December 28, 2020 at 4:28 p.m.

Dairy Profile: Destinee & Phillip Vesbach

Destinee Vesbach, holding Steelie, along with her husband, Phillip, holding Sterling
Flat Rock Ranch
Viroqua, Wisconsin
Vernon County
28 cows

How did you get into farming? It was more of a snowball effect of things to get me where I am now. While I always had a love for cows and animals, things really started while I was in college. I was studying at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville when I met my husband. I was studying dairy science and agribusiness, and milking for a larger dairy outside of Fennimore, Double D. When I had graduated, I moved to Vernon County, got married and started helping my father-in-law with his herd and random chores around the outside job I had. After my husband and I got married, my father-in-law was switching quite a few cows at the time. We had bought a farm that needed work. With my husband working on the road, we decided it was best for me to stay home with the future children. We ended up fixing up our barn, adding on and taking my father-in-law’s switch cows. We have grown and been in farming since.
What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I do not know what to expect. We take things day by day and will probably continue to do things that way. As I hope things get better, part of me does not think markets will be amazing again for a while. I pray the programs we have do not get taken away because they do help farmers.
What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? We have not added a lot of technology to our farm. But that is what has worked for us, with me being alone for chores most of the time. We have added a pole shed and weaned calf barn this year. We were housing our machinery and youngstock in different places. It got to be a lot of work to get everyone fed, moved around and things to the home farm when needed. We have only had both the pole shed and calf barn for a couple of months, but it has made a world of a difference when it comes to chores and making the farm go. Things have run a lot smoother.
What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? I changed our breeding protocols. The last two years, I was struggling to get everyone bred back in a timely manner and sticking in general. I didn’t have enough time to sit out in the pasture with the girls and watch for heat cycles. Patches didn’t work well in the past with our Jerseys. With help from our vet and regular herd checks, we have switched to an automatic CIDR program. So far it has helped tremendously getting everyone bred back in a timely manner.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? We have tried a couple of things; probably the biggest was that we did some feed changes. We found that switching companies and changing feeding programs helped us with staying on top of bills along with saving.
How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? We are a family farm, so we have no outside employees. Once in a while, we will hire someone to milk for us for a night off. We are in a partnership with my husband’s family. Working with family can be great at times and hard at others. We have found that being straightforward and honest works the best. In the end, both farms have the same goal, to be the best farms we can be. Everyone accomplishes more when a team effort is put forth, whether that’s when it comes to getting things like crops done, herds milked and other livestock well managed.
Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I am a total morning person and consistency is easy for me. I do best with a schedule and so do the cows. Making sure everyone is on the same page and all are fed and milked at the same time every day has always been easy for me. My husband is more the go-with-the-flow type and likes constant change. He tends to stay out of the barn more, and when he’s home, you find him in fields or outside doing maintenance on the farm. This makes us work well together; we each have our own skills that help the farm.
What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I love my cows. No matter how hard the days can be, they are always there looking for a good scratch or to let you lean on them when needed.
What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Don’t think you need to go big or fancy to be successful. You don’t always need the new fancy thing. Salesmen have jobs just like you do. They are out there to sell. You are out there to make sure you are doing best to make milk.
What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? We are in the process of getting our own loader tractor with a cab. I know that sounds small to a lot of places and crazy that we didn’t have one, but all our tractors have no cabs. And in the winter, hauling manure with a 1-year-old and 2-year-old was getting difficult.
What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? The first year I started milking, I told myself I was going to be at the top of the list for quality with our creamery. It’s been hard, but every year I have received a quality award from our creamery at our annual meeting.
What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? My goal is to keep milking. The dairy industry is so uncertain. I want to keep my kids growing up the way they are now, farming. While I’d love to grow our facilities so we can keep our youngstock all on one farm, we will most likely need to buy more land.
How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We love rodeo. My husband used to ride bulls, and we have quite a few horses. We like to ride as a family. The girls are starting to get into pee-wee rodeo events, and I have a mare I take places to run barrels around farming in the summer.


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