September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"We built a lot of things ourselves. It's one of our niches," Mark Pederson said.
It's how the farm is now on it's third generation in the Pederson family. Mark and his brother, Thane, farm together with their parents, Kermit and Sharon, on their 180-cow farm near Whitehall, Wis. Mark's family - his wife, Dawn, and their children, Jessica (27), Melissa (22), Mercedes (18), Morgan (16) and Austin (14) - also helps on the farm when needed.
After graduating from high school in 1960, Kermit decided to make dairy farming his full-time career - one he had been groomed for since a young age.
"I was the only son, and I had four sisters. I've heard it (that I would take over the farm) since I was little," he said.
Kermit's father bought the family's farm in November 1934. For four years, Kermit and his dad worked together to get the chores done before Kermit bought the farm in 1964.
"I remember it was a dry year, so we didn't have to work too hard. We bought a boat and went out on the lake every day," Kermit said.
At the time, Kermit was milking 34 cows in a stanchion barn. Ten years later, Kermit decided to make an upgrade by building a double-4 Surge parlor and putting up a freestall barn. The herd also expanded to about 80 cows.
"The barn cleaner was wearing out and you can milk more cows in less time," Kermit said about why he decided to make a change.
Other than small improvements on the farm, everything stayed the same until Mark decided to join the operation in 1988, after he graduated from high school.
"I never really left," said Mark, who helped on the farm from a young age.
Mark said that farming gets to be a good habit.
"It's better than working in a factory. I like the diversity of working on the farm. There's always something different to do," he said.
In 1994, the Pedersons upgraded their parlor to a swing-10 herringbone. Following their philosophy to do it themselves, they took part of a parlor from a neighboring farmer, who was retiring, and pieced it together with their existing parlor.
A new calf and heifer shed went up in 1996.
When Thane graduated from high school in 1999, he also decided to join the farm full-time.
"I grew up with it and always liked it," he said about why he decided to take on dairy farming as his career.
As the farm and herd grew, the Pedersons needed more space. In 2004, they added a manure pit and a new freestall barn. The older freestall barn is now used for dry cows and heifers. Freestalls are bedded with sand.
"It's pretty available for us," Thane said.
Since they have their own sand pit right on their farm, the Pedersons have been using sand bedding since they built their first freestall barn. In 2010, the older freestall barn had a new roof put on after it collapsed under the weight of snow.
"Thankfully no one was in there, and we didn't lose any cattle," Mark said.
Although there are little challenges throughout dairy farming, one of the biggest came last year with the dry and wet weather. It caused issues with trying to put up a good quality crop on time on their farmland. The Pedersons grow 300 acres of corn and 250 acres of hay.
"We definitely are low on forages," Mark said. "We'll be getting by until harvest and buying some dry hay for the heifers."
Nine years ago, they stopped chopping hay and started making all baleage.
"It's worked well," Mark said. "It's greatly improved herd health."
It's also less labor for the family, they are able to know their inventory better and they can use smaller equipment to get the job done. They have been hiring chopping for their corn for the past six years.
Now on the farm, Thane feeds the calves while Mark mixes the ration and feeds the cows.
"I enjoy mixing. I like to get the feed just right and see what I can get out of the cattle. It's not monotonous to me," he said.
Kermit helps with a little bit of everything and Sharon does the bookkeeping.
"We all take our turn milking," Mark said about the two-time-a-day milking schedule.
In addition to family, the Pedersons have two employees - Travis Mitchell and Zach Lambright.
The Pedersons enjoy working together as a family. And this family working relationship may continue another generation. Melissa and Austin are looking towards a possible future in dairy farming.
"We always know we're there for each other," Mark said. "It's a good way to live."