In the heart of Indiana, 30 minutes north of the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis, Tom and Sally Waitt own and operate Dandy Breeze Dairy Farm and Creamery, an operation with family, Jersey cows, and the land at its core.
When it comes to dairy farming, cow care is top priority to the Waitt family, and it all begins with the calves. Sally personally cares for the dark-eyed calves and their needs, and her gentle attention makes all the difference. Even more so, Sally has an animal science degree that greatly benefits the calf and mama cow alike.
When it comes time to give birth, each mom is put in a maternity pen inside. Once the calf is born, Sally explains, “We give each calf as much colostrum as it will drink, and we have some that’s frozen if mom is not producing enough.”
They keep the calves on mom’s milk for six weeks, and at one week, they train them to drink from a bucket. They group the calves together at about three months old.
As well, to ensure good health each calf receives oral vaccines at birth, then again at six weeks old. “We’ve had good luck with our calves with vaccines and colostrum,” Sally adds.
Cow Care and Comfort
The grown-up cows, 40 or so Jerseys, prosper from the good care they receive. “Our cows are milked in a flat barn, where we have close contact with them. It makes it easier to notice any problems that may occur.”
“It’s just common sense, noticing the animals,” Tom says. Sally also works for a veterinarian, and stays abreast of animal health knowledge and changes through that role, and talks with the veterinarian she works for when they have questions.
A family friend at Purdue University is also a veterinarian, and handles pregnancy checks for the herd and assists the Waitts with herd health. Still, there’s even more to the vitality of the herd than that.
“Our cow comfort is based on the farm itself. They’re able to get off concrete 365 days a year,” Tom says. They’re on pasture spring, fall and summer, and the farm encompasses 150 acres, pasture taking up one-third of the land. “Even in the winter, on a day below zero, the cows are in the dry lot, lying down, chewing their cuds,” he says. “There’s windbreak in the free stall barn, so they come and go as they please.”
In the free stall barn, the Waitts use sand bedding with straw on top. “They seem to like it a lot. It’s soft and comfortable,” he says.
The Cow’s Diet
The cows are fed corn silage from non-GMO, high-oil waxy corn and baleage of alfalfa and oatlage. They also feed the herd triticale, a hybrid created by crossing wheat with rye. Triticale is good for protein and energy, and is cut and wrapped wet, too.
“The cover crops that we put out in the fall are made into baleage in the spring, before we plant our corn,” Tom says. Sometimes they put oats out in late summer, and cut it wet in November after the wheat is harvested.
National Farmers picks up the excess milk that doesn’t go into Dandy Breeze Creamery, and it then enters the National Farmers supply chain. That amounts to about half of their milk production.
As for the milk that they bottle right on their farm, that can be found under the Dandy Breeze Creamy label and is available as either whole white milk or whole chocolate milk.
What the Waitt family is most proud of is that their products are made from grass-fed Jersey cows that naturally produce more protein, calcium, phosphorus, and healthy fats than any other breed.
Tom Waitt shares about success factors for their creamery. They’re within 25 miles of Indianapolis, so there’s a sizable pool of people who have access to their products.
The creamery side of the operation requires a great deal of hands-on work. Friends and family help them bottle, and Tom and Sally expressed how grateful they are to have these people in their lives.
They pasteurize two to three times a week, deliver to several stores and coffee shops near Indianapolis and on weekends, customers can pick up milk right from their farm. “If someone wants fresh milk, they’ll get fresh milk,” Tom says.
Sally Waitt feels the heart of their success lies in the taste of Dandy Breeze milk. “The chocolate milk we make is really good and everybody loves it,” she says.
The whole milk taste hooks people, as well. “It’s so fun to watch people drink it,” Sally says. “They say, I don’t drink milk. But they take a drink of it, and they say, this is really good.”
Sally loves Dandy Breeze milk, too, personal bias or not. “It’s really rich and creamy and is really good on cereal and for making ice cream,” she says.
Sally and Tom have three adult sons, Ross, a photographer, and Samuel and Luke, both teachers. Even though all three work off the farm, they still help their parents when needed. Samuel and Luke’s wives pitch in as well. They also have a daughter, Katie, who is married and works as a nurse in Memphis, Tennessee.
Always Family Farms
The Waitts support National Farmers’ Always Family Farms initiative, and as bottlers of their own milk, they understand the necessity of enthusiasm for dairy on the part of consumers, neighbors, and those in healthcare.
Tom relays two encounters that underscore the value of milk for the human diet. “‘I have had people who buy our milk, come to me, and say, 'hey, I’ve been to the doctor. I think, oh, great, they’re going to tell me their cholesterol is sky high. But they say, no. It was the opposite. It was really good.”
Tom says, “Their doctors ask them, well, what have you been doing? And they say, drinking Dandy Breeze milk.”
Furthermore, Tom received an informal endorsement about whole milk from a doctor friend, as well. The Waitts’ friend stopped by to purchase Dandy Breeze milk, and Tom jokingly said to her, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to drink whole milk? She says, no, you are supposed to drink whole milk,” Tom explains.
“She does a good job of informing me about the cells and how the membranes are made of good cholesterol that’s in the milk. Most people don’t know that.” He explains that people hear the word cholesterol and assume it’s all bad. “So we have a lot of education to do,” he says.
It’s good to love what you do. And for the whole Waitt family, their enthusiasm about Dandy Breeze milk is unanimous.
Learn more about Dandy Breeze Creamery by visiting their website at www.dandybreezedairy.com