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

Farm Bureau award a reflection of family's teamwork

Honor has Jeffrey McNeely's name on it, but credit goes to all
Jeff McNeely
Jeff McNeely

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BROOKLYN, Wis. - Farming is a team game for the McNeely families. Their teamwork is reflected not only in the way they work together each day, but in an award Jeffrey McNeely recently received.
Because of earning the Achievement Award, Jeffrey will represent Wisconsin this month in the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Agriculturist Program. The award recognizes recipients' farm involvement, community activities and financial accomplishments.
"I was very surprised to get this award already, at my age. I'm 27," Jeffrey said.
He knows he did not get the state award entirely on his own. The honor also reflects the hard work of his father, Jim, and mother, Jennifer, along with Jim's parents, Robert and Patricia, who maintain involvement in the farm named Rollin' Green Dairy Farm, for the rolling hills of eastern Green County. Jeffrey's brother, Jamison, also part owner of the dairy, beef and crop farm, is responsible for the award, too.
The McNeelys milk 165 Holsteins, raise steers and farm 1,700 acres, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. About 1,300 acres are rented.
Robert works off the farm, at a manufacturing plant at Oregon, Wis. Jennifer works at the school at Albany, Wis. Patricia handles the farm's financial records and feeds calves during the week.
The rest of the duties are divided among Jim, Jeffrey and Jamison. Jim is in charge of the crops and Holstein steers, while Jeffrey manages the dairy operation. Jamison's specialty, along with feeding all the cattle, is keeping the machinery in good operating condition.
Jamison is a 2009 graduate of Blackhawk Technical College, Janesville, Wis., with a degree in heavy diesel mechanics. Rollin' Green has plenty of machinery for him to tend. There are seven tractors of 100 horsepower or higher, plus five vintage tractors that are used for powering grain augers and making hay. Then there's the combine, a semi tractor that's used for hauling grain, plus a corn planter and manure handling equipment.
"He does a very good job of keeping up with everything," said Jim, of Jamison. "He goes through the combine every fall, from top to bottom."
Jeffrey, meanwhile, is a 2007 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, with a major in dairy science and a minor in crops and soils. He went to college knowing he wanted a career of some sort in the dairy industry, but not necessarily knowing for sure that he wanted to farm.
"I've always been a dairy guy," Jeffrey said. "I was always in the barn with my uncle."
Jeffrey wasn't far into his college education before he realized just how much he missed the farm.
He said, with a laugh, "I had to get a job on a farm up there (near River Falls) because I was losing my mind."
He ended up working on two dairy farms during his college years, and gained valuable experience. One dairy milked 500 cows, while the other milked 250. Both milked in parlors, something the McNeely's plan on building in year or two. Jeffrey said he was impressed by the labor efficiency of parlors, not to mention how much easier it was physically.
During his senior year, Jeffrey's uncle decided he no longer wanted to farm. That provided an opening on Rollin' Green for the younger McNeely.
Jeffrey's Farm Bureau involvement began a few years ago, when he decided to attend the annual meeting of the Green County Farm Bureau. Almost before he knew what was happening, Jeffrey found himself nominated to be a delegate to the state convention.
Later, he learned that many of his friends from UW-River Falls were also involved in Farm Bureau. That's where he learned about the Achievement Award - the one he received this past December.
"I like the Farm Bureau because it filled a void for me after college - to have a network of people who are in the same career," he said. "And a lot of my friends are in Farm Bureau, too."
Jeffrey hasn't become terribly involved in the political aspect of Farm Bureau, but he has been to Ag Day at the Capitol, one of the group's events. He's now chairman of the Green County Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee and plans to continue his involvement.
In the meantime, the McNeely's have a diversified farm to manage. Jim said they've built up the grain enterprise over the years and are now giving more attention to the dairy aspect.
As part of that, they built a sand bedded, six-row freestall barn in 2011. The cows had been in the stanchion barn and a 30-year-old freestall barn.
"They were overcrowded and the cow comfort just wasn't there. In this new facility, it's just amazing," Jeffrey said. "The cow comfort and health have been just phenomenal. Production has gone up a little and the somatic cell count (SCC) has been cut in half."
The rolling herd average, on twice-a-day milking, is roughly 24,000 pounds of milk, a 3.6 percent fat test, and a 3.1 percent protein test. The SCC is down to around 120,000 and the veterinary expenses have been halved.
Sand bedding gets the credit for part of the improved production. But Jeffrey said the barn's curtain sidewalls and 52-inch fans certainly helped, too.
"Even this year, (2012) with it being one of the hottest summers on record, I had a heck of a lot better success dealing with heat stress. The cows really didn't miss a beat," he said.
The McNeely's still milk in the stanchion barn, meaning the cows must walk some 250 yards to and from the freestall barn. When the time comes, they'll build their milking parlor on the end of the new barn, making an L-shaped barn.
One reason they chose to not build a barn and parlor at the same time was to avoid buying cows. They prefer to grow their herd internally, due to a desire to not have to deal with Johne's disease again.
"We're Johne's free and we want to keep it that way," Jim said.
Johne's was never a big problem at Rollin' Green, according to Jeffrey. They did lose one cow to Johne's 15 years ago, but since then, they've tested faithfully and have not turned up any positive animals. The McNeelys are sold on the value of fresh colostrum to newborn calves, and that's another reason they keep testing for Johne's.
Another reason they decided to wait to build a milking parlor is that they wanted to fill the freestall barn and build up a strong cash flow from milk sales.
Incremental growth, like the McNeely family is experiencing, offers other advantages besides not needing to purchase cattle, Jim, Jeffrey and Jamison agreed. Expanding in phases lets them keep their debtload smaller. It also lets them worry less about a decline in milk prices. And it allows them to learn how to manage a growing herd instead of a larger one.
Last year's drought hurt the McNeely farm somewhat. Jim figured their corn averaged around 100 bushels per acre, down from the normal of 160. The soybeans averaged maybe 30 bushels per acre, a decline of 50 percent or so. On the other hand, their winter wheat did quite well, coming in at roughly 100 bushels an acre.
Jim farms to prevent soil erosion. All 345 acres of soybeans are no-tilled, as are 150 of the 800 acres of corn. Jim is also a believer in keeping the contour strips in place, rather than ripping them out.
Jeffrey was looking forward to his trip to Nashville, Tenn., for the Farm Bureau contest. Win or lose, he believes in the value of the organization.
"It definitely is nice to have a voice for farming and agriculture," he said. "They do a good job."[[In-content Ad]]


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