LSU AgCenter celebrated and honored the hard work and dedication of Louisiana’s dairy community during its annual Dairy Day on June 4 at Pine Grove Farms in St. Helena Parish.

The program began at 8 a.m. with registration, followed by an invocation from Pine Grove Farms owners and the hosts for Dairy Day, Eugene Robertson and Daryl Robertson.

A short presentation was given by U.S. Department of Agriculture County Executive Officer Patrick Babineaux on some of the programs offered, including the Dairy Product Donation Program. 

This program is triggered, Babineaux said, in times of low operating margins for dairy producers, and requires USDA to purchase dairy products for donation to public and private nonprofit organizations and feeding programs that provide nutrition assistance to low-income populations.

Purchases are only made by USDA during periods of low margins, and no enrollment is required for dairy operators to benefit from this program, Babineaux said.

LSU AgCenter Southeast Research Station dairy specialist Charles Hutchinson gave an update on forage and BioPRYN lab.

The Southeast Research Station, Hutchinson said, provides dairy producers with the information they need to thrive.

“It’s a tall order because being a dairy farmer is a big commitment, far more involved than pulling up a milking stool to a cow a couple of times a day and occasionally pitching out some hay,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job.”

There is a lot of startup in the dairy business, Hutchinson said, as far as land, cows and equipment, and it’s one of the most highly regulated industries.

The LSU AgCenter Southeast Research Station has a modern, state-of-the-art milking parlor that has been renovated and updated with new technologies, Hutchinson said.

For today’s dairy farmers, he said, the research station is a source of information that helps them survive in an increasingly difficult business climate.

Hutchinson’s presentation was followed by an award ceremony honored those receiving 4-H, milk quality and milk production awards, and lunch.

After lunch, those in attendance took home dairy-themed goodie bags, fans and more.

Receiving the high cow awards were Kent Blades, St. Helena, 29,028 pounds; Kirby Varnado, Tangipahoa Parish, 35,063 pounds; and Brown Dairy Farm, Washington Parish, 30,658 pounds.

High production certificates went to Southeast Research Station, 22,000 pounds; Clifford Champlin, 21,000 pounds; Circle G Dairy, 18,000 pounds; Roll-N-Hill Dairy, 18,000 pounds; and Phillip Robertson, 16,000 pounds.

Herd production plaques were given to Circle V Dairy, 15,000-pound club; Jimmie Williams, 17,000-pound club; Barrett Null, 17,000-pound club; and Pine Ridge Farms, 19,000-pound club.

Pine Grove Farms, on La. 1041 South in Pine Grove, is one of a few average dairies left within St. Helena Parish.

Owner Eugene Robertson, a lifetime dairyman, has spent nearly 50 years working on his family’s dairy operation.

Robertson’s father-in-law, Polk Tiner, started the dairy farm in 1949, and Robertson purchased the farm from him in 1974.

Robertson started out milking 30-40 cows. The number of cows was eventually increased, over time, to 150.

He is in business with his eldest son and manager of Pine Grove Farms, Daryl, who milks about 240 cows.

Daryl Robertson is a third-generation dairy farmer who developed a limited liability corporation and leases 150 acres of the 330-acre dairy farm from his father.

He has been in the dairy business for about 30 years. He milks in a barn that is set up with a double nine, herringbone system for milking.

Daryl Robertson milks twice a day with the first milking starting at 3 a.m. and the second at 3 p.m., which generally takes about four hours per milking, he said.

In addition to milking cows, off the farm Eugene Robertson is extensively involved in the dairy industry.

He is the Louisiana Farm Bureau’s dairy subcommittee chairman; serves on the board of directors for the Louisiana Dairy Promotion Board, the Southeast Council of Dairy Farmers of America; and he is currently involved with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Livestock Brand Commission.

The Robertsons welcomed to Dairy Day St. Helena Parish dairy families and industry representatives and those from surrounding parishes as well.