SUNNYSIDE — Every sunrise Tamera Smeenk looks out her kitchen window to take in a landscape that has been a part of the scenery of her life since she was a little girl.
After rousing her family, her day as herd manager begins with checking in on the next generation of the farm’s 1,200 head of Jersey and Brown Swiss milk cows.
Feeding the calves is just a part of the daily routine, done several times a day and often includes the older Smeenk kids helping out at the calf pens.
The Independence Road dairywoman is a third-generation farmer, as is her husband, Jason, and are devoted to caring for their herd.
Currently, the couple share the day-to-day operations on Smeenk Brothers Dairy in north Sunnyside. “I oversee the farm and he oversees me in this partnership,” she laughed.
“We are also in partnership with Jason’s brother Scott and his wife Melanie, who operate our Emerald Road dairy operation,” Smeenk added.
Her job goes beyond caring for the health and welfare of the calves, which is important for the continuation of the herd. Her job includes overseeing the health and welfare of the herd, which are milked three times a day.
“We work hard to reduce the amount of stress the cows face in order to ensure maximum milk production,” she said.
The top milk production on the Smeenk farm is about 85-pounds per cow, which is sold in 100-pound units.
Handling herd management is the accurate charting of the cows during their milk production life –those assigned to the milk parlor, those who are pregnant or resting in the dry stage.
All that creates lots of paperwork as well as the physical separating of the bovines into the holding and lounging sheds on the high Yakima Valley property.
She oversees the milking parlor crews and the crews who handle the feeding of the herd, checking on the farming on the 50-acres dedicated to raising corn silage to supplement the dairy’s feed allotments.
Today, she is sharing her dairy life heritage with her children, Carson, 15, Adalee, 13, Maylee, 11, Weston, 9, Devon, 7, and Brynlee, 4, teaching them the routines that make up life on the farm.
Her children all help, taking on jobs appropriate for their age. “They’re all cross- trained and can help out where needed,” she said confidently.
Smeenk is proud of her dairy heritage, having worked on the farm as a girl with her father Fred Visser and during school vacations at her grandfather’s farm.
“My grandfather was a dairyman in California and my dad who farmed in the Yakima Valley is still operating a dairy now in Idaho,” the mother of six acknowledged.
And like her mother, Helen, she is also active in the Yakima Valley Dairy Women in her spare time, helping to organize food distributions with Second Harvest, featuring milk products, naturally.
Smeenk is currently serving as president of the organization dedicated to supporting the dairy industry through educational displays at the local fairs and sponsorship of the Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador program.
“It’s part of how we help our communities,” Smeenk explained.
That sense of duty to home and community all starts back on the dairy, where cows need to be fed, milks and cared for 24 hours a day with no days off.
The cows are a part of the family and it’s more than a job. “We all do our best to care for the herd – they are our livelihood,” Smeenk concluded.