ROSAMOND, Ill. — Stopping by Clavin Dairy Farm, chances are you’ll see three generations of the family milking cows.
“I started milking when I was 7 years old and my girls probably started a little bit earlier,” said Leanne Casner, who takes care of the day-to-day operations at Clavin Dairy Farm with her father, Matthew.
Her siblings, Elizabeth, Annette and Joseph, are also involved in the dairy farm.
Casner, a U.S. Army veteran, and her husband, Drew, have two daughters, Mia and Mabry, ages 7 and 9.
Drew works at the hospital in Pana and serves as athletic trainer for the Pana High School sports programs.
“They do help out on the farm. They don’t go to day care, so when they’re not in school they’re either with my mom, (Diane), in the house or they’re out here helping me and they definitely fill in a lot,” Casner said.
Clavin Dairy Farm milks about 200 cows at 6:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. daily and utilizes an interconnected strategy for sustainability between dairy production and growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.
“We have just over 700 acres of crops. We use a lot of what we grow for feed. We do have some to sell, as well, but a lot of it is for feed,” Casner said.
“All of our manure goes into a Slurrystore. We take it out from there and haul it to our fields where we inject it into the ground. We get more out of it for fertilizer and then we don’t have runoff, so it’s better all the way around.”
Casner returned to the family farm after serving in the U.S. Army from 2003 to 2006.
“I joined after high school. I was active duty Army and I served in Germany and went to Iraq. I flew UAVs, (or unmanned aerial vehicles), while I was in Iraq,” she said.
She returned to the family farm after three years in the service where she rose to the rank of specialist and attended the University of Illinois Springfield majoring in sociology and anthropology.
Casner was asked what are her favorite aspects of working on the family dairy farm.
“I’ll say milking is the easiest. People always think it would be the hardest because it’s a lot. We do milk three times a day, so I always tell people every time I wake up I’ve got to go milk cows, but it’s consistent, it’s quick in and out. It’s all the other stuff that takes a lot of time. Milking is at least a set schedule,” she said.
The low price of milk and the high price of feed make it challenging for dairy producers.
“That’s definitely a big part. I have really good help, but my high school help can be tough,” Casner laughed.
“I always think I could have an army of them just to get my spots filled because they have so much going on.”
Operating a dairy farm is a commitment that requires a daily schedule of multiple milking.
“We do have very good help. I can get a few days off because I have very good help and they have been with us for a while. I do really lean on them a lot,” Casner said.
“You don’t get a sick day. It does not matter how you feel. Holidays? You’re here, it doesn’t matter.”
Dairy production has come a long way technologically.
“We’ve already milked almost 32 head. They’re about ready to leave,” Casner said. “We can milk all the cows in just over 90 minutes. It’s good for the cows. They’re not in here very long.
“It’s good for us, too, because you’ve got enough other work to do and you do want it to move quickly and efficiently.”
Sanitation is a primary focus at Clavin Dairy Farm.
“One of the biggest things we’re always working on mastitis prevention. That comes down to sanitation. Prevention is key as it is for anything,” Casner said.
“For mastitis we always want to prevent, so we clean at all times and the other person that’s in here just cleaned all their stalls.”
Bovine mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland, is the most common disease of dairy cattle, causing economic losses due to reduced yield and poor quality of milk.
“We do get inspected. The health department comes out and we need to always be ready for that, too,” Casner said.
She is a strong believer in sharing the multigenerational dairy farm with the public.
The family was among those featured on the “We Are the 96%” statewide campaign that was launched during the Super Bowl earlier this year.
The initiative was launched by Illinois Farm Families promoting the fact that 96% of farms are family operated.
Casner also has a Facebook page, Daily Dose of Dairy, to clarify myths and present facts behind the dairy industry and milk.
“I don’t keep up on it real well because those types of things take a lot of time and obviously I’m here a lot. I used to be better about keeping up on it. I need to be better on it,” she noted.
“I started it to let people know how a farm actually works and how agriculture actually works, and I think dairy is greatly misrepresented because people don’t understand how it works and so many people have no connection to a farm anymore at all.”
Casner often welcomes visitors to the farm for tours and agriculture education opportunities.
“This year on June 10 we did a huge day where we opened the farm up to the public. We had like 400 people here so they could see firsthand how a farm really works and how the animals are treated. It was a very positive day. It was a huge success,” she said.