Cows graze on pasture at Chapman Dairy in Perkins, Oklahoma. The Chapmans’ herd consists of Holsteins, Jerseys, Holstein-Jersey crossbreds and a few Brown Swiss. 
Cows graze on pasture at Chapman Dairy in Perkins, Oklahoma. The Chapmans’ herd consists of Holsteins, Jerseys, Holstein-Jersey crossbreds and a few Brown Swiss. PHOTO SUBMITTED
PERKINS, Okla. – Oklahoma might not be the first place that comes to mind when one pictures a dairy farm, but for the Chapman family, dairy farming in the north central part of the state suits them just fine.
“The weather can be a little temperamental, but we do it,” Brett Chapman said. “I would say the weather in our area would be like the midway point between farming in New Mexico and farming in Wisconsin. We get enough rain that it is really pretty good for growing a lot of different kinds of crops.”
Chapman Dairy was established at its current location near Perkins by Donny and Sherry Chapman in 1977. Chapman, a senior at the nearby Oklahoma State University, is in the process of deciding what direction his own future will take in terms of his family’s dairy farm. While attending college, he has worked on the university’s dairy farm while also remaining involved with the day-to-day operations on the family farm.
“I am in the process of deciding if I want to go out and work off the farm for a while or come back to the farm right away,” Chapman said. “I do think the experience working off the farm for a while would be a good one for me.”
In addition to family members, they have one employee working on the farm who has been with them for over 15 years.
The Chapmans milk about 130 head with approximately another 100 head of youngstock on the farm. The herd consists of Holsteins, Jerseys and Holstein-Jersey crossbreds with a smattering of Brown Swiss Chapman chose to bring to the farm for his dairy project. They also have a 45 cow-calf herd of registered Angus.
“My family owns registered Holsteins and has some exceptional ones, but I wanted to start something from scratch,” Chapman said. “I didn’t just want to show my parents’ cattle. I wanted to do my own thing.”
Chapman enjoys exhibiting Brown Swiss, and after some show ring success, he has utilized his small herd of Brown Swiss to help subsidize his college education, selling some of his best animals to other breeders.                                                                 
The cows at Chapman Dairy are housed outdoors on open pasture and are milked in a double-4 herringbone parlor. Dry hay is fed on pasture, and grain is fed in the barn. They do have a maternity barn for their close-up and fresh cows. Calves are raised in hutches.
“We don’t have the labor force or the facility to feed a (total mixed ration),” Chapman said. “Our cows do well enough for our setup. We sell some from time to time that go into herds with TMR and freestall barns, and the buyers are always very pleased with them.”
The farm consists of 120 acres that the Chapman family owns along with another 400 acres that are rented. They raise winter wheat and triticale, both of which are made into hay for their milking herd.
While the weather is great for growing crops, it can present challenges when it comes to caring for a herd of dairy cattle.
“The cows usually do pretty well being housed outdoors, but the extremes of weather are tough for them,” Chapman said. “The wind in the winter and the humidity in the summer are the biggest challenges.”    
Chapman said temperatures in the teens are considered cold for them but a 40 mph wind is not uncommon, making the wind chills difficult to deal with. Summers can see average temperatures in the 90s with high humidity.
“The extremes in weather takes a toll on both the cattle and the people,” Chapman said.
The extremes in weather are part of the reason the Chapmans have turned to crossbreeding in the fashion they have.
“If the Holsteins don’t get pregnant right away, we breed them to Jersey,” Chapman said. “I really like the Holstein-Jersey cross cows. They are very hardy, very trouble free with a lot of hybrid vigor. They handle the extremes better than the purebred cows seem to.”
When breeding their cattle, the Chapmans place a focus on breeding for moderate-sized cows with an emphasis placed on mobility and production. Health traits are important as well.
After four or five services, cows are turned in with an Angus bull to produce beef-on-dairy calves. The volume of ranches in the area creates a good market for those calves.
Securing a milk market in their region is not too difficult, Chapman said. The family ships their milk through Dairy Farmers of America where it is then marketed to Hiland Dairy.
“We are a milk deficit state, so I think our markets balance out pretty well,” Chapman said. “I think there will always be enough dairies around to be able to process the milk produced here. But when milk prices go down, we feel it just like everyone else does.”