Moving toward progress
Siemens relocate herd for better opportunities
Tyler, Bridget and Roy Siemen stand in their 250 cow freestall near Merrill, Wisconsin. The Siemens moved to the farm in 2017 in order to expand their farming business, allowing Tyler to farm full time with his parents. PHOTO BY KATI KINDSCHUH
MERRILL, Wis. – Wanting to bring their son home to farm, Roy and Bridget Siemen were faced with a fork in the road. They were landlocked by neighboring farmers, and land prices were high near their farm in Cleveland.
“At the time, the farm wasn’t big enough to financially take on another full-time employee,” said Roy of his son, Tyler’s, return. “When Tyler graduated from tech school, we looked for a bigger place because it was cheaper to buy than it was to build.”
In 2015, the Siemens loaded up their farm assets and moved to Merrill for a better opportunity for their future.
Currently, the Siemens milk 280 cows and farm 1,100 acres of alfalfa, corn and soybean in Lincoln County.
When Tyler was finishing his education at Fox Valley Technical College and had committed to farming full time with his family seven years ago, the decision was made to start looking for a different farm. Hoping to grow their herd size and add acreage, the Siemens found their current-day farm site with a 500-stall freestall barn, a double-8 herringbone parlor, calf barn and acreage.
“Even though it was bigger than what we wanted, at that time there were not a lot of places available,” Roy said.
Moving an entire herd was no simple feat and came with its fair share of challenges.
“The biggest challenge was leaving a tiestall barn to a freestall barn and parlor,” Roy said. “It took some time for the cows to adjust. They adjusted really well to the freestall, but going into the milking parlor was a challenge for them.”
“The first few days were a struggle, just getting them to the parlor,” he said. “Once we settled in, they got used to it.”
In addition to moving their cattle and machinery, they also had to move their home and personal belongings.
“Our daughter, Tara, was in charge of helping pack and unpack the house so we could do chores and get everything else moved,” Bridget said.
This was not the family’s first time relocating farms.
Roy and Bridget grew up in Michigan, where they got married, dairy farmed together and had their three children, Tessa, Tara and Tyler. In 1996, when Tyler was just 7 months old, the family moved to Wisconsin.
“We were looking for a buy-in opportunity in Wisconsin wherever the map took us,” Roy said.
They rented a farm and purchased a herd of cows in Brownsville.
By 2008, the Siemens were prepared to purchase a farm.
“When we got our herd paid for, we settled on a place in Cleveland,” Roy said. “When we moved from Cleveland to Merrill, we had a lot more machinery. When we moved from Brownsville to Cleveland, we basically had to move animals.”
Each move was a step forward in the Siemens’ farming career.
“There was improvement leaving Brownsville and going to Cleveland, and there was more improvement leaving and coming here to Merrill,” Roy said. “Each farm has been a stepping stone because we were able to take Tyler in on a full-time basis and grow.”
“We kept going,” he said. “If we stayed in Cleveland, we might not have been able to keep going. It wouldn’t have been (financially) sustainable.”
With better land availability, the Siemens were able to purchase and rent more acreage to grow enough feed for their herd in addition to growing cash crops.
Over the last few years, the Siemens have made improvements to make their jobs more efficient. In 2019, they added variable rate fertilizer technology to their repertoire, and they are currently renovating the parlor to a double-12 parabone.
Moving geographical locations pushed the Siemens to change as farmers and the way they work the land.
“The land is easier to farm here with lighter soils, not sandy but not clay,” Roy said.
“The soil here wants to erode a lot more,” he said. “The lighter soil wants to run a lot faster, so you really have to watch how you work your fields, especially in the fall, because with spring rains, it seems ridiculous how fast it wants to run.”
The Siemens’ farm experiences cooler weather than their previous farm along Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County. The change in location required them to adapt to the climate difference.
“Early-day corn is a must, because our springtime is about the same, but our fall gets colder faster,” Tyler said.
When they get time away from the farm, the Siemens like to go to their campsite in Rhinelander.
“You never know what your schedule is going to be like during the week, so if we get done haying and we have a day off, we can drive up and start grilling an hour after I leave home,” Roy said. “In the wintertime, Tyler and I snowmobile. It’s very important to get away sometimes.”
Contrary to many farmers who pass down a farm from generation to generation, the Siemens have flipped the script and proven there is opportunity for improvement and farming at a location that is sought out.