Doug Fairbanks describes his dairy to visitors during a National Jersey Convention tour June 24 near Anamosa, Iowa. Fairbanks and his wife, Jody, own the 350-cow herd of Jerseys, Brown Swiss and Holsteins, while Fairbanks’ nephew, Josh, and his wife, Samantha, work with the dairy and use the prefix Fairhom for their cattle.
Doug Fairbanks describes his dairy to visitors during a National Jersey Convention tour June 24 near Anamosa, Iowa. Fairbanks and his wife, Jody, own the 350-cow herd of Jerseys, Brown Swiss and Holsteins, while Fairbanks’ nephew, Josh, and his wife, Samantha, work with the dairy and use the prefix Fairhom for their cattle.

ANAMOSA, Iowa – Doug Fairbanks credits his parents for where he and his team at Wapsiana Dairy are today.

“If it wasn’t for them fighting hard through the ‘80s, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” he told Jersey breed enthusiasts attending the 2021 National Jersey Convention June 24 at the farm near Anamosa.

The visit to Wapsiana, where cattle with the Fairholm prefix are included, was one of three scheduled farm tours as part of the convention dubbed Fields of Jersey Dreams. The convention, hosted by the Iowa Jersey Cattle Club, included the American Jersey Cattle Association and National All-Jersey Inc. annual meetings, and was based in Bettendorf, Iowa. 

Wapsiana Dairy includes 350 cows and 500 acres of crops, 350 acres of which are owned by the Fairbanks family. The milking herd is mostly Holsteins, with about 40 Brown Swiss and 80 Jerseys. 

Doug’s wife, Jody, and their children – Pierce, Abby, Kaylee and Luke – are the operation’s owners. While Jody is a high school biology teacher, Doug describes her as having a full-time job raising their children and farming with him. 

Doug’s father, Charles, takes pride in his son’s family’s success as the fourth and fifth generation of dairy farmers. 

Fairholm is a venture of Doug’s nephew, Josh Fairbanks, and his wife, Samantha, who came to the dairy in 2017. Their 2-month-old son, Knox, participated in his first Jersey activity on tour day.

Fairholm is focused on show type, with many of its animals owned in partnerships. Josh began his dairy career as a fitter and then was a herdsman for several dairies including the well-known Golden Oaks in Illinois. 

“Josh and Sam are a really good addition to the farm,” Doug told visitors. “Milk pays the bills here, but we like cows we like to look at as well.”

Josh is the primary caretaker of a heifer barn where animals destined for the show ring are raised. Its occupants caught Jersey breeders’ attention during the tour stop. 

Doug told of how his father rented the dairy’s current property and lived there in Doug’s youth, milking about 40 cows in 18 stanchions. Eventually, a step-up walk-thru parlor was constructed, lasting 15 years or more. 

Returning home from college in 1990, Doug bought cattle and farmed in shares with Charles until marrying Jody in 1995. The couple then bought the entire herd along with feed and machinery. By 1999, Doug and Jody bought their first 180 acres of land that included the original rented property. Small pieces of land were purchased over the years to support the growing dairy.

The current double-12 parallel, rapid-exit parlor and freestall barn were built in 2013. 

Doug claims his purchase of Jerseys was something of a mid-life crisis played out at a dispersal when he turned 40.

But he had early experience with the breed, asking for a Jersey when he was about 8 years old.

“My dad traded a Holstein for a Jersey for me when I was a kid. As I got older, I knew I bought the wrong cow,” he said, noting how the animal did not earn its keep.

But today, he admires the Jerseys at the dairy and expects to expand the breed within his herd. 

“Each breed has a place in my heart,” he said. “But if I had to stick to one breed, it would be Jersey. “That’s because they’re good at getting bred, being efficient and putting components in the tank.”

The difference in size and other characteristics between the herd’s Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jerseys means some unique management. The Jerseys are grouped with 2-year-old Holsteins and Brown Swiss throughout their productive life. The two large breeds move on through other groups as they mature. 

The herd’s diet, said Doug, is high in corn silage, primarily because of the difficulty he sees in making good hay in Iowa’s climate. All rations are formulated based on the Holsteins. 

The Wapsiana and Fairholm Jerseys have performed well with that style, ranking among the top 10 for production in the United States each year since they were added to the herd.

But success with the Holsteins has led to sales of 90 to 100 breeding bulls to other dairies each year as well. 

The accomplishments of the Fairbanks family’s fourth generation of dairy farmers may be a foundation for the fifth. Doug and Jody’s son, Pierce, is an intern with an agricultural company, while daughter Abby has completed her freshman year of college and, according to her grandfather, Charles, wants nothing more than to spend time working at Wapsiana Dairy.