Cows are milked three times a day in the new double-16 parallel parlor at Lazy J Dairy near Wolsey, S.D. 
Cows are milked three times a day in the new double-16 parallel parlor at Lazy J Dairy near Wolsey, S.D. PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON
    WOLSEY, S.D. – Lazy J Dairy is constantly striving to improve.
    This is apparent in its most recent expansion, which happened last year. The farm added another section onto its freestall barn and built a 48- by 160-foot wing, which houses a double-16 parallel parlor. To showcase this, the Jungemann family, who operates Lazy J Dairy, is planning a July 14 open house for the 920-cow herd near Wolsey, S.D.
    Russell and Janet Jungemann farm together with their son, Lucas, and his wife, Kari, and their son, Vonn, 2. Russell and Janet’s son, Adam, and two daughters: Libby Flemming, and her husband, Jamie, who have three daughters Mya, 6, Reagan, 4, and Jaiden, 1; and Dr. Emily Stahl, and her husband, Cody, and their newborn daughter, Ally Rose, help on the farm when they can.
    Their expanded cross-ventilated freestall barn now measures 240- by 320-feet and has room for 920 head. The freestalls are bedded with sand. Manure is carried away by a flume system and a sand lane recovers most of the wasted sand. The Jungemanns also added another lagoon to their manure system, boosting its total capacity to 14 million gallons.
    “We can go two years without pumping manure,” Russell said. “It’s good to have that flexibility when the weather refuses to cooperate with the pumper’s schedule.”
    The Jungemanns’ new milking parlor features a subway that contains some of the milking equipment. But instead of being underground, the subway is at ground level. The milking parlor is in the barn’s second story.
    “We toured subway barns and liked the idea of keeping the equipment away from the parlor,” Russell said. “But subways tend to be out of sight and out of mind, and some of them weren’t maintained very well. We thought that having the subway at ground level and the parlor on the second story would help keep things dry and make maintenance less of an issue.”
    Another striking feature of the new parlor is a 8- by 40-foot hydraulic door on the east end of the building.
    “The door gives us great ventilation in the parlor,” Russell said. “The cows love standing by the door and looking out at the farm after they’ve been milked.”
    The Jungemann family reduced construction costs by performing much of the work themselves. They did all of the trenching and the plumbing, hung the freestalls and the headlocks, and installed the fans.
    “We were our own general contractors,” Russell said. “The barn might have gotten done quicker if we had hired a general contractor, but doing it ourselves enabled us to make some substantial savings.”
    The herd at Lazy J Dairy has responded well to the new milking parlor. The herd’s SCC, which has always been 200,000 or less, now hovers in the 130,000 to 170,000 range. And since more cows are now being milked with the same number of employees, the Jungemanns estimate they are saving 50 to 75 cents per hundredweight on labor costs.
    Lazy J Dairy has embraced reproductive technology. They have made heavy use of sexed semen and have put SCR ear tags on their cows to track activity and rumination. Their herd pregnancy rate is currently 30 percent.
    “The tags enable us to catch the repeat breeders a lot sooner,” Janet said.
    This latest change in herd size has brought about some other changes. Kari quit her job as a CPA and is now in charge of calf care at Lazy J Dairy. She and Janet work together to track the herd’s reproduction status and keep the farm’s books. Emily comes to the farm on a regular basis to confirm pregnancies with blood tests.
    The beginnings of Lazy J Dairy were quite humble.
    “When I was a high school sophomore, I bought eight heifers and milked them in an old hog barn on my dad’s farm,” Russell said. “I milked my cows at 3:30 (a.m.) so that I could help Dad milk his 40 cows before I went to school.”
    Russell and Janet were high school sweethearts. Shortly after marrying in 1980, they launched their own dairy operation.
    “We moved onto a tree claim that had no buildings,” Russell said. “We bought an old trailer home to live in and purchased a couple of old barns for our cattle. The barns were in tough shape. You could throw a cat through the roofs or the walls.”
    Within a few years, the Jungemanns had built their milk herd up to 40 head. In 1992, they got the opportunity to purchase the farm where they presently live.
    “The farm came with a 100-cow freestall barn and a double-4 herringbone parlor,” Russell said. “The previous owners had used the facilities for 19 years and considered them shot. But we went on to milk in that parlor for another 25 years.”
    One of the first things the Jungemanns did upon moving to their new farm was increase the size of the milking parlor to a double-8. They also purchased additional cows and went from milking 40 head to 140 head.
    The Jungemanns have made a habit of constantly upgrading their dairy.
    “Every year, we made some kind of improvement without borrowing any money,” Russell said. “We might add a pen for some of our cattle or pour a concrete pad for our silage. We’ve gotten pretty good at pouring concrete.”
    In 2006, the Jungemanns built a new freestall barn and increased their herd to 400 head. They added onto their freestall barn in 2012 and expanded their milk herd to 550 head. But milking was still being done in the same original double-8 parlor.
    Like all dairy farmers, the Jungemanns have endured their share of ups and downs.
    “We have never tried to have the highest producing herd. Our goal has always been to be as efficient as possible,” Russell said. “In 2009, when milk prices were low and feed prices were high, we only lost $1,000 for the year.”
    Janet said its partly due to the farm’s diversification.
    “We farm enough land to raise all of our own feed and have a little grain left to sell. And we have always fattened out all of our steers. It’s good to have options,” she said.
    The Jungemanns farm about 2,200 acres that are planted to corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
    A beaming carved wooden cow greets visitors outside the new milking parlor at Lazy J Dairy. But she is not the only one who is smiling.
    “Janet and I are very happy to have been blessed with the opportunity to work alongside our family every day,” Russell said with a broad grin.
    And they are glad they have been able to continue improving over the years.