Troxel Dairy Farm, an Indiana family farm in Hannah, Indiana. The family behind where much of our milk comes from in Indiana!
Last week my son and I had the good fortune to spend the day with LuAnn and Tom Troxel of Troxel Dairy Farm in Hannah, Indiana. Hannah is located about 2 1/2 hours north of Indianapolis amongst small towns and wide open fields. It was a very relaxing drive for us both and in an area of Indiana I have not spent a lot of time in. I love these road trips.
Troxel Dairy Farm is an excellent representation of an Indiana dairy farm with an interesting story that I wanted to share with you all. In the coming weeks I will be sharing more about the technology involved in providing all of us with a simple glass of milk. This is something that many of us take for granted (me included). I have learned that milk is probably one of the most regulated foods in our food system and these checks and balances are what give us such a rich source of nutrients and a tasty drink to boot. It all starts on family farms like Troxel Dairy Farm.
In 1947 Phil and Mary Troxel milked roughly 24 cows and grew crops along with raising 8 children where Troxel Dairy Farm is today. Shortly before Phil turned 60 he suffered a debilitating stroke which caused him to be unable to continue to do the milking. His wife Mary, who was an experienced farm wife and grew up on a dairy farm, took on even more of the responsibilities of farm maintenance. Tom, who was a senior in high school, changed his academic schedule so he could be home to do the milking in the morning. Tom went on to get his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Purdue University and today has a thriving veterinary practice in addition to running the family farm.
The Troxel Dairy Farm is a true family farm in every sense of the word. When family patriarch Phil Troxel was unable to work again, Mary took charge to keep the farm going. Tom’s brother came to the farm after he graduated from Purdue to work so that Tom could attend (in essence they traded places) and today the farm is still going strong thanks to the hard work of wife LuAnn, Tom and son Rudy. Rudy manages the herd and through his education and knowledge of genetics and advances in technology, their commitment to producing the highest quality of dairy still stands firm today.
The Troxel family loves their animals and this shows when observing their interactions with them. I am no farmer but even I know that happy animals produce the best milk. They currently raise over 140 head of dairy cattle in addition to the corn used to feed them. Through a nutritionist the cows are fed a TMR (total mixed ration) created to suit their exact dietary needs. Like humans, cows need specific nutrients to suit the stage of life they are in. On this farm there are lactating cows (milking), cows that are gestating (pregnant) and calves. As you can imagine they all have different needs and are kept separate to ensure each one gets the individual attention they require.
We really lucked out on the sunny Saturday we were there. The weather was beautiful and we were really enjoying pitching in to lend a hand. Jacob got feed the cows and learn more about the science that goes into each kind of feed they get and why it is mixed the way it is. Feed is sort of like a trail mix of corn, cotton seed, barley, etc. Not unlike cooking, their specific ration of food is like a recipe.
As we were preparing to leave, one of the cows decided it was time to give birth. Tom gently coaxed her into the barn so she could rest comfortably on a bed of straw. I wasn’t sure if we should stay or go but we stayed. I am so glad we did. Jacob and I got to witness this calf coming into the world up close and personal. It was such a great experience for him and other than for a moment where I thought it might be a bit too ‘yucky’ for him (come on, he is 12) he was in awe. This momma knew what to do and the Troxels moved in like a well oiled machine. Their sensitivity and care was observed as they closely monitored her progress yet gave her the space to do her thing. About an hour after she visually started to show the calf was born. The cow instinctively knew to lick her calf clean to aid in the drying process and to stimulate the calf’s awareness.
The first steps were taken and the process of life on the dairy farm moved forward. The cow was cared for after birth as new mothers are and the calf’s umbilical area was cleaned medicinally and the first colostrum was given. This is an important time for a newborn. This first ‘mothers milk’ gives the cow the best start at a healthy life. Not unlike human babies.
I appreciated this glimpse into the real life of a dairy family. I think it is important for consumers to know that there is a face behind their food. The glass of milk we drink came from a farm that lives a life not unlike our own. Carpools, soccer games, family meals and homework. Life and death and history all happens on these acres of Indiana farmland and the history is rich, it is impressive- it is important.
Troxel Dairy Farm is not typically open to the public. For bio-security reasons as well as they are not staffed to lead visitors and large groups. If you are interested in visiting an Indiana dairy farm that you can tour I highly recomend Fair Oaks Farms, Kelsay Farms, Traders Point Creamery, and Kuehnart Dairy Farm. (please check all websites for visitor information). Get more information on Indiana Dairy’s at Winners Drink Milk.
I sat down with LuAnn Troxel and asked her a few questions~ Here they are below.
Tell me a little bit about the history of your family farm:
Tom was raised on this very farm. We joke that he moved “across the hall” when he married me since he switched bedrooms. Except for the 7 years he was at Purdue earning his veterinary degree, he has lived in this farmhouse. We purchased the farm from his folks in 1988. I was not raised on a farm, but I have learned a ton about a dairy farm in the past 32 years since we’ve been married. His folks started the dairy farm here in 1949, and there have been dairy cows on it ever since. Tom’s father suffered a debilitating stroke when he was only 57. However, the family pulled together, and the dairy has continued. Our son, Rudy, works full time on the farm, so he would be the third generation dairy farmer at Troxel Dairy Farm.
How do you care for your animals? What does it involve?
We refresh our stalls where our cows lay down with fresh mason sand every week. We also provide them with plenty of fresh feed (most of which is produced right on our farm) and of course plenty of water. We raise our female calves ourselves. Our heifers (female calves) are our future dairy herd. We sell our male (bull) calves when they are 8-10 weeks old. We have regular customers who buy our young male calves right off the farm and raise them for beef. Every single day, we make sure that all of our cows and our calves are fed and watered and that our cows are milked twice daily. We scrape our lots regularly and have an automatic cow brush for our cows’ grooming comfort. We also have enough stalls for all of our cows to lay down. It is during this time of laying down that our cows are “making” milk, so we want to be sure to provide everything they needs to make them comfortable.
Where does your milk go?
Our milk goes wherever our milk cooperative needs it to go. We are part of the Foremost Farms USA cooperative. So it can go multiple places. Today, our milk went to the Dean’s plant in Rochester, Indiana, where it will be made into regular fluid milk for purchase in many grocery stores right in the area. That is probably where it goes most often. Other places our milk has gone in the past include Pleasant View Dairy in Highland, and the Nestle plant in Anderson.
What products are made with your milk? Where can consumers purchase those products?
Some of the products our milk may have been made into are regular fluid milk, coffee creamer, sour cream, cottage cheese, heavy whipping cream, yogurt and even ice cream. These products can be purchased in most of our local grocery stores. Look for a Dean’s, Great Value, Centrella or other gallon milk label with a code that says 18-1019. That could be our milk!
Want to know where your milk comes from? Grab the container of milk or dairy you have at home right now. Look for a numerical marker like this one:
See that 18-number? The 18 means it is from Indiana. 17 is from Illinois.
*I would like to thank LuAnn and Tom Troxel for allowing me to visit their farm not only willingly but with open arms. I appreciated their time and knowledge- we truly had a great experience.
I would invite you all to leave me a comment below. I love a conversation about food but be sure that all comments are polite and constructive. Thank you.