which is milk free of the A1 beta-casein. Whether or not there is a major difference between A1 and A2 milk, some consumers prefer the A2 label and it’s undeniably a new niche market for dairymen, like Mahaffy, to capitalize on.
In addition to these top proven bulls, they have also tried to diversify their genetics by adding in some bulls from Select Sires’ partner Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) based in New Zealand. The “grazing genetics” from the bulls LIC offers fit in perfectly with the vision Mahaffy and Olson have for the herd: functional cows with increased longevity and productive life.
With Pete Mahaffy’s dedication to his dairy, Darryl Olson’s commitment to selling quality semen, and All West/Select Sires’ selection of superior bulls, it is no surprise that River Bend Jerseys is a successful operation with great cows and excellent genetics.