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David, Sarah, Audrey, Walker and Kaiden Fitch stand together in the middle of a corn field Photo courtesy of John Porter
GROWING SUCCESS: David Fitch (left), Sarah, Audrey, Walker and Kaiden, are all members of the Fitch Farm family operation. The Fitches are hopeful that changes they’ve made to the dairy will ensure its long-term survival.

Last dairy in Milford, N.H., finds new ways to adapt

Fitch Farm has been named the 2019 New Hampshire Dairy Farm of the Year.

With a limited land base, Fitch Farm in Milford, N.H., has had to change over the years to survive.

But this fifth-generation dairy farm is primed for future success. The farm is this year’s New Hampshire Dairy Farm of the Year and will be honored at the Eastern States Exposition (Big E).

The land on the Fitch Farm goes back to the time when a section of the state was part of Massachusetts, known as the Duxbury School.

A Pierson family originally purchased the land. Then Walker Fitch, an ancestor of the current farm owners, came over from Marlborough, N.H., to purchase the farm.

The farm is on the outskirts of Milford on four corners in an agricultural section of town. Earl Fitch ran the farm, who then passed it on to his son, David. It is now a limited liability company that David runs with his son,   Walker, like his ancestor. It's the last dairy farm in Milford.

Efficient changes

Earl added automatic grain feeders and other improvements to make the old tie-stall barn more efficient.

In 1999, the farm switched to a free-stall housing system and erected one of the early gutter-connected greenhouse barns. This was followed by converting the old tie-stall barn to a holding area and step-up parlor in 2000, then another addition to the hoop barn in 2010.

Photo courtesy of John PorterPanoramic view of a barns at Fitch Farm in Milford, N.H.

CHANGING TO SURVIVE: In 1999, the farm switched to a free-stall housing system and erected one of the early gutter-connected greenhouse barns. This was followed by converting an old tie-stall barn to a holding area and step-up parlor in 2000, then another addition to the hoop barn in 2010.

Some of the most recent improvements include a new ramp to push manure directly from the scrape alleys into a truck; a plate cooler to reduce energy used for cooling milk and provide warm water in the winter to cows in the holding area; and increased field stacking of manure to more evenly distribute it to distant fields.

Productive cows

David and Walker run the farm with two part-time employees. They have about 108 milking cows with a rolling herd average of 25,334 pounds, 952 pounds of butterfat and 762 pounds of protein.

They feed a TMR heavy in corn silage and haylage. To save on labor and equipment, they hire custom operators to till the land, spread the manure and harvest the crops.

As a conservation practice, winter rye is planted as a cover crop on all the corn ground. 

Saving nitrogen

In the 1990s, the Fitches participated in the Pre-sidedress Soil Nitrogen Program conducted by UNH Cooperative Extension. They modified their manure management program, reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer by better handling manure and incorporating it at time of spreading. They then used the test to see if additional nitrogen was required.

The Fitch Farm is always looking for new ways to be viable and to sell round bales of hay, raw milk and meat.

Walker has served on the planning board in town.

Photo courtesy of John PorterDavid, Walker, Sarah, Kaiden and Audrey Fitch

MULTIPLE GENERATIONS: The Fitch Farm is run by David and Walker Fitch. Pictured are David (back left), Walker, Sarah, Kaiden (front left) and Audrey Fitch.

The farm is known for being a place to visit by local schools. They host many school groups and have a close relationship with the schools since they are the last operating dairy farm in town.

They also work with the towns of Milford and Wilton, N.H., on using conserved land and keeping land open.

Source: UNH Cooperative Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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