G.K. Davis wakes up every morning at 6 a.m., feeds his 1,000 cattle and runs Lincoln Countyâ€™s largest dairy farm.
â€œWe donâ€™t get up at four in the morning anymore,â€ Davis said referring to the past schedules of dairy farmers.
As June is Dairy Appreciation Month, Davis has many hopes for consumers.
â€œI hope people appreciate the fact Iâ€™m milking cows seven days a week so they can have good, wholesome milk,â€ Davis said.
Davis also noted that during the month of June, dairy farmers donate six cents per 100 pounds of milk to the North Carolina State University Dairy Foundation.
â€œAll the proceeds go to dairy research,â€ Davis said. â€œThe groceries also pay the six cents.â€
Raised on a dairy farm in Gaston County, Davis attended North Carolina State University, where he majored in dairy science.
â€œAfter college, I managed other farms for 12 years,â€ Davis said. â€œIn 1972 I finally decided to do it for myself in Virginia.â€
After the sale of his farm in Virginia, Davis purchased cattle and moved to Crouse in 1975.
He began working at his current farm after the previous owners were killed in a farm accident.
â€œThe son was closing the silage when he fell in,â€ Davis said. â€œThe father noticed he had been gone a while and realized his son had fallen into the silage. He went in after him and they were both killed by the nitrogen gases that silage releases.â€
Today, there are only eight dairy farms remaining in Lincoln County. Davisâ€™ farm continues to be the largest in the county.
â€œWe have about 600 milking herd and a little over 1,000 cows total,â€ said Linda Poovey, Davisâ€™ daughter, who serves as herdswoman.
Davis takes pride in his cows, making sure they each have a balanced diet. Each dairy cow has a mattress with wood shavings to keep the mattress clean and dry.
Milking three times a day, 32 cows at a time, Davis can obtain 5,060 gallons of milk in one day.
After milking, the milk is sent into the milk house where it is cooled to 32 degrees and kept until shipment.
Although Davisâ€™ does not sell his milk locally, residents of Asheville can enjoy his milk from any Ingleâ€™s grocery stores.
Davis hopes the farm will continue with the family name as his son and daughter will assume his role.
â€œI hope to retire at the end of this year and theyâ€™re supposed to buy me out,â€ Davis said with a laugh.
Davis uses an automatic system when milking the herd. Before this system, farmers relied on manual labor.
â€œIf you go back a few years, there would be four or five people milking 40 cows a day,â€ Davis said. â€œTheyâ€™d milk them in pails and carry the milk into the milk house for refrigeration.â€
All the cows were fed with a pitchfork and a grain scoop. Everything was done by hand.
Today, computers handle much of the manual labor. Using automatic milkers, the computer can weigh and record the amount of milk from each cow.
â€œWe can find out if a cow is down in milk production or if a cow hasnâ€™t been milked yet,â€ Davis said.
Davisâ€™ daughter is in charge of the well-being of each cow. Balancing rations, she calculates, measures and balances each cow`s feed.
â€œThe rations for the cows are balanced to the â€˜T,â€™â€ Davis said, speaking of his daughterâ€™s responsibilities in that regard.
Davis reminisced on a specific memory from his past relating to the growth of technology.
â€œMy father planted corn with a one-rule corn planter with a mule,â€ he said. â€œHe finally bought a tractor for $600, planting two rows of corn twice as fast. Now, I can plant six rows of corn twice as fast as he did two rows.â€
With this growth in technology, he believes dairy farms will one day have machines do everything.
â€œWe will just sit in the office and push buttons to tell it what to do,â€ Davis said. â€œBut once everything is automated, the price of milk will go down, which isnâ€™t good for the supplier.â€
As for inflation, Davis is not making what he did in the 1970s.
â€œPeople are getting a bargain at these 1970 prices, yet grocers are adding to that price,â€ he said.
Davis employees 13 farm hands, six of which are in charge of dairy alone.
He serves on the board of directors for the North Carolina Dairy Foundation, the North Carolina Dairy Producers Association and the Lincoln County Agriculture District Advisory Board.
by Maribeth Kiser