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COPAKE, NEW YORK
Walt’s Dairy LLC is a family owned fourth generation dairy farm located in Copake, New York, set against the back drop of the Taconic State Park. The farm is run by William Kiernan (Bill), his wife Rosalie and their two sons Walter and David, but all of the family members live on the farm and provide much needed help. David, for instance, milks in morning, and Wally milks at night while Walter feeds the cattle and manages the crops.
“It is a cooperative effort,” says Bill. “If it wasn’t a cooperative, we would have trouble making it work.”
Originally located on a small, rocky farm in Shelton, Connecticut, Walt’s Dairy was an 80 acre parcel purchased in 1927 by Rosalie’s grandfather, Walt, where 12 cows were milked by hand. Bill, who grew up on the Long Island Sound in nearby Bridgeport, had arrived in Shelton as a teenager and was eager to go to work on nearby dairy farms. Upon meeting and marrying Rosalie, they bought the farm from Walt in 1972, owning it until 1985 when they were pushed out by encroaching suburbia and moved to the Hudson Valley to start a new life.
The Kiernan’s farm today totals 800 acres of owned and rented land, and most of it is used to grow their own feed for the cows including corn, soybeans, grass hay, and alfalfa. 400 registered Holsteins make up the total herd of cattle, including young stock that are housed in a free stall barn, and milking cows, who reside in a tie stall barn bedded with mattresses and oat straw.
The cows are milked 8 at a time in their stalls twice a day — and on the Kiernan’s farm, cleanliness is king. Bill says their milk is top quality because of the extra care and daily effort they put into their work.
“A lot of effort goes into producing quality milk with somatic cells counts running around 120,000,” says Bill. “Clean milk is just tastier.”
Bill is a member of the Copake Conservation and Planning Board, working hard to conserve farmland, open space and forest along with historic sites. “We want and need to see prime farm land kept in agriculture.”
Both sons, Walter and David, graduated from SUNY Cobleskill with four-year degrees in Agricultural Engineering. The Kiernan’s have two other children, William, who graduated from Cornell University and is employed by the Johns Hancock Agricultural Investment Group in Boston, Massachusetts and Amy, who graduated from the University of New Haven and is currently Vice President of Residential Lending for the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company in Salisbury, Connecticut.