November 23, 2022 at 2:23 p.m.

Meeting in the middle

Ferrys combine herds for greater efficiency
The Ferry family – Shianne (from left), Brandon and Tim – milk 300 cows near Brillion, Wisconsin. The Ferrys combined herds at a rented facility in 2019 to help reduce labor and provide more consistent feed. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
The Ferry family – Shianne (from left), Brandon and Tim – milk 300 cows near Brillion, Wisconsin. The Ferrys combined herds at a rented facility in 2019 to help reduce labor and provide more consistent feed. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

By Stacey [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BRILLION, Wis. – Three years ago, Brandon and Shianne Ferry and Brandon’s dad, Tim, decided to combine their milking herds. The arrangement gave way to needing less labor and providing the younger Ferry with a more consistent source of feed. Both generations were spread thin, and instead of continuing to farm separately, they pooled their resources and created a win-win situation for both father and son.

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“My dad was looking for a way to cut down on labor, and I was looking for an easier way to find feed,” Brandon said. “I had a hard time finding quality feed. But here, we have a consistent source, and that’s a big thing. Also, my wife and I had two kids at the time and wanted to make it easier to farm while raising a family.”
Now, Brandon and his father share the work on the farm they rent near Brillion where they milk 300 cows. Their milking herds converged at a neutral location between their two farms when Brandon’s herd of 80 cows joined his dad’s herd of 220 in 2019. Tim has been milking at this location for 12 years after moving his herd from Pickett, where Brandon grew up. Cows are milked twice a day in a double-8 herringbone parlor and housed in a 240-stall freestall barn. Tim and Brandon rent the buildings while another farmer rents the land.
“That farmer puts up the feed for us, and we purchase it from him,” Brandon said.
Brandon used to feed his cows corn silage, baled hay and top-dressed grain. Now, his cows receive a total mixed ration consisting of corn silage, haylage, and a corn and protein mix.
Brandon’s farm is about 5 miles away near Hilbert, and Tim’s farm is about 1 mile from the farm they rent. Youngstock remain at each of their respective farms. Tim also houses all of the dry cows and springing heifers, and all animals calve at his farm.
“Housing our heifers at home keeps our facilities in use and doesn’t overcrowd my dad’s heifer facilities,” Brandon said.  
Brandon’s wife, Shianne, takes care of the calves and heifers at their farm, which total 100 head. She also helps at the main farm if needed. The couple now has four children – Bryleigh, Ryker, and twins Corbin and Ledger. For two years, Brandon and Shianne rented his parents’ farm in Pickett before purchasing their current farm in 2012. Brandon and Shianne milked 70 cows in a tiestall barn before joining Tim.
Tim was able to reduce labor by two employees, as Brandon filled their shoes when he took over day-to-day tasks on the farm. Three employees milk the cows while Tim and Brandon feed and handle breeding, treating sick animals, drying up cows and other daily chores. Tim used to hire out the breeding, but now Brandon does it all.  
“My dad and I each have our areas we focus on,” Brandon said. “My dad does most of the feeding, and I do the majority of cow health. It works well.”
Brandon no longer milks since moving his cows in with his dad’s.
“I still spend time in the parlor assisting with the two high groups of cows, but it’s definitely a big change not milking every day,” Brandon said. “I always enjoyed milking. It gives you time to think.”
The Ferry herds are Holstein with Jersey and Brown Swiss mixed in. Brandon also has Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn heifers. Brandon’s cattle are registered under the prefix Fer-Crest, while Tim’s cattle use the prefix Fer-Li.
“The cattle are together, but we keep each herd under our own prefixes allowing us to maintain our own genetics,” Brandon said. “Shi and I have always focused on the genetic side. Since moving our herd, we still try to build off pedigrees and sire stacks and focus on genetics. Dad has a handful of registered cattle with good pedigrees also, but the majority of his herd is bred from a commercial standpoint for production and longevity.”
All expenses come out of the farm, and Brandon and Shianne receive payment for 40% of the milk their 80 cows produce, which equates to 7% of the gross milk check.
“Dad is covering all the overhead, so it’s like we’re each getting a wage,” Brandon said.
Together, their rolling herd average is around 25,000 pounds of milk, and the Ferrys ship their milk to Baker Cheese. Brandon and Shianne emphasize type in their herd and have a BAA of 112.8, consistently putting them in the top 50 on the national list.
Previously housed on pasture mats bedded with wood shavings, Brandon said his cows are enjoying the comfort of sand-bedded stalls. He makes an exception for his show cattle, housing select animals at his place.
“I keep the really good stuff at home and currently have four high-end cows at my farm,” he said. “I can keep a closer eye on them and feed them different during the show season.”
Brandon judges dairy cattle shows throughout the country and recently judged the junior Jersey show at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. Brandon also manages a tie-in string of 20 to 30 head at major shows.
“Between showing and judging, I can be on the road quite a bit,” he said. “The arrangement we have with my dad makes it easier for me to travel. Before, Shianne used to take care of everything, but the kids and farm became too much for one person to handle.”
By teaming up with his dad, Brandon laid the foundation for long-term success and took the burden off his young family.
“Initially, my dad and I didn’t farm together because we’re too similar,” Brandon said. “We have different ideas and viewpoints on farming, so it was good for me and Shianne to do it on our own as long as we did. But we hit a point where we needed him, and he needed us. We get along pretty good now.”


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