Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, June 06, 1998, Image 194

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    E6-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, June 6, 1998
Somerset Co. Correspondent
BERLIN (Somerset Co.)
“I’m changing to make it better for
them,” said Doug Hillegass, allud
ing to his and wife, Debra’s chil
dren Desirae, a Pennsylvania
State University student, and Jus
tin and Jared, who attend the Ber
lin High School.
“The Idds have a choice about
whether to be involved,” said
“If our kids leave the farm,”
Debra continues, “that’s all right,
but at least they will know how to
The young individuals all say
they want very much to be in
volved even Desi, a 1997 FFA
Keystone Degree recipient whose
major, for a teaching vocation, is
ag education and minor is dairy
animal science.
The siblings compose the fourth
generation of Hillegass progeny.
Sixty years of growth began
with Doug’s grandfather, Daniel
Hillegass, and continued with his
late father, Glenden and Mother,
Geraldine, 79. Their modern
house is near the largo- farmhouse
ters with Al technician Robert Fritz.
ird work In the expanded dairy operation owned by she and her husband, Doug
Hillegass, doesn’t stop Debra from planting flowers to dress up their Dairy of Distinc
tion premises at Roxbury.
Hillegass Family
Commits To Preserving Farm
that Doug’s family inhabits.
Although Glenden hauled coal
on his truck and shoveled it off
himself, in the mid-1940s he and
his wife would hand-milk seven
cows and do chores prior to his
leaving each day.
Gradually, the herd was in
creased to 21 dairy animals and
Geraldine’s milking assistant was
a lady who they also boarded. The
system they used was to begin at
opposite ends of the bam and
work toward the midldle.
Until the Eisenhower era of the
1950 s when Glenden finally
bought a John Deere tractor,
horses were used for fieldwork
and to gather sugar water in maple
season. They later supplemented
their annual income because they
could produce about 500 gallons
of maple syrup to sell.
A second farm that Glenden
used for a potato operation was
purchased in 1969. Twelve acres
of spuds that Snyders of Berlin
bought for making potato chips
were harvested by hand, using
burlap bags.
A pipeline system and 30 milk
cows governed the 19605.
Backdropped by a network of Mountain View Farms’ buildings Is the Hlllegass
family. Deslrae, Debra, and Jared are In front and Doug and Justin, In back, on a
damp and rainy day near Berlin, Somerset County.
More herd growth continued
through the 1980 s. Doug came
aboard full time in 1977 and a
third farm was added in 1992.
Mountain View Farms, located
near the Routes 31 and 60 inter
section at Roxbury (following a
recent, major expansion) comfort
ably accommodates about 350
milking Holsteins.
Ensuring the goals they had set
for the Dairy of Distinction were
attainable allowed the couple to
take the plunge.
“It was the future of our farm,
as a farm, to survive," Doug said.
Visiting some of the most fu
turistic dairy operations in the
East, primarily those found in
Pennsylvania and New York state,
gave Doug and Debra information
to ponder and evaluate. Voices of
experience advised them about
what worked and didn’t work in
other setups.
Then, too, the family had to
consider the natural climactic con
ditions found in Somerset Coun
ty’s high elevation which
usually mean a shorter growing
season for crops.
Doug said more acreage is re
quired because the yield typically
will be less than in other areas.
Still, they try to grow the neces
sary feed themselves.
" *
Doug HlHegass manages crops and feeds the 250 head
Holstein dairy herd. He Is pictured on the John Deere 4440
Primarily. Doug’s role is man
aging the crpps and feeding the
To predict futures and to secure
contracts for feed and commodi
ties, he relies on a communica
tions system DTN and the
In 1994, plans fell into place for
a spacious facility fit to house the
entire herd. Finally, the inconven
ience of milking 70 cows at home
and a newly purchased 36-cow
herd, three miles distant at a
rented farm, was ended.
By the fall of 1995 the four
row, 220-stall, glu-lam (lamin
ated) bam was completed. It was
open in the center for added venti
lation and additional cow comfort
came from curtains controlled by
automatic thermostats kept at 40
Designed for cow friendliness,
the stalls are good for the most
awkward adult bovine, which can
easily get up from mattresses
filled with shredded rubber.
Mineral boxes are located near
all the waterers for free-choice
For a year, some 200-plus cows
were milked in the old bam, with
four switches being made. They
had walked about 300 feet and re
mained outside in holding lots.
Debra, who in 1981 gave up her
job as a registered nurse to work
full time at the farm, recalled that
production was at a standstill. One
milking required four men and
seven hours of time.
By February 1996, a parlor was
under construction. The new
double-six Surge Auto-flow was
completed that June.
During the three-times-a-day
milking, in four and a half hours
one man getting his own cows can
process some 300 head.
The April 1998 DHIA report
for the Hillegass herd at 329 cows
is 27,131 pounds of milk, 877
pounds of fat, and 849 pounds of
Milk is sold to Galliker’s Dairy
in Johnstown.
“Milking three times a day has
really helped,” Doug reported.
Now die herd manager, Debra
said the operation employs five
full-time workers and one part
time. They are David Keefer,
George Kovacs, Charles Ulery,
Mike Weimer, Carl Benning, and
Morgan Dickey.
“The hired people do milking
and you keep them in that position
only,” she said.
“When our applicants started
getting an hourly wage and a time
card, that was the key to getting
good help,” she reported of their
success with the hired staff.
“Never turn a good employee
away if they want work,” is a
philosophy the Hillegasses en
“We arc totally committed,”
Debra said. “If I have dinner plan
ned with Doug and a heifer is go
ing to freshen, she comes first
She oversees the dry cows,
springers, and calves, and keeps
vaccinations current
A Somerset County DHIA dir
ector, Debra is the breeder of Hill
(Turn to Pag* E 7)