NORTH TROY - Chaput Family Farms in North Troy has been named the 2012 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year for its sound management practices, outstanding herd performance and strong commitment to agriculture. The award is presented annually to an exemplary dairy farm by University of Vermont (UVM) Extension and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association, in cooperation with the New England Green Pastures Program.The 1,800-acre farm, located not far from the Canadian border, is owned by Reg and Michael Chaput. The brothers, who have worked together for 30 years, take pride in growing a topnotch operation by hiring good employees, being open to new ideas and constantly fine tuning their feeding and breeding programs to improve their milk production.The Chaputs milk 830 cows on a three times daily milking schedule in a double-16 parallel milking parlor. Their rolling herd average is an enviable 24,100 pounds with a 120,000 somatic cell count. These numbers can be attributed to excellent herd management, selective breeding and attention to cow comfort and health.This past spring they purchased their own milk truck and tanks in order to haul their milk to Dairylea Cooperative, a cost-saving measure that they believe will give them more control over milk quality. They have earned numerous milk quality awards since joining the co-op in 1997, including the Special Gold Award, Dairylea's highest quality milk award, for three years running.The Chaputs were among the first dairy farmers in the state to install a methane digester on the farm, which produces enough electricity for 300 average-sized homes. They sell their energy to Vermont's Sustainably Priced Energy Development program and have an additional five-year contract with Green Mountain Power's Cow Power program to sell the renewable energy credits.Although they have no plans to increase their acreage or herd size, they will continue to explore innovative and cost-effective ways to improve their operation. They recently signed up for UVM Extension's current pilot program on aerial seeding of cover crops by helicopter. Next year they tentatively plan to begin installation of a dragline system for manure application to minimize nutrient loss and diminish ground impaction. Installation of a tile drainage system on 1,000 tillable acres is scheduled in 2014 with the hope to improve crop production by 20 percent or more.The dairymen will be honored at Eastern States Exposition in W. Springfield, Mass., in September, and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association banquet at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction in January.For a far more extensive version of this story and how the Chaput family earned their reward, see the Aug. 14, 2012 edition of the Newport Daily Express.