Dan Tekippe uses a reverse plate cooler to pasteurize milk for transfer into a stainless steel tank on his Gator at his farm near Manchester, Iowa.
Dan Tekippe uses a reverse plate cooler to pasteurize milk for transfer into a stainless steel tank on his Gator at his farm near Manchester, Iowa. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
    MANCHESTER, Iowa – Dairy farmer Dan Tekippe might just be the king of stainless steel. His kingdom includes a livestock trailer, a 500-bushel manure spreader and three Jeeps he made from his favorite material. And by the way – he designed and constructed his own double-12 milking parlor completely from stainless steel, too.
    His 720 gooseneck livestock trailer cost him $10,000 to make, which seemed pricey at the time. But 20 years later, Tekippe has a trailer that shows no wear.
    That is why he calls himself a “stainless steel freak.” Plus, Tekippe said being able to make an item like a manure spreader is a special skill. He made the spreader’s frame and beaters, and bought the cylinders and wheels.
    ”It’s a technique I just have. I can look at something, and I can take it apart in my mind,” he said.
    And it is not just stainless steel items he has created for the farm. He listed the other items he built from the ground up: a disk chisel, a 20-foot offset disk, a sprayer, two hay wagons, a bale grinder, a tile plow and cart, a seven-yard dirt scraper and a 20-foot flatbed trailer.
    His special skill has proven useful on his 150-cow dairy near Manchester, Iowa, where he and his wife, Mary, and son, Matt, work together. They have a 1,200-head farrow-to-finish hog operation as well, which Tekippe said he handles by himself. The farm also feeds out about 70 steers a year and raises its own heifers.
    Mary Tekippe is the herdswoman for the dairy. They have one part-time employee to assist with the 710 acres of cropland they own, along with 150 acres rented.
    If Tekippe sounds like a man who has a lot going on, he is fine with that.
    “I can’t sleep, so I might as well be working,” he said, sharing his current age, 63. “I’ll work till I can’t work – I’ll be active so I’ll live longer.”
    As for Tekippe’s stainless steel habit, “It ain’t work,” he said. “I like a challenge, and building this stuff is a challenge.”
    His background of 10 years working at an implement dealership in Dubuque, Iowa, helped him develop his mechanical skills. He and Mary began farming with Tekippe’s father near there in 1982.
    “Then Mary and I jumped in the car with the kids and headed west in ’88,” he said.
    West was one county over, where he bought 240 acres to begin his family’s dairy with 70 cows in a stanchion barn.
    He started building his parlor in 2002, but it wasn’t finished until 2005. He had looked at parlors and they all had ideas he wanted to use, so he combined many of them and added unique features of his own. But it wasn not easy.
    “I had to cut it apart twice,” Tekippe said. “The main frame wasn’t right.”
    Naturally, all the components – from butt plates to rails – are stainless steel. But the parlor’s most unique feature is a product of Tekippe’s creative mind. There are two pipelines and two receiving vats, one for milk headed to the bulk tank, and one for any milk that is diverted. He made his own pasteurizer, essentially a reverse plate cooler, which runs in the utility room during milking and empties into a tank on his Gator, a tank which – you guessed it – he made from stainless steel.
    All the components will wash at the same time, but with separate soap and water supplies. One computer manages the system.  
    “I had a picture of it in my mind,” Tekippe said. “Nobody could tell me it wouldn’t work, and I had a hunch it would work. They had to bring in every inspector (to approve it) because no one ever did it.”
    “And I love it,” he added, noting many milk inspection scores of 100.
    Working with stainless steel has its own challenges, according to Tekippe. He said it’s 50% tougher than steel, so items can be made thinner to compensate for weight. It can warp, so it needs to be bent in the opposite direction when welded. His set-up includes a wire welder and plasma torch.
    “I’ve got all the goodies,” he said. “They’re my toys.”
    His Jeeps are also toys. He built the first one in two months, and the second in three months. His current project, his third Jeep, has been underway in his shop for six months.
    “I have one for winter, one for summer that has no cab, like a dune buggy, and this one will be for spring and fall,” he said, smiling.
    Naturally, neighbors and fellow farmers have occasionally asked for a stainless steel favor, and he knows it could be a business of its own. But he just builds things for his own farming.
    His next project is the box for a Dodge truck.
    He can visualize it already.