Ryan Jopp pushes up feed for his 85 cows in his freestall barn Feb. 27 near Mayer, Minn. 
Ryan Jopp pushes up feed for his 85 cows in his freestall barn Feb. 27 near Mayer, Minn. PHOTO BY DANNA SABOLIK

    MAYER, Minn. – From playing with tractors in the sandbox to taking over the farm’s reproduction program, Ryan Jopp loved everything he did on the farm and knew he wanted to do that for the rest of his life.
    Today, he and his wife, Becca, own the dairy, where they milk 85 cows and run 160 acres near Mayer, Minn. They also finish about 30 dairy steers yearly.
    Ryan and Becca are the fifth generation of Jopps to dairy farm on the land. Ryan’s great-great-great-grandfather homesteaded the land in 1886, milking cows in a log barn.
    In 2005, after Ryan graduated high school, he began putting sweat equity into the family operation. When Ryan purchased the farm from his uncle, Phil, and parents, Rick and Colleen, in 2016, he wanted to maintain the progress his family made with the multi-generational farm and also make the farm more sustainable for years to come.

    As Ryan tends to the day-to-day tasks of the farm, Becca works alongside him when she is able. She also has a full-time job as a veterinarian technician in Lester Prairie, Minn.
    Becca also grew up on a dairy farm, but her family sold the herd when she was 9 years old.
    “I always wanted to do what Dad did,” she said. “I wanted to take care of animals, so I decided to be a vet tech to be around large animals.”
    Becca has been able to take her experiences at the clinic and implement new protocols on her dairy to better the herd and help the animals thrive.
    “It’s nice to have a pulse on what is working for farmers and what isn’t,” Becca said. “I hear about the new things people are trying on farms and see if it would work for us.”
    The Jopps began following a different dry cow vaccination program and added more vaccinations to the youngstock protocols.
    Overall, the change in vaccinations has helped with calf health more than anything.
    “I feel like [the cows] are healthier, and they grow healthier babies, so we don’t have to treat as many calves as a result,” Becca said.
    Together, the couple is raising their son, Derek, on the farm.
    “We’re excited to see him grow up on the farm,” Becca said. “We both grew up on dairy farms and we loved it, so he should get that, too.”
    Derek was born during a snowstorm last April.

    “We had to pull Ryan’s parents out; they got stuck in the driveway coming over to milk for us so we could go to the hospital,” Becca said. “We got 20-some inches over a couple days. We weren’t expecting snow with his arrival.”
    Derek loves the farm and being outside, Becca said. She often bundles Derek up to visit Ryan in the barn after work.
    “We love to watch the tractors and be in the barn, that’s his favorite place to be,” Becca said. “We are excited to spend more time out there as the weather warms up.”
    While Ryan’s parents are no longer owners of the dairy, they remain active on the farm.
    Ryan’s dad feeds calves and scrapes manure in the freestall barn, while his mom does daycare for Derek and Ryan’s sister’s children.
    “It’s definitely still a family farm,” Becca said. “On the weekends it’ll be us and Ryan’s parents in the barn. It’s really nice.”
    As the Jopps consider the future of their family farm, they have made changes to help withstand market conditions and support the dairy’s viability in the future.
    In January, the Jopps locked in a price for their milk for the remainder of the year. This allows the Jopps to better plan for their expenses.
    “We’ve contracted at just over $16 on the premiums, and at least it’s something,” Ryan said. “Now we can manage easier.”
    Ryan was anxious to lock in a price last fall.
    “With the trade wars, we were getting paid under Class III price the way it was and (contracted) prices were a decent offering at that time,” he said.
    Ryan worked with his local cooperative and a liaison in Chicago to make the decision to contract, and continues maintaining those relationships.
    On the farm, the couple is hoping to make improvements with technology.
    “We’re looking at automatic calf feeders because dad is ready to retire,” Ryan said.
    The young couple is also toying with the idea of milking robots or putting up a parlor. They are currently milking the herd in a stanchion barn with eight milking units.
    “That will make it easier for the milking part on our bodies and so we have more time to do other stuff,” Becca said.
    Despite the challenges dairy farming presents, the Jopps are proud to be the fifth generation on the dairy and raising the sixth generation as part of the family legacy.