ARENA, Wis. – Longevity is a term frequently used amongst dairy farmers when talking about cows who last a long time, but there is something to be said for the longevity of Wisconsin dairy farm families as well.  
    The Jones family has been farming outside the Iowa County town of Arena since 1865. The family operates Hoch-Niedrig Holsteins and milks 70 registered Holsteins.
    The Jones’ farm consists of 350 tillable acres, about half of which is irrigated.
    Cliff and Peggysue Jones are the fifth generation, and their son, Cyrus, and his wife, Tessa, make up the sixth generation. Cyrus and Tessa’s 7-month-old daughter, Emma, is the seventh generation to call the farm home.
    Their current farm location received century farm designation at the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair, and the family’s home farm is eligible for sesquicentennial recognition.
    Cliff and Peggysue took over the farm from Cliff’s parents, Lynn and Myrtle, in 1998. Cyrus has always been a part of the operation, and the family is beginning to work on plans for once again transitioning the farm to the next generation.
    As to be expected with over 100 years of dairying, the Jones family has witnessed many changes and growth spurts.
    “My parents added on to the barn and put in the first pipeline in 1966,” Cliff said. “That just about doubled the herd from 35 cows to 76.”
    In the early 1970s, a trip with friends and neighbors to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario, spurred Lynn and Myrtle to dip their toes into the world of registered Holsteins. They began investing in registered cows, a tradition the current generations of the family still enjoy.
    “We all enjoy the process of breeding the registered animals,” Cliff said. “We all kind of have our own breeding philosophy. My cows look a little different from Cyrus’ cows.”
    Despite the differences in their individual thoughts on sire selection, the basis of their breeding philosophies closely mirror each other as each place a premium on developing cow families and selecting for type.
    When Tessa joined the family, she brought with her the desire for showing cows, something everyone in the family has come to appreciate and enjoy.
    “I like to show,” Cyrus said. “There are several breeders in the area I look up to and look at how they breed their cows. I know I’m several generations behind them in terms of developing those kind of cow families, but that is my goal. Those are the kind of cows I want to breed.”
    The Joneses keep an eye on milk and components as well, and the herd has a 23,000-pound rolling herd average.
    “I would rather get large quantities of milk out of a cow over her lifetime than in just a couple of years,” Cliff said.
    In 1991, the Joneses added a stationary TMR mixer, and in 2000, they added on to their Harvestore and built a second stave silo to get away from using bags as their primary feed storage.
    “Bags would work OK if we had a portable TMR,” Cyrus said. “But having a stationary one in the barn, using silos just works better for us.”
    A recent tool the Joneses added were automatic take-offs.
    “We tell people we don’t do anything until they are tried and true, and we know they will work,” Cliff said.
    This month, the family finished renovating the tie stalls in the older portion of the barn, putting in new curbs, stalls and dividers and water line.
    “We try to do as much of that kind of stuff on our own,” Cliff said.
    This fall, the Joneses plan to build a heifer shed, a project that has been put on the back burner for several years due to low milk prices.
    “We are finally going to do it now; it just needs to be done,” Peggysue said. “We are overcrowded and need the space.”
    The Joneses hope to acquire more crop ground close to their farm.
    “I do most of the chopping, and Cyrus does most of the hauling,” Peggysue said. “I hate driving equipment on Highway 14. That is a crazy road. I would love to not have to travel far on Highway 14 to get to our fields.”
    Unfortunately, Peggysue’s fears of that stretch of road are well-founded. The Joneses have lost several family members and close neighbors and friends to accidents on Highway 14 because the highway splits the farm; it is one of the few things they dislike about their farm’s location.
    While they continue to make improvements as they can to both the farm and their herd, the Joneses have an eye toward the future with the seventh generation of their family on the ground.
    “Emma loves riding in her seat on the side-by-side with Grandma to do chores,” Tessa said. “Before long, she’ll be big enough to ride in the tractor. She loves the cows and being in the barn too.”
    The Joneses are working to find ways to keep their dairy farm relevant and profitable.
    “It is hard to know what the future might hold,” Cyrus said. “You just have to work hard and always be thinking about ways to do things better, but farming is pretty much all I’ve ever wanted to do in life.”
    Cliff and Peggysue agreed with their son, and said they worry about the difficulties he and Tessa might face as they prepare to take over the farm in the future. But, Cliff has sage advice for his son to remember.
    “Behind every good farmer is a great farm wife,” Cliff said. “That’s been true in this family for generations and is what has kept things going.”