Technologically savvy Union Bridge dairy farm to be featured on MPT's 'Maryland Farm & Harvest'

Union Bridge dairy to be featured on MPT's "Maryland Farm & Harvest" Jan. 2

From her calves’ births to their inevitable retirement, Katie Dotterer-Pyle is there to ensure her herd is comfortable and content.

At Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, technology plays a large role in the cows’ well-being and those tools will be featured on Maryland Public Television’s “Maryland Farm & Harvest” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2.


“Our goal is to produce high-quality milk and take the utmost care of our animals,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “Our cows are way better fed than most humans. We’re supporting their pregnancies and their lactation and making sure they get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals every day.”

Both she and her husband, David, are third-generation dairy farmers. They started farming on their own in 2009, first renting a farm in Virginia and then Pennsylvania. The couple bought their Union Bridge farm in 2013. They care for 500 cows, milking 350. They milk mostly Jerseys and about 40 Holsteins.

“I love giving farm tours,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from so we give tours to all ages to show them what actually happens on a dairy. I think a lot of people are getting information from Google and not from farmers.”

“The Pyles have a passion for educating the public about how a dairy farm operates, which aligns well with one of the goals of ‘Maryland Farm & Harvest’ — to reconnect people with where their food comes from,” said the show’s producer and director Sarah Sampson. “Plus, the idea of using pedometers on dairy cows was too good to resist.”

Dotterer-Pyle has electronic files on each of her cows which includes their birthdays, lineage, how many calves they’ve had and their medical records. Every cow also has a pedometer that tracks how much milk she produces each shift and her average daily steps. If there’s a big deviation in the cow’s daily data, Dotterer-Pyle is alerted immediately.

“If she’s taking more than the average number of daily steps, she’s showing she’s in heat and needs to be bred. If she’s not taking as many steps, she’s not feeling well,” she explained.

Dotterer-Pyle starts farm tours with a list of amenities included at Cow Comfort Inn Dairy that connect routine dairy practices with human experiences: pedicures (hoof trims); free continental breakfast, lunch and dinner (fresh feed offered throughout the day); child care (calves are separated from their mothers and cared for individually); local transportation service (trucking to and from the dairy’s dry cow site); and fresh water daily (waterers are cleaned rigorously).

Cow Comfort Inn Dairy bovines are artificially inseminated. Like humans, their gestation period is nine months. Heifers don’t become cows until they are 2 years old and they have their first calf. Like women, they don’t start producing milk until they have a baby. Dairy calves are kept with their mothers for two hours.

Dotterer-Pyle said the calves are separated from their mothers because “some cows are not good moms. They can step on them, roll over on them or just neglect them.”

The mother’s colostrum is tested for potential diseases and, if it’s clean, they feed it to the calf. If not, the calf is fed high-quality colostrum to boost its immune system. The calves are placed in individual stalls and fed by bottles for at least two weeks to make sure they’re getting the proper nutrition before moving into a group setting. There, their nutrition is monitored by robotic calf feeders.

The calves are weaned from milk around 8 weeks and start a regular diet of water and grain like their mothers. At 2 years old, the females will be bred and they will begin producing milk.

“Milk is one of the highest-regulated foods on the market,” Dotterer-Pyle said. “It’s tested 17 times from the time it leaves the farm until (it) gets to the store and it’s never touched by human hands. There are no antibiotics no matter the label — it’s illegal.”

Dotterer-Pyle said she just wants to get the “true story out about dairy.”

“We care deeply about our animals and we take producing high-quality food for your families seriously,” she said. “Dairy farmers work 12 to 14 hours a day in order to feed other people’s families yet we struggle to feed ourselves sometimes. This is a thankless job.”


Dotterer-Pyle encourages consumers to follow the dairy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and #askafarmernotGoogle. To schedule a farm tour, email