Working double duty
Young farmer hauls milk, dairy farms
Jason Sperfslage stands by the milk truck he drives part time Dec. 16 near Greeley, Iowa. Sperfslage milks 40 cows and hauls one load of milk every other day. PHOTO SUBMITTED
GREELEY, Iowa – Jason Sperfslage’s schedule is full. Not only is he a full-time dairy farmer, Sperfslage is also a part-time milk truck driver.
“Truck driving funded all of it,” said Sperfslage of purchasing his grandfather’s farm. “The only thing I had to take out was a loan for the land.”
Sperfslage milks 40 cows in a stanchion barn and farms 80 acres on his farm near Greeley. He drives a milk route every other day.
The money to purchase a farm was not the only benefit to hauling milk.
“It helped me get my start by letting me see different options and helped me decide how I want to do it,” Sperfslage said. “Seeing the different ways of doing it gives me new ideas of things to try. I like to experiment and try new things.”
Sperfslage bought his grandfather’s farm in 2015 after his grandpa died.
“There hadn’t been any cows on the farm since 1986, and so there were a lot of upgrades that needed to be done to the barn,” Sperfslage said.
The biggest challenge for Sperfslage was getting a loan from the bank to buy the land.
“I had it all figured out how I was going to make it work, but the bank was very hesitant to give me a loan,” Sperfslage said. “I paid for everything up front as I went except the land.”
At the time, Sperfslage was working for a local well and plumbing company as well as working for a neighboring dairy farmer.
“I knew my neighbors’ milk hauler pretty well, and I got to talking to him one day,” Sperfslage said. “He said they are always looking for good drivers and that I should ride along one day to see what it was like.”
Sperfslage obtained his commercial driver’s license and started hauling milk in June 2017 on weekends while doing the well and plumbing work during the week.
“It didn’t take long for me to notice I was making more money hauling milk on the weekends,” Sperfslage said. “It became a no brainer to start hauling milk full time.”
Sperfslage hauled milk and farmed until 2020 when he had saved up enough money to fix up his grandpa’s old barn and purchase seven cows.
The barn did not have a pipeline or a bulk tank and needed new wiring, leaving a lot of work for Sperfslage to do.
“Buying the pipeline and bulk tank was cheap compared to getting them installed,” Sperfslage said.
Sperfslage milked his own cows for the first time July 13, 2020.
Sperfslage knew he wanted to milk cows from a young age. Sperfslage’s parents sold their 60 dairy cows in 2015 and bought beef cattle and continued to farm the land.
“My best memories growing up always revolve around the farm and the cows,” Sperfslage said. “That always stuck with me, that and I never could sit still for very long.”
Sperfslage said young farmers looking to start a farm of their own should not take on unnecessary debt.
“I had a lot of people tell me it’s not worth it to be small and to start dairy farming, but it is doable as long as you don’t bury yourself in debt,” he said.
Sperfslage raises his own feed which consists of baleage and ground corn with salt and minerals mixed in. In the summer, the cows are on pasture.
“I get really good components, and it pays better to get higher components,” Sperfslage said.
Someday, Sperfslage plans on getting a mixer but is content with his current setup.
Sperfslage’s parents live about 10 miles away and help during the busy times of the year. His brother also helps when needed.
Looking ahead, Sperfslage would like to buy another 80 acres and increase his herd to 50-60 cows.
Sperfslage said part-time hauling allows him to farm.
“Driving milk truck seven days a week was never my thing,” he said. “But it is nice to see other farms and talk to other farmers.”
Sperfslage plans to continue his working arrangement of farming while also hauling.
“I don’t feel like I’m missing out when I hear my friends going out on nights and weekends,” Sperfslage said. “Milking cows isn’t work to me. It’s what I want to do.