How did you get into farming? I was born and raised on the farm. When I got my license, my dad told me if I milked cows in the morning I could take the car to school. I just kept doing it. I’ve always enjoyed working with the cows. I milk 30 cows in La Crosse County.
What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I’m concerned whether or not we’ll be able to rebuild our markets and bring prices up and make things look positive again. It’s not just milk prices; it’s calf prices, cull cow prices, everything that makes a dairy farm work.
What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? We’ve started using milk and blood testing for pregnancy checking. I like that I can do it as I need it rather than having a group for the vet to do. It also gives the vet more time to do other things when he’s here for herd health.
What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We made the decision not to grow any corn this year, so we didn’t have to hire any custom harvesting done. I was laid up in the spring from shoulder surgery. My kids and I figured that corn is cheap enough to buy, and that with the cost of putting it in and the reduced labor force, we would come out ahead seeding everything in for forages. We have benefited by having extra hay to sell this year.
What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? I have cut the protein and other feed inputs that raise my cost of production. I set a base and stick with that, and top-dress the ones that might need it. You might think a cow could make more milk, but if you’re not sure, why spend the money trying to make her milk more? That, and forgoing planting corn this year have been the biggest cost-savings we’ve implemented.
How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? I have part-time help, and he helped us a lot when I was laid up. We are a small herd, but we try to be flexible and work to accommodate what he might have going on.
Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I do my own breeding and a lot of the health work, so I don’t have to rely on the vet as much or an A.I. technician.
What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I really enjoy the cows and have always enjoyed working with them.
What advice would you give other dairy farmers? I would tell young people wanting to start out that they need to have a lot of heart and soul to come into this business. Patience is a must, and if you want to be a small, independent farmer you have to quit looking at what the big guys have and stay focused on what you can do.
What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? The best purchase we have ever made was building our freestall barn in 2006. The cows used to spend a lot of time tied up in the tiestall barn. I like the freestalls. They can eat, move around and lay down as they like. They stay a lot cleaner. The increase in cow comfort is a comfort to my own mind.
What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? Being able to raise my family on the farm like I was raised.
What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? It all depends on what comes down the roads with markets and prices and things like that. I’m taking one year at a time and not looking ahead as far as five years.
How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? Right now my family enjoys Friday night high school football. My son plays and playoffs are coming up. We also enjoy going out for a good meal and going fishing when we can.