Managing Milk

Monday, March 11, 2013
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As a Pre-Vet major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Nicole Guindon ’11 ’13G was thinking more about horses than cows. Everything changed after she took one of Professor of Biology Peter Erickson’s dairy management classes to develop a more well rounded experience with large animals. “I just fell in love with cows, farming, and the dairy industry,” says Guindon who will graduate this spring with a Master’s of Science in Dairy Nutrition.

That degree will come in handy while this Milton native – who grew up on a half-acre with a family dog – cuts her teeth as the new manager of the UNH Organic Dairy Research Farm, a New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES) facility in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA). As a participant in the Cooperative Real Education in Agricultural Management (CREAM) program in her undergraduate years, Guindon quickly rose to the top and was selected to train new students in handling, managing, feeding, and milking a herd of 25 mature Holstein cattle. As a graduate student, Guindon worked as a CREAM teaching assistant to Professor of Agricultural Management Drew Conroy who describes her as someone that works with passion, integrity, and a genuine interest. “I have observed Nicole’s leadership qualities, and have found her to be extremely hard working,” says Conroy. “She is both diligent and confident with the animals and among peers.” 

Guindon spent her first days on the job collating records and pouring over analyses for the farm’s production and reproduction. She plans to pump up those averages with a progressive management style, drawn from years of experience as an assistant barn manager for an operation with a thirty-horse boarding facility. “As a University farm, it’s our responsibility to set the bar and be the example for the state,” says Guindon. “We’re working towards improving our breeding and heat detection, producing more milk, developing consistency in pasture management, and – ultimately – making more money as an example for regional producers.” 

With her business acumen, Guindon is raking a fine-tooth comb over the practical aspects of the Organic Dairy Research Farm, an operation that supports regional producers and consumers through research, teaching, and outreach. “A gap may have formed between organic and conventional dairies, but I’ll be working together with other farmers for the benefit of the industry,” says Guindon. “The people in the dairy industry are some of the best you’ll ever meet. And at the end of the day, we’re all making milk.”