Hard work and long hours remain,
but stress of dairying is long gone
MICHAEL UCALSI - The Colchester Sun
generations of dairy farming, a Colchester family has decided to take a chance
in a different profession, abandoning a familiar way of life in the hope of starting
a new tradition that it hopes is full of opportunity and promise. Jeff Senesac's
family was in dairy farming for more than 60 years, starting when his grandfather
traded for 200 acres of land in Colchester and drove a herd of cattle from Morrisville
in what was a three-day ordeal. Since then, Senesac Dairy Farm has operated on
Malletts Bay Avenue, with Jeff purchasing the land from his father in the mid
1990s. "My father was born on this land and never, lived anywhere else",
said Senesac. "He bought the farm from my grandfather about 1970, and my
wife and I made a deal to buy it from him about six years ago".
But under the weight of falling milk prices, Senesac and his wife knew it was
time for a change, and in March sold their cows and milking equipment. They closed
Senesac Dairy Farm for good, renewing the land as Cotton Wood Stables, complete
with boarding for horses, an indoor riding arena that's 140 feet long by 72 feet
wide, an outdoor riding area, equestrian equipment, and trails that will eventually
cross over most of the farm. "It is not easy work being in the dairy farming
business," said Senesac. "We were going backward. Milk prices kept going
down and the price of everything else kept going up - water, electric, everything."
Senesac said he was making $11.30 per 100 pounds of milk, a price that had dropped
from the time his father ran the farm. "We were talking about changing it
over to a stable for four or five years," said Senesac. "Last spring
was so bad, with the dropping prices and all, we had to do something." After
selling the dairy equipment, Senesac, his father and a couple of friends worked
six-day weeks for about six months getting the stable up and running, with the
first horse boarded this past fall.
At Cottonwood Stables, horses are boarded and are cared for throughout the day.
For Senesac, a regular day starts at 6 a.m. when he wakes to feed the horses.
He fills their water buckets and gives them a couple hours to eat. Then the horses
are put outside for exercise while their stables are rebedded and cleaned. After
all the horses are brought in, he refills their water and feed buckets and checks
on them throughout the night. There are eight horses in the stables, which can
"I have to say I'm not sorry we made the change at all," said Senesac,
noting that all farmers have it tough, with prices beyond their control, and feeling
that their importance in the food industry is constantly overlooked. "It's
an ironic situation. The people that are providing the necessities of life are
barely able to make a living doing it", said Senesac. "That just doesn't
seem right." As with farming, there is a lot of hard work that goes into
running a stable. But, Senesac welcomes the change, believing that he and his
family have gotten into a more secure industry. "There's as much physical
work as before, but there's a lot less mental stress", said Senesac, who
noted one of the most stressful things in the dairy world is the dependency on
machinery, some of which is outdated and rickety. "Like an old car; a lot
of the older dairy equipment wouldn't want to start in the winter", said
Senesac. "It's really tough relying on a piece of equipment you're praying
won't break down."
Other than the University of Vermont stables, Cottonwood Stables is the closest
to Burlington, and is the newest. Senesac is hoping that by filling his stable
with local horses, he'll be able to support the rest of his land, which he uses
to grow crops and produce on the side. "It's definitely an exciting time",
Senesac said. "With dairy farming, we felt we didn't really have a future.
Now we feel like we have more opportunities to succeed".
learn more about boarding horses with the Senesac's, call 655-0770