Mark Ainali
Grey Eagle, Minnesota
Stearns County
65 cows

How did you get into farming? I started milking in 1985. First for a farmer near New Munich, and then I milked in a rented facility until I got married in 1991. At that point, I sold my cows and started to work into my parents’, John and Delores’, farm. This is a fourth-generation farm.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? The wet fields and the milk prices. I hope we have a normal spring and the milk prices stay $17 and above.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? I put new stalls in the barn in 2012 and six automatic takeoffs in the barn. The stalls are bigger and more comfortable for the cows and the units cut a half hour off milking time.

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? Two years ago, we changed from straw bedding to shavings. The cows are cleaner, the somatic cell count stays low, and they are easy to handle.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? We really watched what we spent and only bought what we needed.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? I don’t have an employee. If I take time off, my brother, Pat, or sons, Zach and Mitch, will milk for me.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I’m a good cow person. I know if they are sick by looking at them; if you are around them every day you know.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? Being my own boss. Nobody tells me what to do. I also like that every day is a little different from the next.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Stick with it if you like it; keep plugging away.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? Buying a new TMR. I bought that in 2006. It’s a more consistent mix. Before that I had an auger mixer, and I couldn’t throw long stem hay in. I also have a feed pusher. It’s a three-wheel John Deere tractor with a blade mounted in front. It saves time and your back.

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? My cows have come a long way since I came home. My herd average is 24,000 pounds of milk, and it used to be around 19,000 pounds. I attribute a lot of that to A.I.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? Stay where I am at. I’d like to have a calf barn someday.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? I try to visit my grandkids, otherwise they stop out here.