August 15, 2022 at 7:10 p.m.
How did you get into farming? I was born into it. My grandpa started the farm in 1888. My oldest brother, Gail, joined the operation first. I went to school in Madison and started medical school to be a doctor. When I was growing up farming, I always wanted to get off the farm. Once I left, I missed it. I came back and formed a partnership with Gail in 1972. The farm is in a limited liability company now.
What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? Fuel, feed and fertilizer are my biggest concerns for the next year. Fuel is the main concern because when that price went up, it upped the feed price and the fertilizer price. Availability is going to be a concern too. Right now, you can get what you need if you can pay more for it, but I don’t know if that is going to last.
What is a recent change you made on your farm and the reason for it? We went to direct shipping milk in December 2021. We thought we would see an improvement in butterfat, and we thought the trucking cost would go down. Neither of those things happened, but it has still been a good change overall. It is more convenient, and we also do not have to test each load of milk anymore because they do that at the dairy. It’s only our milk in that tank. We also bought a wheel loader to mix feed with out of the bunkers. That has saved a lot of time with having a bucket twice the size of the skid loader bucket.
Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I am good with the computer. This helps me because I do all the books for the farm.
What is the best decision you have made on your farm? To build a parlor. We built our parlor in 1997, and we should have done it 20 years sooner. We went from 250 cows in three stall barns, two of which had switch cows. We are now milking 1,000 cows easier than we ever milked 250 cows.
What are three things on the farm that you cannot live without? Our Hispanic workers because they are reliable and do things the way we want. The side-by-side because it goes somewhere all the time. The automatic calf feeder because we are able to raise really good calves with it.
What strategies do you use to withstand the volatile milk prices? None. We have done risk management programs in the past, and we got tired of putting money into a program only to get nothing back. We do not use crop insurance either. We had an awful drought year in 2012 and received no payout. We realized if we didn’t get a payout that year, we never would. We did have good luck with the Dairy Margin Coverage program last year.
How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? We pay them well. We also provide housing which they would rather have than more money. We also acknowledge good work. Since we address when something is not done right, we want to make sure we also acknowledge when something is done right.
What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I like seeing the genetic progress we are making. We have been using good bulls for a lot of years, and it is fun to see a heifer come in and easily milk 100 pounds. We used to try for a cow to do that well, and now the heifers do it easily.
What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Nobody does things the same way so it’s hard to give advice, but learn from others and what worked and what didn’t.
What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? For the next year, we will coast the way we are. We have been working to get to 1,000 cows for a while so we need to maintain that. In the next five years, we will need heifer facilities. Right now, they are on multiple locations. There is a lot of labor spent moving cattle around.
How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We take very little time off. Luckily, our eight grandkids are all within a half an hour so we can spend an evening with them once in a while. We really enjoy that.
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