PIERZ, Minn. – On June 1, 19-year-old Jared Becker kicked off June Dairy Month by celebrating his first anniversary of dairy farming.
The young dairy farmer milks 50 cows in a tiestall barn that he uses  from his parents, Brian and Kelly Becker, in Morrison County near Pierz. He rents 90 acres of land to grow alfalfa and corn and raises his replacement heifers.
“I always wanted to do dairy farming,” Becker said. “I grew up helping my neighbors and thought it was fun.”
Becker’s days begins at 5:30 a.m. with milking cows. After milking, he feeds his cows, youngstock and beef cattle and then heads to his neighbor’s poultry barn to complete his chores there. This leaves a few hours in the afternoon to work on various tasks like fieldwork, maintenance, bedding and mixing feed. His day ends with him back in the barn milking cows.
“I knew I wanted to do something with cows, so I bought my beef cattle before I could get dairy cows,” Becker said.
Following high school graduation, Becker raised his herd of beef cows and also sided houses. But, he soon realized dairy was his calling.
Becker grew up in the dairy industry with his parents owning a herd and the community being supportive of his interests in cows. At 11  years old, Becker started milking cows for his neighbor, and he continued helping his neighbor and eventually his cousin throughout high school. This led to the purchase of Becker’s own herd last year at the age of 18.  
Last May, Becker’s uncle, Kevin Walcheski,  decided to sell his cows. Becker jumped at the opportunity and bought the herd from his uncle.
“It was an easy decision,” Becker said. “I knew I wanted to. I was just waiting for the right chance.”
For the first two months, Becker milked his cows in Walcheski’s barn while his parents’ barn was renovated to accommodate the new herd.
“We didn’t have too much to fix up in the barn,” Becker said. “I am just thankful there is a barn here.”
Becker’s parents milked cows for 17 years until they sold their herd in 2012. Now his dad drives truck, crop farms and operates a poultry barn, and his mom works at the area school.
The facility, which had not housed cattle in a decade, needed to be cleaned, stalls had to be repaired and drink cups had to be installed. Becker and his family also put in a new manure auger, vacuum pump and bulk tank.
“It was mainly cleaning things up and some electrical work,” Becker said.
Knowing the challenges that come with starting a career in the dairy industry, Becker is thankful both the opportunities to  use his parents’ barn and purchase his uncle’s cattle, and that those assets could remain in the family.
While Becker is the sole dairy farmer, getting the cows milked and chores complete is an affair with all hands on deck.     Becker’s dad helps him in the winter when work is slow. His brothers – Chris, 26, and Scotty, 16 – and mom help with chores when they can. Becker’s third brother, Zach, 21, helps out when he is home from college, and his sister, Leah, 9, is often found in the barn doing chores or naming her brother’s cows.
Becker also enjoys spending quality time with his girlfriend, Jayden Smieja, as she often helps out on the dairy feeding calves and a variety of tasks.
The dairyman is appreciative of the assistance and support he receives from his family and is very thankful his dad is close by to offer guidance.
“My mom and dad help me out quite a bit,” Becker said. “In exchange, I give them my bull calves to raise out.”
With the support of his family, neighbors and other farming mentors, Becker has had a whirlwind of a first year. He has learned various self-sufficient skills, such as breeding, some herd health work and welding. These skills allow him to cut costs where necessary.
“I am very grateful for all the area farmers that have helped out,” Becker said.
Becoming a more experienced dairyman allows Becker to envision growth on his farm, and the updated 62-stall barn gives Becker room to do so.
“I want to milk more cows and maybe build a new shed for switch cows,” Becker said.
Despite his young age and the adversity he faced when starting a career as a dairy farmer in today’s industry, often with doubt from others, Becker is happy with his decision to milk cows.
“It is something I really enjoy, and I like being my own boss,” Becker said. “Now, the cows are calving in again, and my first A.I. calves are being born. It is cool to see how far I’ve gotten.”