Chasing the dream

Smith finds alternative path to farm ownership

Posted
ANTIGO, Wis. – Sometimes life does not proceed on the planned path, and that is a lesson 24-year-old Corrin Smith of Antigo has been learning.
“I have always been invested in my family’s dairy farm,” Smith said. “I have always been out here working with my dad, learning from him. I have always known I wanted to dairy farm.”
Smith’s plan had been to take over her family’s 50-cow Langlade County dairy farm near Antigo this year. The current state of the economy and commodity markets have given Smith cause to look at other ways to pursue her dream.
Rising input costs, inflation and market volatility have all worked together to create an atmosphere of uncertainty for Smith and her parents.  
“We decided to take another course,” Smith said. “That for the time being I would continue as an employee of my parents, working to earn capital and equity, rather than taking on a large amount of debt to purchase the farm from my parents.”
Smith said that while her parents are supportive of her ambitions, they required her to leave the farm for a while following high school graduation.
“I worked as a herdsman on a large dairy farm for over two years,” Smith said. “I learned a lot doing that, and I learned that I definitely wanted to dairy farm on my own.”
Smith has also held non-agricultural jobs, which have all further cemented her desire to dairy farm.
“I have worked as a certified nursing assistant, and I have worked in a factory,” Smith said. “I was miserable. I love the cows. The animals are what really make me want to farm. I love caring for them; they are just my thing.”
Smith said her factory job was what made her decide to pursue ownership of the farm.
“I worked in the factory for six months,” Smith said. “I was on my feet in one spot eight hours a day. You couldn’t listen to music; the days just drug on. I love that no two days are the same on a dairy farm. You are always doing something new and different each day.”
Throughout her life, Smith has been building her own herd of cattle; she now owns 23 total head, including five milking-aged cows.
“I work weekends on another farm to earn extra money, and I have been buying excess heifer calves from them,” Smith said. “I am able to be building up my own herd slowly rather than having to make a big capital investment buying cows when the time comes for me to finally take over.”
Smith and her parents are planning for her to begin renting the farm in January 2023 and purchasing the cattle she needs from her father.
Despite the setbacks she has faced to becoming the fifth generation of her family to own and run the farm, Smith continues to look toward the future.
“One of the first things I want to do is move away from using bulls and begin using more A.I.,” Smith said. “It is really a safety thing, since I am the one doing most of the work with the cattle.”
Smith also plans to incorporate high-moisture corn into the ration, planting enough corn to meet the herd’s projected needs. She also hopes to invest in total mixed ration equipment to change the way the herd is currently fed.
Smith said that within a year or so of taking over the farm, she hopes to be milking closer to 100 cows in the existing 78-stall tiestall barn.
“My goal is that if I am still dairy farming in five years, I would like to get a robot or two,” Smith said. “That is a way that I can milk enough cows to be profitable without having the increased labor needs and costs. Having robots would free up my time to focus on other jobs that need my attention rather than spending so much time milking each day.”
Smith credits her open-mindedness with keeping her positivity up during these times when her future might seem rather uncertain.
“I am open to change; things don’t always stay the same,” Smith said. “I like to read and research, to learn how others do things, because maybe I will learn something from them that will benefit me.”
Smith hopes that with a few pivots in her original plan to own her family’s farm, she can eventually achieve her goal.
“Sometimes it gets difficult to hold out hope, but I am never going to give up,” Smith said. “I will continue to fight for my dream rather than give up when I am halfway there.”

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