Carie Murman transports a newborn calf on her family’s dairy farm. Carie restarted the dairy operation shortly after her father and her uncle sold their cows in 2016.
Carie Murman transports a newborn calf on her family’s dairy farm. Carie restarted the dairy operation shortly after her father and her uncle sold their cows in 2016. PHOTO SUBMITTED
GLENVIL, Neb. – It has been said that the only constant is change. This is certainly the case at Murman Dairy.
“My grandfather, Wessel Murman, moved onto our farm and started milking cows in the 1930s,” said Jim Murman, the patriarch at Murman Dairy. “Wessel milked a dozen Shorthorn cows by hand. He used a horse-drawn wagon to deliver bottled milk to the town of Glenvil.”
Wessel’s son, Menno, took over the dairy operation shortly after Menno left the military at the conclusion of World War II.
“Dad brought the first Holsteins onto the place when he purchased some heifers from up in Minnesota,” Jim said.
Change came again in 1962 when Menno built a double-4 herringbone milking parlor to take the place of the farm’s venerable stanchion barn.
“My brother, Dave, and I began to gradually take over the operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” Jim said. “We built a 180-cow freestall barn in 1988 and a double-8 parallel milking parlor in 1990. We also grew our farming operation to about 1,200 acres that are all irrigated with center pivots.”
Dave and Jim continued to operate the dairy together for many years. In 2016, they decided to sell the cows so Dave could pursue a career in politics. Dave is serving as a senator in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature.
One member of the Murman family was not particularly happy to see the cows leave.
“I couldn’t stand to see our farm without cows,” said Carie, the youngest daughter of Jim and his wife, Barb. “I grew up feeding baby calves, milking cows and doing chores. Dairy cattle have been a part of my life ever since I can remember.”
Even though she was a junior in high school, Carie prevailed upon her father to bring cows back to the farm so she could start a career in dairying.
“I took some college classes when I was in high school and knew that college wasn’t for me,” Carie said. “I planned on graduating from high school when I was a junior but was told that I couldn’t participate in high school rodeo if I wasn’t a student. I really enjoy barrel racing, so I kept going to high school through my senior year.”
About a week after Dave and Jim sold their cows, Jim and Carie used the money that had been set aside for her to attend college to purchase 30 Holstein cows.
“I tried to talk Carie out of it, but her mind was made up,” Jim said.
The Murmans had kept back their youngstock and were soon able to grow their herd to its present size of 100 head. The makeup of their herd has changed over the past few years with the addition of Jersey cattle. About 30% of the Murmans’ herd is now Jersey or Holstein-Jersey crossbreds.
“I noticed a big difference in our milk when we added the Jersey cows,” Carie said. “The milk is much richer, and our cream line is a lot thicker.”
But the forces of change were not yet done with the Murman family. The coronavirus pandemic would play a role in their most recent transformation.
This past August, Jim and Barb Murman’s eldest daughter, Nikki Rhoades, joined the family operation.
Nikki’s husband, Mike, is a pastor who works for Praying Pelican Missions. Nikki and Mike have two children, Liam, 9, and Aravis, 6.
“I was a stay-at-home mom when the kids were younger,” Nikki said. “I was working in retail when the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to my job, so I asked Dad and Carie if they needed an extra hand around the farm. They were glad to have the help.”
After being away for a number of years, Nikki reacquainted herself with some of the intricacies of dairy farming.
“In some ways, I think that dairy farming is easier than when I was growing up,” Nikki said. “For instance, all of our cows now wear heat detection devices. Adding that technology has made breeding easier.”
Since joining the operation last summer, Nikki has learned how to do artificial insemination. She is now in charge of the breeding program at Murman Dairy.
“Our local A.I. technician taught me how to breed cows,” Nikki said. “I think I’m gradually getting better at it. Aravis likes to watch me when I service the cows. She insists on putting on a shoulder length glove like me and pretends that she’s loading the spare A.I. gun that we keep around.”
Before Dave and Jim quit milking, they were using sexed semen.    
“As Nikki’s A.I. skills improve, we hope to get back to using sexed semen on our top cows and breed the rest of them to beef bulls,” Jim said. “We are currently using a cleanup bull for the cows that Nikki doesn’t settle.”
There was one major change that Nikki had to deal with when she decided to join her family’s dairy operation.
“My family and I live 2.5 hours away from the farm,” Nikki said. “I have been working on the farm for four days a week and driving home on weekends to spend time with Mike and our kids. We plan to change that when our kids get done with school in the spring by moving to a home that’s a lot closer to the farm.”                     
Carie has recently taken an off-farm job to supplement her income. Jim, Carie and Nikki juggle their schedules so each of them can have time to spend with family or to simply get away from the farm for a while.
“We all know how to milk the cows, feed the calves and do anything else that needs to get done on the farm,” Carie said. “Filling in for each other isn’t a problem.”
Jim is happy to continue dairying with his daughters.
“I hope that everything works out for the girls and that our family’s history of dairy farming continues,” Jim said. “In the meantime, I’m giving them all the help that I can.”