Mark and Mike Lourie are twin brothers who own Rupert Valley Holsteins Farm in West Rupert, Vermont. They have about 310 milkers and 250 young stock, and manage about 750 acres of cropland. Mark handles the cattle, farm finances, and the employees; Mike manages the crops and the heifers. The Louries' grandfather was a dairy farmer who purchased the original farm in 1930, and the twin boys were raised on the same farm as their dad. When Mark and Mike first started out, Mike and his dad operated the original farm and Mark milked 50 cows of his own nearby. The brothers joined forces in 1995 to form Rupert Valley Holsteins, LLC, and they have purchased a third farm since, so the spread is actually three farms in one.
While Mike and Mark daily put in the standard relentless hours of all dairy farmers, rising long before dawn for the morning milking, and calling it a day long after dusk, they are members of Agri-Mark Cabot, a cooperative of dairy farmers that market their milk and the “world’s best cheddar” cheese. In addition, Mike has a maple syrup business, and recently installed some 12,000 taps, producing about 2,750 gallons of maple syrup. That’s a great volume for almost any business. Dairy farming, however, is their central focus, and they only look to other revenue streams to help battle the vagaries of an unpredictable milk market.
The Louries take special pride in the quality of their milk. Bacteria counts are low, butter fat and proteins are high, and they get top dollar for their high-component milk. They do this by providing the best feed available to their cattle, making sure their cows are in a clean environment, and tending to each animal, one at a time. Mark and Mike also keep computerized records on the health and production of each cow, and they can usually fix small problems long before they become big ones. This takes a little more effort and costs a bit more in the short run, but the results always pay off in the long term.