One of the greatest things about America is its farmers; in particular, its dairy farmers.
For generations, they have been the hard-working backbone of countless communities across this great country. At one time, America’s dairy farms totaled more than 5 million. Now, they number less than 32,000. Of those that remain, many of them are multi-generational farms with family livelihoods, histories and knowledge that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Our dairy farm is one of those farms.
The story of our family dairy began with our grandfather, Wilfred Becker. Wilfred was not the eldest son and did not have the opportunity to take over the family dairy farm. Therefore, Wilfred and his young family set out on their own, eventually purchasing a neighboring dairy farm in 1964, which consisted of 14 Holstein cows, an array of pigs and chickens, and 160 acres.
Transforming over the decades, the dairy transitioned from grandfather to sons, adding more cows, discontinuing the pigs and eventually shifting again from sons to daughters, evolving into what is currently NexGen Dairy.
 NexGen is now a third-generation dairy farm owned and operated by our family, Megan and Tim Schrupp, Ellen and Brandon Stenger, and Vern and Mary Kay Becker.
What started out with 14 Holsteins has now become a family farm milking about 1,000 Jersey and Jersey-cross cows. Instead of brothers at the helm, we’re two sisters, Megan and Ellen, who, along with our husbands, are in pursuit of not only continuing our family heritage and legacy but building the increasingly rare and priceless lifestyle that only dairy farming affords.
Our dairy aims to remain profitable and sustainable to allow us to carry on the legacy our grandparents started 60 years ago. We are strongly invested in learning new ideas, techniques and management practices, allowing almost all services to be executed by the team within the dairy.
Megan, a large animal veterinarian specializing in dairy medicine, is responsible for all the reproduction and herd health of the dairy. Ellen tackles all things accounting and assists with the daily care of the cows and heifers. Brandon, an agronomist, and Tim, a contractor by trade, are busy with crop production and manure pumping. Tim teams up with Vern on nutrition for the dairy, and Vern presides over a portion of the hoof trimming as well as assisting with the fieldwork and manure operations. Brandon is also busy managing replacement heifers and, along with Tim, spearheads any construction projects that have occurred on the dairy farm.  
Most recently, we have added new heifer facilities, including a group-housed calf barn with individual feeding and a new fresh cow milking parlor and transition cow facilities. In addition to the milking herd, we raise our replacements on-site and tend to just over 1,000 acres, providing forages for our dairy. We are constantly vigilant, looking for new ideas and technologies to implement that enable us to eliminate bottlenecks or increase efficiencies.
Individual cow data from smart tags has been implemented on the dairy and is utilized in conjunction with other systems to maximize cow health and longevity. Several side projects have also been added to our dairy, such as beekeeping, Guernsey cows, maple syrup production, solar energy generation for the dairy, and the addition of a vegetable and cut flower farm and farm market.
We enjoy working as a team, building off of each other’s strengths and interests to achieve success. We constantly strive to learn more, to do better and to invest in technologies and ideas while maintaining the core lessons and values that we as farmers have passed down through the generations.
In the coming issues, we, Megan and Ellen, hope to share more about our dairy, new ideas we’ve implemented and lessons we’ve learned with you, our readers, in the hopes that you, too, are proud of your family dairy heritage and committed to carrying it forward.
Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at [email protected]