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The William H Miner Agricultural Research Institute

About Miner Institute

Who owns Miner Institute?
Miner Institute is a private, not-for-profit educational institution that conducts research and operates a farm to support its educational programs. It was established in 1951.

How is Miner Institute funded?
Miner Institute is funded, in part, from the William H. Miner Foundation, which manages an endowment set up by William Miner. Additional funding for the Institute comes from research grants, income generated from the farm, and educational programming.

What is the difference between Heart's Delight Farm and Miner Institute? When did it become Miner Institute and why?
Heart's Delight Farm was the name of William Miner's farm which he started in Chazy in 1903. The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute (Miner Institute) was founded in 1951. In his will, William Miner desired that a school and farm devoted to teaching scientific and environmentally sound agricultural practices be established. Miner Institute operated as a one-year junior college from 1956 to 1966 "for training young men and women in practical and theoretical farming." In 1966, Miner Institute began a cooperative agreement with SUNY Plattsburgh to conduct an environmental science program. Learn more about Heart's Delight Farm and its history here.

Is Miner Institute open to the public? What areas can I tour?
Miner Institute is open to the public. Our administrative offices are open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The grounds are open 7 days a week. Visitors can tour the horse and dairy barns year-round. From May through October, you can also visit our Heart's Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit,walk the Wayside Walk and beautiful flower gardens. A three-panel sign outside the Heritage Exhibit outlines all the areas of the property that are accessible to the public.

What types of animals do you have?
We have Holstein dairy cows and Morgan horses. Our dairy herd consists of about 650 animals -- with a milking herd of about 350. Miner Institute has about 25 Morgan horses.

What happened to the buffalo and why are they gone?
The buffalo herd has not been at Miner Institute since the late 1980s. At that point, the Miner Institute board of trustees decided it was best for the Institute to specialize and really focus on certain aspects of agriculture. The Institute chose dairy, as it was an important part of Heart's Delight Farm and plays a key role in agriculture in our region. The Institute also opted to maintain an equine program, as the industry continues to grow and be popular in the region.

Can I walk my dog on Miner Institute property?
To ensure the safety of Miner Institute's animals and staff, we ask that you please not bring pets onto Institute property.

Can I go to Flat Rock?
The Flat Rock in Altona is private property owned by Miner Institute. It is used for educational and research purposes by Institute staff and students. Visitors are welcome to use the property if they obtain a permit from the Farm Office at Miner Institute. For questions on Miner Institute's Flat Rock policy, contact Kirk Beattie or call 518-846-7121, ext. 114.

 

About Cows

How much milk does one Miner Institute cow produce?
On average, a Miner Institute Holstein produces about 90 pounds of milk per day. This equates to just over 10 gallons. Cows are milked three times daily in a double-12 style parlor.

What do cows eat?
Miner Institute cows eat forages grown on our farm including alfalfa and corn silage. This is supplemented with purchased grains to meet the cows' protein needs and also vitamins and minerals. Cows also drink about 45 gallons of water per day.

Cows have four stomachs, right?
Cows have a compartmentalized digestive system made up of the reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum.The rumen is the largest compartment and the abomasum is the most similar to the human stomach in terms of function.

Why do some Miner Institute cows have holes in their sides? Does it hurt them?
Some Miner Institute cows are rumen cannulated or rumen fistulated. This "hole" in the cow's side goes directly into the rumen, where a major part of digestion happens. These cows are used for nutrition studies that make them healthier and help increase their milk production. The surgery to cannulate the cow is done under anesthesia. Once the surgery site is fully healed (usually within two weeks) the cow is not bothered by the cannula and is returned to the regular herd.

Why are the cows in freestalls and not allowed to go outside?
Miner Institute cows are housed in freestall pens, which allows them to eat, drink, lay down and socialize in a clean area where they have access to food, water, comfortable bedding, and protection from the elements. The barns at Miner Institute are all designed keeping cow comfort in mind. Each barn has temperature-controlled curtains which open or close depending on the outdoor temperature to keep the barns at a comfortable temperature for the animals. In the summer, large fans and sprinklers help cool the animals.

Why are calves separated from their mothers?
Miner Institute calves are housed in individual calf hutches. Calves have weak immune systems, so to ensure the safety of newborn calves they are housed separately from older animals. The calf hutches provide calves with a controlled living environment where Miner staff can give each calf individual care and monitor each closely, tracking weight gain, feed intake, illness, etc.

How does Miner Institute ensure that cows are not mistreated?
All Miner Institute dairy employees go through training to ensure that best management practices are employed. A local veterinarian regularly visits Miner Institute, and daily herd health checks are performed by Miner staff. Also, an animal care and use committee oversees all animal research done at Miner to ensure the research is necessary, humane, and not redundant.

Why is it important to do research with dairy cows?
All dairy research conducted at Miner Institute is done for the benefit of dairy farmers and to improve the financial sustainability of the industry. Miner research looks at ways to reduce the carbon footprint of farming; improve feed efficiency; increase farming's financial feasibility; increase milk production and quality; and looks at the effect of cow comfort and nutrition on milk production.

 

About Milk

Where does milk from Miner Institute go?
Miner Institute is a member of the Agri-Mark dairy farmer cooperative. Milk from Miner Institute is shipped to Chateugay, NY and used to produce McCadam Cheese.

How can I be sure that milk I purchase does not contain antibiotics?
Although it is sometimes necessary for a farmer to treat a cow with antibiotics for illness, that cow is kept separate from the milking herd to ensure that milk from that animal does not go into the milk supply. In addition, milk is tested for antibiotics both at the farm and then again at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive is disposed of and not sold to the public.

Is organic milk more nutritious than regular milk?
There is no scientific evidence that concludes that organic milk has more nutritional value than conventional milk. All dairy products, both conventional and organic, contain the same combination of nutrients that make dairy products such a key part of a healthy diet, especially calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. All dairy products are safe, healthy, and nutritious for consumers.

What is rBST? Is it safe for my family?
Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in all cows. Its main function is to direct milk production. Scientists have used biotechnology to create a synthesized copy of the hormone, which some farmers use to increase milk production in some cows. The Food and Drug Administration approved rBST in the early 1990s. Since then, its safety has been heavily scrutinized, but rBST has been found to be biologically inactive in humans. In addition, the pasteurization process destroys 90% of BST in milk. Results from numerous research studies have found there to be no significant difference between milk from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST-supplemented cows.

 

About Horses

Why is Miner Institute's herd all Morgan horses?
When the equine program began in 1986, the decision was made to focus on registered horses to reflect Mr. Miner’s belief in improved genetics. Morgans were the breed of choice for many reasons. This first American breed of horse is extremely versatile allowing for options in disciplines including Hunt Seat, Western, Saddleseat, Fine Harness and Carriage Driving, Trails and pleasure. Miner Institute’s relationship with the University of Vermont and their historic breeding program allowed for ease of collaboration. Finally, many of the photographs of Heart’s Delight Farm include horses that look to be Morgans and Mr. Miner did have at least one documented registered mare, “Rose Queen."

Can I buy a Miner Morgan?
Yes, almost all of the stock at Miner is for sale; we do retain some horses for use in our teaching and breeding programs. Most of what you’ll see on the sales list are young horses that were born here and have had their training as part of our internship programs. There is a variety of ages and abilities, but you can be assured that they all have been well cared for and have a solid foundation of training.

What equine services do you provide at Miner Institute?
In addition to horse sales, we offer basic training for client horses, reproductive services for mares and stallions, and educational opportunities for horse owners. Education includes our Summer Experience in Equine Management program, EquiDay and Youth EquiDay, workshops, clinics and our free newsletter, The Stable Sheet.

How much do horses eat?
An adult horse should eat between 1.5-3.5% of its body weight each day. That comes out to roughly 15 to 35 pounds for an average 1,000-pound horse. The exact amount depends on the horse's living conditions, work schedule, and metabolism. Since horses evolved as grazers, most of their feed should come in the form of forage (hay or pasture) to keep the digestive system healthy and behavior at its best. Grain is fed as a supplement to balance the nutrients in the hay based upon the individual horse. Clean, fresh water and access to salt are the other key components.

How many different breeds of horses are there?
There are more than 300 breeds of horses in the world today.

Why is it important to do research with horses?
Research done with horses is to benefit them; to improve our understanding of their physical and behavioral needs as domesticated animals as we breed them, feed them, house them, and train them. All research projects conducted here at Miner go through a committee review process to ensure that the research is not only worthy of conducting, but that all protocols and procedures are done in the most comfortable, humane manner possible. These include how we will house and manage the horses, if samples of blood or manure are taken, and what the benefit to the greater horse community will be. As a result, we are able to share our knowledge of how to best feed the Morgan Horse to maintain its ideal health for a long life. Learn more about equine research at Miner institute here.

Do you offer riding lessons?
We do not offer riding lessons as we do not maintain a group of horses that are suitable for first learning how to ride. Our instruction and educational offerings, however will help the horse owner or enthusiast learn better horsemanship overall.

 

About Agriculture and the Environment

What is the scope of environmental research conducted at Miner Institute?
The scope of environmental research conducted by Miner staff includes:

  • Water quality monitoring of the Little Chazy River and its tributaries
  • Phosphorus cycling and flux in Lake Champlain sediments
  • Subsurface tile drainage water quality and management of tile drainage systems to reduce nutrient loading
  • Soil fertility research that optimizes crop and animal nutrition while minimizing the risk of nutrient loss to the environment

Miner research staff collaborates with other institutions and organizations such as University of Vermont, Cornell, Penn State, USDA-NRCS, and the seed industry on various environmental research topics.

What happens with all the manure from the farm?
Solid manure is composted and spread in the fall on field corn after harvesting for silage. Liquid manure is stored in manure lagoons and is applied after hay cuttings in the summer and again in the fall after corn harvest. All manure is applied in accordance with our nutrient management plan which factors in the risk for nutrient losses for each field at a given time of the year.