September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

19 year-old Benton County farmer starts milking cows

Support system key in Stowe's dairy start up
Dylan Stowe works for his parents, Glen and Sue, in exchange for feed for his cows. His parents raise crops on 440 acres and help Dylan with chores. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY ANDREA BIRGERDING
Dylan Stowe works for his parents, Glen and Sue, in exchange for feed for his cows. His parents raise crops on 440 acres and help Dylan with chores. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY ANDREA BIRGERDING

By By Andrea Borgerding- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

FOLEY, Minn. - At 19 years old, Dylan Stowe is exactly where he wants to be - milking his own herd of cows. And as much as he loves milking cows, he knows none of it would be possible without the support of family, friends and fellow dairymen.
"I have a lot of help," Stowe said. "I always have someone to call if I need something."
Stowe began milking 26 cows in a rented 52-cow tiestall barn near Foley, Minn. on Sept. 7. He has been enjoying every second of it since he first considered the possibility of milking cows.
Stowe grew up on a crop farm near Foley. The youngest of three children, he always showed interest in farming.
"Farming was always at the top of his list when he was growing up," said Dylan's mother, Sue. "He has always had an interest in dairy and working with animals, too."
Dylan's parents, Glen and Sue, raise crops on 440 acres. Dylan helps on their farm by driving tractor, combining and working in the shop. When he was 17 years old, Dylan started working at a dairy farm. The Stowes' neighbor, Brian Rahm, milks 150 cows. Dylan fed and milked cows at Rahm's dairy for 2.5 years.
"I learned a lot from working there," Stowe said.
At that time, it became clear to him that he was destined to dairy. He began considering all possibilities, including renting facilities and even building a barn at his parents' farm.
"I visited some farms and priced out what it would cost to build a tiestall barn," Stowe said. "For me, it just wasn't possible to start out new."
On April 19, Stowe and co-worker, Mitch Olson, visited another neighbor, Dave Nelson, to get ideas from the tiestall barn he just built primarily by himself.
"We got there and he was marking all his cows," Dylan said. "He was getting ready to sell the cows the next day."
After building his barn in 2008, Nelson was struggling to cash-flow his dairy on just 40 acres of land. With no options to rent more land, Nelson was forced to sell his cows.
From there, things happened quickly for Stowe.
Nelson agreed to let Stowe use his barn, rent-free for one year, on a five-year agreement. All the dairy equipment, pipeline and bulk tank are included in the rent. Stowe purchased his own milking units and would have to make repairs on anything $1,000 or less. With a facility locked in, Stowe visited the Farm Service Agency to acquire a beginning farmer loan to purchase cows.
"I was approved for the loan in July," Stowe said. "The next month, we washed down the barn and got it ready for cows again."
Dylan worked with his father to provide feed for the cows.
"I sold him corn silage for the cost of production," Glen said. "He works for me as a tradeoff."
"We are willing to help him - whatever it takes for him to succeed," Sue said.
Stowe purchased 26 cows from a retiring dairy farmer, Jeff Miller, just five miles from the barn. He helped milk the cows a few times before moving them to his barn. On Sept. 7, the cows were his.
"The cows transitioned real well," Glen said. "They didn't have too far to go."
Stowe worked closely with a nutritionist to be sure the cows stayed on the same ration and even bought hay from Miller.
"I tweaked the ration a little to work with my schedule," Stowe said. "I also bought his youngstock and close-up springers."
After two months of milking his own herd, he is holding a 65-pound tank average and a 74,000 somatic cell count. He has also increased his herd number to 33 cows.
"In just two weeks after moving, the cows went up from a 52 to 65 pound tank average," Stowe said.
Much of the increase he attributes to cow comfort in the tiestall facility which features 6-foot by 4-foot stalls and tunnel ventilation with four 52-inch fans.
"I really like milking in a tiestall facility," Stowe said. "I can give each cow individual attention."
He said he also enjoys having his own cows so he can have his own standards when it comes to taking care of them.
"When you work for someone, you never know when to draw the line - not knowing how much time to spend on something," Stowe said.
Stowe said his favorite part about dairying is milking cows, but he also enjoys the managing aspect of dairying.
"The most challenging part right now is finding decent hay at a decent price," Stowe said. "And getting cows bred back is a challenge for me."
Some of his cows did not breed back after the heat spell last summer. And vet work continues to be a huge learning curve for Stowe who doesn't have much experience with treating cows. He learns a lot from neighboring dairymen and from his veterinarian.
"I have a good relationship with my vet," Stowe said. "When she comes out, I ask a lot of questions."
From his veterinarian to the dairy supply route person who stops by his farm, he gleans everything he can from the dairy people around him to continue to learn more to improve his herd.
Stowe is very grateful to his former employer, Brian Rahm, for everything he has learned from him. Dave Nelson also continues to be a huge part of Stowe's dairying success.
"Living off the farm, I know if I have any problems getting back, I can call Dave to check on the cows," Stowe said. "That's a big help."
When she is not in school, Stowe's girlfriend, Tori Rolf, lends a hand.
"She supports me 100 percent," Stowe said.
In the future, Stowe is not sure if he will continue dairying at Nelson's farm after the five-year lease is up. Nelson would like to get back into dairying himself after working off the farm and Stowe would like to eventually build a 70-cow tiestall barn at his parent's place. He will continue to rent for the next couple years while buying feed from his father in a tradeoff for labor.
"The people from the FSA office are so pleased with my situation," Stowe said. "They said they don't have anyone else like me in their system where I am able to trade labor to get what I need for the dairy. It really works well."
"The cows are his babies," Sue said. "Dylan does a lot for us and after looking into all of his options, this was the best way for him to proceed with his plans to dairy. We [Glen and I] will do whatever it takes to help him."[[In-content Ad]]


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