Zernicke’s Landstad Dairy LLC
Derick and Amy Zernicke
Bonduel, Wisconsin
Shawano County
415 cows
    How did you get into farming? Derick was born into farming. Derick’s parents, Delmar and Rozanne, are active members in the LLC today. Amy married into farming when she and Derick married in 2002.
    What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? The milk price is our biggest concern. Everything else that goes with farming, like fuel, cropping, equipment and repairs have all consistently gone up in price, and milk price varies so much. It makes staying in farming difficult. Keeping employees is another big concern. It is getting harder and harder to pay a wage that makes your employees want to stay. They are always looking for easier jobs and jobs with benefits, and that makes it hard to compete. We have been blessed so far to keep good-quality employees.
    What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? The most recent technology we added was the CowManager program. Our heifers are housed at Derick’s parents’ farm, and it makes it difficult to catch them in heat. The CowManager program has allowed us to monitor them via ear tags that catch them in heat for us. This has been a vital tool for making sure we are breeding on a natural cycle as much as possible.
    What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We moved our herd checks to every two weeks so we are not cycling as many cows through at one time. This has proven to be beneficial because when checking smaller groups, we have shown that our conception rate has increased. This has also allowed us to catch any problems sooner and get them taken care of in a timely manner, which in turn helps us get the cows bred back sooner.
    What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? Due to the low milk prices, we have chosen to not update any of the equipment. We have been repairing things instead of replacing. We have also chosen to not cut all of our hay for another crop this fall, only the established fields, which will save on custom cropping and fuel. In the past, when an employee was gone on vacation, we would make sure to have them covered with a part-time employee. This past year, we covered the shifts ourselves to help save money.
    How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? We try our best to give them time off whenever they ask. If they have a child who has a school program, we make sure they can attend. We offer paid vacation after so much time here and double time on holidays. We try to hold meetings with them so we know how they are doing and see if they need anything. Having a daily conversation with them is also helpful. If they have suggestions for improvement, they know we are open to ideas and will look into it if it will make the farm work better.
    Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. Derick can look at a group of cows or heifers and know which one is which. Even after 17 years together, it amazes Amy that he can do that. She has lost a few bets on thinking there is no way he knows which animal that is. Derick’s hard work ethic and persistence is also a huge benefit to his profession. He goes and goes, and even after he comes in the house at night, he has a list a mile long he wants to get done. Amy’s ability to learn on the fly has been helpful. She did not go to school for farming or accounting and now does all the books for the farm, including payroll and taxes.
    What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? We are able to raise our five children in the country and teach them a hard work ethic. We are blessed to be able to make it to all their school and sporting events. Derick likes that it is something different every day, and Amy enjoys being able to volunteer at the kids’ schools.
    What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Take a vacation. A good break from the farm, out of country if possible so they can’t contact you with problems, helps get you sane again. Surround yourself with people who are positive, willing to help on a moment’s notice, will talk through things with you and encourage you.  
    What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? Our pasteurizer. We have bigger and healthier calves because of it. We don’t have to purchase expensive milk replacer, and the milk is ready and waiting when you go to feed calves.
    What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? Raising our five beautiful children. It is amazing to watch them grow and learn on the farm every day. They are getting to the ages where they can help out more, and it is nice to see some of them show interest in helping on the farm. We were also Shawano County Young Farmers in 2016. We are proud to host school tours from elementary through tech school. We enjoy sharing the good news of agriculture.
    What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? The next year of farming on our dairy will be more along the cost savings line. We will continue to repair not replace things. We will do our best to pay down debt and continue to work as best we can with our employees to assure them of a secure job. Over the next five years, we plan to update equipment. There may be some ownership transition from Derick’s parents to Derick and his brother, Dan. We plan to improve land we acquired by tiling and cleaning up ditches.
    How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? Our children all show cattle, so some of that time is spent at dairy shows and our county fair. Our children also play sports, so a lot of time is spent in a gym or on a field watching the kids play volleyball, basketball, football, softball and baseball. We enjoy camping although that has not happened much the last few years. When money allows, Amy enjoys traveling, and she makes Derick go along. We never go to a place twice, but we enjoy warmer weather when we can.