The Vaughan family – (front, from left) Klaytonn, 7, Sophia, 5, and Jethro, 2; (back, from left) Rebecca holding Autumn, 4 months, and Kenn – milk 100 cows near Bancroft, South Dakota. In 2017, the Vaughans moved from New York. 
The Vaughan family – (front, from left) Klaytonn, 7, Sophia, 5, and Jethro, 2; (back, from left) Rebecca holding Autumn, 4 months, and Kenn – milk 100 cows near Bancroft, South Dakota. In 2017, the Vaughans moved from New York. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    BANCROFT, S.D. – The Vaughan family admits that moving to an area states away from family has been tough; however, the kindness of neighbors has made the transition more bearable.

    “We wouldn’t be here without all of the support from our neighbors,” Kenn Vaughan said. “I hope to find a way to pay them back someday.”
    Vaughan and his wife, Rebecca, who now have four children, Klaytonn, 7, Sophia, 5, Jethro, 2, and Autumn, 4 months, left their family’s dairy farm in New York and moved September 2017 to Bancroft to fulfill a dream to start a dairy farm of their own.
    From the very beginning, nothing went as planned for the Vaughans and their 100-cow herd.
    “Anything that could happen did happen,” Vaughan said. “Our loader tractor broke down with a bad injector pump, so I had to feed the cows in a blizzard using an open cab skid loader. We had three weeks of below zero weather and all of the manure in the barn froze. The herd of cows that we bought were accustomed to a pasture system and didn’t want to lie in the free stalls. Our cull rate was a lot higher than expected.”
    On top of it all, the price the Vaughans received for their milk went into a nosedive.
    “Our milk price began to drop in January of 2018 and continued to fall,” Vaughan said. “We struggled to pay our bills. It was tough. I was stressed out. But then I realized that I couldn’t do anything about certain things, so I made up my mind to simply be grateful for what we have. I get to be here with my family every day and do what I love which is dairy farming.”
    By September 2018, the Vaughans were facing a grim reality. They needed to buy corn for silage but lacked the funds. They approached several lenders and were turned down.
    “I was talking with some of our neighbors about our silage situation and was put in touch with Darcy Penning who has a beef operation located a few miles away,” Vaughan said. “Darcy agreed to sell us truckloads of silage on a pay-as-you-go basis. That got us through until March. Then we entered into a similar arrangement with Fast Dairy located near Iroquois.”
    The Vaughan family continues to work with and depend upon their neighbors.
    “One big difference I’ve noticed between New York and South Dakota is how kind and helpful people are out here,” Vaughan said. “We have gotten a lot of useful insight and advice from locals. Our neighbors have made it a pleasure to be here. We have met some great people, such as Lynn Hoitsma, who have been very encouraging. It has been a struggle, but everyone we do business with has been understanding. We wouldn’t be here without their help.”
    It was a big leap of faith to leave their home.
    Vaughan grew up on the 500-cow dairy farm owned and operated by his parents, David and Susan Vaughan. Their farm is located at Penn Yan, a small town situated in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.
    “I have three brothers and two sisters who are older than me, so I knew that I didn’t stand much of a chance to take over the operation from my parents,” Vaughan said.
    However, Vaughan knew he wanted a future in the industry, so he set a lofty goal for himself at a young age.
    “When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to be a dairy farmer by the time I was 30,” he said.
    After completing high school, Vaughan began to work in the construction industry and was often the jobsite foreman. He also continued to help out on his parents’ farm.
    “I bought my first house when I was 19,” Vaughan said. “I fixed it up over the years and built up sweat equity.”
    Then he met his future wife.
    “Kenn’s brother, Paul, who was dating my sister, Rachel, introduced me to Kenn when we were in high school,” Rebecca said.
    Paul and Rachel are also married and have three young children.
    When it became clear to Vaughan that his parents were starting the process of turning over their dairy to Jason, Vaughan decided it was time to pursue his dream of having his own dairy farm.
    “In the summer of 2015, we flew out to Minnesota to look at some dairies in the Milaca area,” Vaughan said. “We also looked at dairy farms in Wisconsin but couldn’t find anything that seemed like a fit for us.”
    When Vaughan drove out to the Midwest some months later to check out dairy farms, he had seen a dairy online for sale near Bancroft. It was the 25-acre dairy farm previously operated by Dave and Debbie Weaver.
    “I got in touch with Dave, and we were eventually able to make a deal,” Vaughan said. “Then came the hard part which was finding financing.”
    Using the equity he had built up in his house, Vaughan was able to obtain a loan by working with the Farm Service Agency and First Financial Bank of Louisville, Kentucky.
    “It all fell into place,” Vaughan said. “We sold our house Sept. 18, 2017, and we moved here Sept. 19, 2017.”       
    Now that milk prices have improved, the Vaughans are looking forward to what is ahead for their dairy. They have increased their herd’s milk production, which was 40 pounds per head per day at the start, to 64 pounds per head per day now.
    “I truly believe that if you work hard, you will succeed,” Vaughan said.
    The Vaughans are grateful to be able to secure their place in the dairy industry.
    “We love it out here,” Rebecca said. “We love it that our kids get to grow up on a dairy farm where they can experience farm life and learn responsibility and the value of hard work.”
    The Vaughan family is currently making plans for some major changes.
    “Paul and Rachel and their kids want to join the operation,” Vaughan said. “We hope to build a house here for Paul and his family and double the size of our herd to 200 head. Paul has mechanical skills, and I have my construction background, so we make a great team. We think alike and have the same goals. All of my brothers and I have a knack for finding a way to make things work. I am optimistic that Paul will be able to move out here by March.”
    Looking out at the far horizon, Vaughan sees even more opportunities for growth and improvement.
    “Our goal is to someday have a closed herd and grow it from within,” Vaughan said. “We have started to use sexed semen and are using sires that carry the A2/A2 trait. If we decide to add onto our facilities someday, Paul and I have the skills to do most of the work ourselves.”
    The Vaughan family is glad to have found a new dairy farm home in South Dakota.    
    “Despite all the stress and the struggle, I’m happy to be here,” Vaughan said.