November 29, 2021 at 8:20 p.m.

Generational traditions, changes

Orth relies on family traditions, values
The Orth family – (front) Jaylee; (back, from left) Derek, Charisse, Callum, Randy and Laura – stand in their yard Nov. 15 near Lancaster, Wisconsin. The family milks 250 Jerseys. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER
The Orth family – (front) Jaylee; (back, from left) Derek, Charisse, Callum, Randy and Laura – stand in their yard Nov. 15 near Lancaster, Wisconsin. The family milks 250 Jerseys. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER

By Abby [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

LANCASTER, Wis.- Farming with a trail of children behind her is nOrthing new to Laura Orth.
“I am a farm wife and a mom and a grandma first,” Orth said.
Orth runs a 250-cow dairy, Orthridge Jerseys, with her husband, Randy, and their son, Derek, near Lancaster. Derek’s wife, Charisse, is the county’s 4-H program coordinator. Together with a couple employees, the Orths milk twice a day in a double-12 swing parlor. Orth manages the calves with the help of her daughter, Julie Inghram; the grandchildren help too.
Orth and her husband moved to the farm March 1, 1993, and Derek joined the operation in 2005.
The family has seen a lot of changes in the last 29 years, and Orth believes the reason they have lasted this long is because of the strong family values she keeps alive.
“The grandkids are always with us, just like our kids were always with us when they were young,” Orth said.
When the grandchildren are not helping outside, they are in the house baking and cooking with their grandmOrther.
“When I was graduating high school, I wanted to be a home economist but they told me I was too smart,” Orth said. “It was around the time they were (encouraging girls to learn more) in math and science.”
At the time, Orth took the encouragement of her school advisors and went on to study to be a medical technologist. Even still, the passion for cooking never left her mind.
“I so wish I would have thought about the food science. How you can take the flour and the moisture and the baking powder and it becomes this little cookie,” Orth said. “I love the science behind it.”
When Orth’s grandchildren visit, she makes sure to share with them values she learned growing up and instilled in her children.
“When Derek’s kids are here it’s so different than a traditional daycare because they help me to wash clOrthes, make food and they learn to be a family,” Orth said.
Orth’s family values stem from growing up on her family’s farm. She and Randy bOrth grew up on dairy farms. They married in 1983 and rented a farm near bOrth of their parents.
“We started out with 13 cows, milking in buckets, and I was working at the hospital,” Orth said.
The couple moved several times and had a baby each time they moved. They ended up with four children.
“Everybody was renting back then,” Orth said. “There were a lot of farms that were pretty much known as rental farms.”
The Orths settled in the area for many reasons, with the local industry being a big selling point.
“We moved here because of the dairy infrastructure and the availability of the large animal veterinarians, the feed salesmen and the feed,” Orth said. “It was just so much more dairy, and now we are almost one of the last dairy farms in Grant County.”    
In the family’s early years, they were ahead of their time in terms of diversification. In addition to working off the farm, Laura ran a direct marketing business. The family raised and butchered 1,000 chickens every year and sold them out of their garage.
“We always had a little something extra going on,” Orth said.
The farm grew naturally as their children became older. Between 2005 and 2008, the herd grew internally from 60 cows to 120 cows. In 2004, Derek went to college for a year.
“That was a hard year for us,” Orth said. “It was only a year, but it was tough.”
When Derek came back from college in 2005, he officially joined the dairy. The family built a freestall barn and parlor, and in 2008, expanded their herd to 250 cows. Randy and Derek take turns mixing feed on the weekends and have hired help do 90% of the milking.
The family saw changes that turned out to be beneficial during the pandemic. They were milking three times a day until the colleges shut down and two of their employees who attended local colleges moved back home. Instead of trying to fill the labor gap, the Orths cut back to two milkings a day.
There was also talk of having to dump milk, so they thought the twice-a-day milking would curb production in case it happened. However, in a few weeks until the cows were back up to their previous production average. The family also found their somatic cell count was cut in half.
Orth said that with all the stress of the pandemic and everyone working all the time, she encourages people to remember the old values and the importance of cooking and sharing a meal.
“I think part of the coolness of farming is how immersed in it we are,” Orth said. “Yes, we are feeding the world, but it starts at home.”


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