Ann Mallow and parents, Karen and Joe Mallow, farm side-by-side at the same location, but maintain separate herds, freestall barns, bulk tanks and feed. 
Ann Mallow and parents, Karen and Joe Mallow, farm side-by-side at the same location, but maintain separate herds, freestall barns, bulk tanks and feed. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
    IXONIA, Wis. – Even though Ann Mallow farms side by side with her parents, Joe and Karen Mallow, at the same location, the ambitious 18-year-old milks a herd of her own, one she has been building since her 14th birthday.  
    “I love the dairy industry and really enjoy working with animals,” Mallow said, “and I wanted to branch out on my own.”
    The high school student began milking her own 23-cow herd Nov. 1, 2018 on her family’s dairy near Ixonia, Wis.
    Most teenagers do not ask for a calf for their birthday, but that was Mallow’s only wish the year she turned 14. Growing up on her parents’ farm, Mallow loved working with the calves and had a strong desire to start her own herd. Knowing of Mallow’s plans to save up money to buy her first calf, two nearby farms gifted calves to the young dairy girl.
    “It was really nice to get that start,” Mallow said.
    Then, with money she received for her birthday, Mallow bought a bred heifer.
    “Within three days, I had three heifers and grew from there,” Mallow said.   
    Mallow’s 23-cow herd is housed in a freestall barn built especially for her last summer, separate from her parents’ 30-cow herd. The two farm signs on the milk house are proof of Mallow’s independence. She has her own producer number through Family Dairies USA and receives her own milk check.
    The original stanchion barn has been converted into a double-4 flat barn milking parlor and holding area. Mallow and her parents share the parlor but send their milk to different bulk tanks. A milk house addition was built last fall to accommodate Mallow’s tank.
    Mallow’s parents fully supported her decision to farm separately. In fact, they encouraged it. They wanted Mallow to have her own cattle and earn a separate milk check, making it easier for her to get a loan if, and when, she needs one in the future.
    “That was a big reason for doing this,” Mallow said. “My dad felt it would make it easier for me to be on my own one day.”
    The arrangement allowed Mallow to start her own herd with the security of an established infrastructure. Although some resources are shared, the operations are independent in terms of cattle ownership, income and decision-making, maintaining separate milking herds, freestall barns, bulk tanks and feed.
    “We each make our own decisions,” Mallow said. “My parents can do their own thing, and I can do mine. Yet, we’re there to help each other out. It’s the best of both worlds.”  
    Mallow helps her parents milk, and then Karen helps Mallow milk while Joe feeds the heifers and cows, and cleans the barns.
    “It’s just the three of us, and we split labor everywhere,” Mallow said.
    The farm has been in the family for more than a century, with Mallow as the fifth generation of Mallows to farm on the same location. Due to health issues, Mallow has attended school online for the past six years. She said she latched onto the farm once she started online schooling.
    “I’ve always loved the farm and these girls,” said Mallow, who admitted her cows are spoiled. “And I realized I wanted to make a career out of dairy farming.”
    Balancing her growing herd and additional duties on the farm with school work was tricky at first. But things got easier once she settled into a routine. Mallow, who will graduate in May, said she does school work at night or during the day in between chores.
    Mallow’s diverse herd contains Jerseys, Brown Swiss, Holsteins and a variety of crossbreeds, including Jersey-Holstein, Brown Swiss-Holstein, Brown Swiss-Jersey, and Norwegian Red-Red and White Holstein.
    Mallow’s components are much higher than her parents’ herd, which has given her milk check a healthy boost. Mallow’s cows average 60 pounds of milk per cow per day with a 4.6 percent butterfat and 3.6 percent protein.
    “When I got my first check, we couldn’t believe the difference my components made,” Mallow said. “Higher components earn a substantially higher milk price, and that really helps.”
    Including youngstock, Mallow’s herd totals 58 head. At this time, most of her calves and heifers are combined with her parents’, but the plan is to eventually convert a building to house her youngstock separately.
    Mallow has built relationships with various farms while growing her herd, purchasing animals from many local Jersey, Brown Swiss and Holstein farms. Mallow recently bought nine head of registered Brown Swiss and hopes to expand the registered portion of her herd going forward.  Mallow does a lot of A.I. breeding, and currently, about one-fourth of her herd is homebred.
    “It’s fun because I choose to crossbreed,” Mallow said.
    Mallow is also raising a Brown Swiss-Jersey cross bull to supplement her A.I. breeding as a means for keeping costs down.  
    The Mallows farm around 300 acres, and Mallow’s parents raise all of their own feed.  Mallow buys some of her feed, including Western alfalfa from South Dakota. She does not feed a TMR like her parents; rather, Mallow’s cows are fed dry hay and grain.  
    Mallow handles all of her own expenses and pays rent for her freestall barn and bulk tank, both of which were paid for by her parents, as well as rent on anything else she uses.
    “They’ve been great,” Mallow said of her parents. “It’s nice to have that support system. Actually, a lot of people have been supportive of this.”
    In the next couple years, Mallow’s goal is to fill her 46-stall barn and continue developing her herd, focusing on Jersey and Brown Swiss breeding, and crossing breeds, to accentuate components.
    “Some people think I’m crazy for doing this,” Mallow said. “But I’m determined to make it work. This is the industry I chose, and I still have hope for it.”
    From fieldwork to cows, Mallow loves everything about farming.
     “I enjoy having a variety of things to do,” she said. “Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, I’m always busy doing something. I especially love harvest – it’s one of my favorite times of the year.”
    Mallow does not feel she is missing out on anything that other 18-year-olds might be doing.
    “I have health issues that limit what I do anyways,” Mallow said. “But more so than that, I just enjoy being on the farm. This was my goal – to have my own freestall barn and separate herd. And now here I am, and I’m so happy.”