August 12, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Down to dairy
EYOTA, Minn. – When CJ Sachs first started to help on the farm at 5 years old, he could not carry out the day’s chores without ample help. Now, about 20 years later, Sachs remains farming and has mastered his work as a dairy farmer.
Fourth-generation dairy farmer Sachs works full time alongside his parents, Charlie and Carrie Sachs, at Towerview Dairy near Eyota, where they milk 112 cows.
Sachs said he knew he wanted to farm as a career when he was 12 or 13 years old. At that time, farming became more real to him as he did more and more work with the animals and actual machinery.
“When I was little, I was always playing with toy tractors ... and helping on the farm,” Sachs said. “There was really nothing else I wanted to do other than farm.”
His parents, he said, have always known he planned to dairy farm.
“Nobody ever said you had to come back home,” Sachs said. “If you’re going to (though), you’re going to have to work for it. ... You just have to work a little bit harder to show it.”
Over time, Sachs received more tasks and was invited to have more input on decisions. Sachs said those managing their family’s farm have always had their own areas where they took ownership and the lead in joint decision making.
“At the end of the day, we’re all in this,” Sachs said. “We’re all farming, so we have to make sure everyone’s on board with what we’re doing; otherwise, you’re just going to have a lack of communication and a mess.”
Sachs joined the farm in 2020. He was attending Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, Iowa, studying dairy herd management, when he was sent home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Even if it’s a really bad day, a terrible day even, there is always something in the end of the day that makes (farming) worth it,” Sachs said.
Sachs began working for his parents and getting paid small amounts once a month to live on as he helped with their 70 cows. Sachs knew he needed – and wanted – a herd of Brown Swiss cows of his own. In January 2021, Sachs found his herd of 36 and brought the animals home. The Sachses were able to incorporate the cows into their setup immediately without any expansion.
Bringing his cows home is one of Sachs’ favorite memories.
“Everyone being in the parlor and my friends that were over that night, … (we were) learning all these cows’ names, what they do and their personalities,” he said. “That was a lot of fun.”
Besides cows, Sachs has also brought on more equipment, including buying three tractors. Sachs said he enjoys owning equipment because he can work on it and modify it in any way he wants. Every tractor he buys gets new headlights, a name sticker in the front window and straight pipes.
“I enjoy making machinery my own and putting my own mark on it,” Sachs said.
Sachs purchased his first tractor in 2019, an Allis-Chalmers 6070 he named Peaches. Recently, Sachs, who only buys Allis-Chalmers, moved all the family tractors outside, washed them and lined them up for a photo, something he had never done before.
“There’s always going to be orange tractors here,” Sachs said. “We’ve had them for four generations, so it’s kind of something that was always important that we still farm with Allis-Chalmers tractors.”
Though he likes tractors, machinery and spending time in the shop, Sachs is also a cow person.
Sachs has plans for how he would like to see the farm grow and improve. Currently, the Sachses milk in a double-6 herringbone parlor. The family recently purchased a double-8 herringbone parlor in South Dakota and brought it home. Eventually, Sachs would like to install this new equipment and work to make the parlor more comfortable for the cows and farmer alike.
The Sachses have 350 acres of cropland, owned and rented. They grow corn, alfalfa, no-till soybeans and no-till winter rye forage cover crops. Their chopping, no-till planting, spraying and combining are all done by custom operators. They also harvest baleage, which they do themselves. Eventually, Sachs would like to get a full lineup of equipment so he can do all the fieldwork. He also would like to acquire more acres for row crops.
When it comes to the cows, Sachs expects slow, internal growth, but he realized in college he does not want a large expansion.
“I learned where I never want to push my operation to be,” he said. “I don’t want to be a big dairy. I’d rather be a small dairy farm and be part of everything on the farm.”
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