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Derr Family Farm Is Profile Of Continuity, Experimentation
Co.) Adam Derr Sr. began
dairy fanning while in high school.
He bought his first farm in 1971,
while working in construction.
Now, with wife Janice, son
Adam Jr., 22, and daughters
Rebecca, 19, and Diana, 22, he has
been farming on a 76-acre home
farm in Dawson for the past eight
This past month the family was
working to complete a double-six
herringbone milking parlor for use
three-times per day on the farm’s
85-head Holstein milking string,
while also trying to complete
spring planting on the home acres
and 300 additional rented acres.
Their family business strategy
appears to be to meld continuity
with experimentation, and to
maintain day-to-day operations
while reaching out to the commun
ity and the future.
Eric Kirby, son of Mark and Linda Kirby of Connelsville,
gets a chance to see a close-up of a calf during Farm-City
Day activities at the Adam and Janice Derr family farm.
Janice Derr fills a balloon promoting the drinking of milk
to give away to visitors attending Farm-City Day activities at
the Derr’s farm.
When they first moved to the
present farm, the family combined
equipment that came with the new
farm and equipment they brought
from the old one.
At the time, the new faim
included a house, machine shed,
bam and two silos.
Over the past eight years, the
Derrs have built three silos and
added a heifer bam.
They use a soil conservation
plan and a combination of no-till,
chisel plow and low-till field pre
paration to raise crops, including
com for silage and high moisture
com, alfalfa, and soybeans.
Adam Jr. started working full
time on the farm in 1989. Through
his initiative, the family purchased
a highly rated Holtsein heifer, that
he compared in expense to buying
a new pickup truck.
As an investment, Adam Jr. said
he knows it’s a risky venture, but if
the sale of embryos goes flat, the
farm can still benefit from the
quality of genes. The farm’s goal is
to increase production per cow,
rather than expanding the herd
The cow they are counting on
for genetics is Ha-Jlo Tesk
Melinda-ET, classified as a Very
Good-85 percent. That is a strong
rating for a first lactation cow.
Melinda is a daughter of Osdel-
Endevor Bova Cubby. Her esti
mated first 305-day lactation, on a
twice-per day milking schedule
calculated out to production of
24,360 pounds of milk, 810 pound
s of butteifat, and 701 pounds of
protein. Her index is a PTA of
+92P, +1.40#, and +1,308 PTPI.
The family is working with vet
erinarian Ron Kling, of Accident,
Md., in a program of flushing and
implanting. The plan is to offer
some of the offspring for sale,
rather than keeping all for herd
The move to marketing genetics
has created additional levels to the
First, the animal was bought
sight unseen, which was a new
experience for the family. A fasci
mile (fax) machine was purchased
and installed in order to communi
cate more effectively and quickly
with potential clients.
Also, more services were
required from consultants and spe
cialists. This required more time
and study to adjust and keep on top
Tongue-in-cheek, Adam Sr.
said, “Buying that heifer might
have been the cheap part!”
There are other things keeping
the Derrs active.
Adam Sr. is active in the Dairy
Herd Improvement Association
(Pa.DHIA), both as a member and
past president of the Westmore
land County affiliate. (He is a
member of Westmoreland County
DHIA, even though he lives in
He also serves as a leader with
the Westmoreland County Hols
tein Association, cuirently in the
position of a state director.
As a family, the Derrs intend to
attend the National Holstein Con
vention set to be held this year June
25-28 in Pittsburgh. It is to be their
first experience with the national
But they have been involved
with helping with the convention
in several ways.
Adam Sr. is a member of the
convention sale committee, which
coordinates the consignments, and
arrangements necessary to ensure
a successful sale. Offered are to be
a spectrum of genetics from pick
of-flush embryos to mature, well
Janice has been doing her own
part in helping to organize a “Cul
tural Pittsburgh” tour for conven
The family is also outgoing to
the area’s community, offering
their farm in 1993 to serve as a site
for the county Farm-City Day
Janice is also involved with the
Westmoreland County Dairy
Promotion Board. She has done
such jobs as filling helium bal
loons printed with the words,
“Drink Milk,” and handing them
out during the Farm-City Day
event, and at the county fair.
She also has helped with scoop
ing ice cream at a local hardware
store for a promotion, when the
store owner provided the ice
cream, among othe activities, such
as conducting a promotion event
through distributing literature
along with ice cream cones at a
During the Christmas season.
sts of the 1993 Fayette County Farm-City Day,
Adam and Janice Derr stand on their lawn welcoming peo
ple interested in learning about dairying. The bell in the
background came from Adam’s grandparents’ farm.
Adam Derr stands in his farm’s parlor, where he milks
about 85 Holsteins. He said he expects that a new double
six herringbone parlor will help with the family’s experiment
to switch to three-times-per-day milking.
Janice also has taken to helping to
decorate a tree that represents
county dairy interests at a Sheraton
Inn, in Greensburg, one of about
40 trees displayed there annually
representing various professional
and business interests.
Her tree is hard to miss, with
decorations of ceramic cows,
cheese and crackers, and red bams.
And while Adam said that activ
ities such as opening their farm to
the public for Farm-City Day does
nothing for their immediate bot
tom line, it is a reflection of his atti
tude to get working now to build
the future, whether it be in busi
ness or relationships.