May 10, 2021 at 6:22 p.m.
“A light bulb kept going off in my head,” Adam said. “I realized I wanted to farm, so I changed my major to dairy science.”
Adam returned to the farm full time in 2007 and will be stepping in as its new owner in the near future. A farm transition is in the works, with the final phase nearing completion to exchange ownership of Erickson Dairy Farm from Randy and Carol Erickson to their son, Adam.
“Adam’s been farming with me since he was 18 months old,” Randy said.
The Ericksons milk 515 cows and farm 1,300 acres near Clintonville. Carol does the bookwork and also works full time at the Clintonville Public School District as an administrative assistant – a position she will retire from at the end of this school year after 37 years. Adam’s wife, Kristy, is an administrator at Shawano School District and helps on the farm when she can. She and Adam have three kids – Ila, 8, Owen, 6, and Evelyn, 3.
“We have a really great team of employees too,” Adam said. “Some have been with us close to 14 years.”
Adam’s parents purchased the farm in 1980, making Adam the second generation on this family farm. Over the years, the Ericksons have enjoyed a steady stream of progress and growth but not without misfortune mixed in.
A fire in 2011 destroyed the Ericksons’ step-up flat-barn milking parlor and holding area, taking down the farm’s original dairy barn on a bitterly cold and windy February day. The fire was started by a skidloader parked in the holding area. No animals were lost or injured. It took almost no time for neighbors, friends and family to offer support.
“We had so many people who wanted to help us,” Adam said. “I remember there were 20 cattle trailers parked down the road waiting to move cows for us.”
The family was milking 300 cows which were moved 6 miles west to a farm where the Ericksons housed heifers. That farm’s parlor and freestall barn were open, and with a little help, the Ericksons got the parabone double-16 parlor going again in four hours.
“We didn’t skip much of a beat,” Adam said. “We were milking again by 4 p.m. We only missed one milking.”
People came for weeks after the fire to help the Ericksons truck feed back and forth, get silos going and milk cows until they moved through the parlor. Adam’s sister and brother-in-law – Amy and Toby Kersten – own an excavating business and also helped.
“It was tough, but the number of people here after the fire was unbelievable,” Randy said. “We moved all the cows to our heifer farm and all the heifers back here within a couple hours. When we moved into our new parlor nearly a year later, we had lots of help that day too.”
Cows moved home January 2012 and into a new double-8 herringbone parlor. A new manure pit and manure transfer system were also built at that time.
The generous actions of kind-hearted neighbors, family and friends continue to warm the Ericksons’ hearts and are gestures that will never be forgotten.
“The community support we received still overwhelms me 10 years later,” Randy said.
“It was a frustrating situation, but it was so nice to have that help,” Adam said. “We tried to thank everyone, but we want people to know how appreciative we are even now.”
Since the fire, Erickson Dairy Farm has been on a journey of growth and improvement. Last summer, the family expanded one of the freestall barns, adding 30 stalls. They are in the process of turning the parlor into a double-10. Also, last year, they updated their weaned calf area, pouring concrete flooring and adding automatic waterers.
“It was a huge improvement,” Randy said. “We used to have gravel underneath these animals, and that was messy. This change added a lot of room for us. It’s been very well-received.”
Up to 70 heifers can be housed in this outdoor area that includes four pens with a capacity of 15 animals per pen. Super hutches and feeders were already in place. Each pen contains three hutches and two sets of gates to make cleaning easy. The Ericksons bed with a sawdust shooter which they find labor efficient. Calves on milk are located in outdoor hutches a stone’s throw from weaned animal housing and are fed pasteurized whole milk three times a day. The Ericksons use sexed semen and beef semen, breeding 80% of their milking herd to beef.
“We don’t want any Holstein bull calves, but we still struggle with too many heifers,” Randy said. “We learned that 96% of our heifer calves reach the milking herd.”
Growing from within, the farm is now just shy of 600 cows. As the Ericksons finalize their farm transfer, Adam, who owns part of the herd, said the current size is perfect.
“We’ve had many meetings and have a lot of stuff in place already,” Adam said. “We’re just figuring out the last leg of the transition now.”
As Randy and Carol get ready to slow down a little, they know the farm will be in good hands as the next Erickson generation takes over.
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