Joel Suhr
Mantorville, Minnesota
Dodge County
160 cows

How did you get into farming? I was born and raised on the farm. After graduating from high school, I attended Ridgewater College and returned to the farm in the spring of 2002. I have been full time since. I farm with my dad, Don. My brother, Jason, works part time on the farm and has a full-time job off the farm as a mechanic. My mom, Terri, also helps on the farm when she can and works off the farm full time.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I am worried about recent events in the dairy industry, such as the closure of the AMPI plants and Dean Foods filing for bankruptcy. I am also worried about the shortage of forages and hay. We had to take a lot more of our corn this year for silage. We farm a total of 500 acres.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? A few years ago, we started using Nitrate Now through our agronomy cooperative. Before planting, we put down 80 pounds of anhydrous. After planting and the corn is up, we grid sample the fields to see where nitrogen levels are. Then, we side dress a variable rate of nitrogen to the corn’s needs so the crops grow better, and we do not waste nitrogen. We are not throwing it away on corn that does not need it, and we are not starving the corn that does need it.  

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We are feeding canola meal instead of soybean meal. It is less expensive, and we are running a higher component test with it. Right now, our components are at 4.5% butterfat and 3.6% protein. The higher components help pay the bills.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? For the past three years, we have been contracting feed products like canola meal and cottonseed when it is a reasonable price. We do the best we can with what we have.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? It is just family here. We try to talk out any problems or concerns, and we try to make it a good working environment.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I am usually good at problem solving issues or breakdowns, and we are usually able to fix the problem ourselves.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I like being my own boss, and I like that I get to see the results of the work I put into the farm.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Watch your debt load and be careful not to get in too deep.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? We purchased a bale wrapper a few years ago. It is so nice to bale when you do not have to worry about it getting dry, especially the last few years. I also use the bale wrapper to do custom work on the side.

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? We constructed new facilities for cows and youngstock. In 2003 into 2004, we built a new freestall barn. In 2005 and 2006, we put up a new calf barn and dry cow shed. In 2007 into 2008, we built a new parlor. At the time, it was a lot, but I am glad we did it then.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? In the next year, we plan to stay where we are and not make too many changes. In the next five years, we will work on transitioning the farm from Mom and Dad so my brother and I can take over and start a partnership.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? I like to visit with neighbors, family and friends.