September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Rusch has no regrets
HUTCHINSON, Minn. - In 1999, Wayne Rusch decided to give up his factory job of 19 years and return to his family's dairy farm. Now nearly 11 years after making that decision, Rusch has no regrets.
Saving for a better life
Wayne Rusch always knew he wanted to dairy farm, but upon graduating from Hutchinson High School in Hutchinson, Minn., in 1978, he didn't feel he had the funds available to take over his family's farm. Being a firm believer in avoiding excessive debt, Rusch decided to get a job in town and save until he could afford the farm.
After 19 years of working as a machine set-up operator at Goebel's Furniture in Hutchinson, while still working part-time for his father on the farm and saving money every step of the way, Rusch had the finances he needed. He was able to quit his job in town and take over his family's dairy farm.
At that time, Rusch's farm consisted of 185 acres of crops (120 of corn and 65 of alfalfa), 50 registered Guernsey cows and 60 head of youngstock. Utilizing technology and modern farming practices were keys to success on Rusch's farm, as he used a robotic feeding system, Westfalia milkers and artificial insemination on his whole herd.
"I'm on my own time clock now," Rusch said, seven years ago. "It beats factory work all to pieces."
Weathering the industry's ups and downs
After nearly 11 years of dairying, Rusch's philosophies have not changed much. He is currently milking a 30-cow, 100 percent Guernsey (mostly registered) herd, though hopes to bring the numbers up to around 46 by the end of the year with the long-awaited turn around in his heifer crop. Rusch still raises crops - with help from his parents - on his 185 acres, and is still a promoter of technology. He also has no regrets of hanging up his hat at the factory and returning to the farm.
"It's days like today - and being able to be outside - when I don't miss the time clock one bit," Rusch said on Thursday, March 19.
Although the dairy aspect of the farm remains - for the most part - the same as it was when he bought the farm in 1999, Rusch said there have been a few updates made to the farm. A new 50- by 80-foot machine shed was put up and some of the equipment was updated, including the purchase of a John Deere discbine, which Rusch said has improved the hay quality and decreased cutting time. For management practices, Rusch continues to use technology such as his robotic feeder and sand bedding in his stanchion barn for improved cow comfort and health.
One philosophy that has remained constant throughout Rusch's life is his philosophy on debt.
"I have continued to watch my debt load," he said. "The biggest thing is to not borrow a lot of money so you can survive during the tough times."
Looking back over the past decade, Rusch said the only thing he would have done differently had he known when he started what he knows now would have been to update some of the equipment and practices earlier.
"That would have made life easier," Rusch said. "But things are working out pretty good, even with the milk prices and the ups and downs of the industry. I enjoy the highs and survive the lows."
Rusch said he would recommend what he did - working off the farm until he had the money to buy a farm - to anyone facing the same situation he had 31 years ago.
"I would definitely recommend an off-the-farm job, at least for a few years after school," Rusch said. "It gives you an opportunity to try something different and takes away the "wish I would have done or tried that" mentality. It also gives you a better perspective of people [who have never worked on or lived on a farm]."
But the best benefit Rusch has seen from working in a factory for 19 years and the number one reason he recommends an outside job is the decreased debt load.
"The less debt you start with, the better chance of survival you have," he said.
Looking into the future, Rusch is content with his current state.
"I really don't want to expand. The size I am at right now can be handled by one person or two," he said. "It has been going pretty good. The milk prices and inputs are not great, but I should be able to weather the storm."[[In-content Ad]]