The cows at Mil-R-Mor go out every day, weather permitting, at the dairy farm near Orangeville, Illinois.
The cows at Mil-R-Mor go out every day, weather permitting, at the dairy farm near Orangeville, Illinois. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
    ORANGEVILLE, Ill. – Lorilee Schultz always wanted to play a role in her family’s storied farm. When the opportunity presented itself to work alongside her grandparents and learn from their years of experience, she took it.
    Schultz’s grandparents, Robert and Kaye Miller, established Mil-R-Mor Holsteins in Dundee. When they faced urban sprawl, they relocated to the former home of Carrousel Farms in Orangeville in 2006.
    The family’s move to the northwestern corner of the state and subsequent expansion of the herd to 120 cows coincided with Schultz’s graduation from the Iowa State University. While it had not been her original plan, Schultz decided the time was right to benefit from her grandfather’s knowledge of breeding cows.
    “I had double majors in ag business and economics, and my minors were dairy science and journalism,” Schultz said. “Initially I thought about going into marketing or communications or journalism. But with it being my grandparents farming, it seemed like if I wanted to be able to take advantage of their expertise, that was the time to do it.”
    Today Schultz is the primary manager of the dairy cows and is milking 55 cows and raising the youngstock. She owns about half of the herd and is renting the farmland.
    “It’s been a slow process in terms of a transition,” Schultz said.
    Her grandfather retired following the family’s partial dispersal in 2015 that reduced the herd from about 130 cows to the current size. He is still found helping around the farm, taking care of the majority of the yardwork and gardening as well as advising Schultz as she works to continue her family’s tradition of breeding registered Holsteins.
    “It hasn’t always been easy, but it is something I love doing,” Schultz said. “I enjoy the cows and working alongside family.”
    Schultz is trying to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather’s breeding philosophy.
    “We’re looking for long-lived cows that breed back regularly and ideally get to 200,000 pounds lifetime production and score Excellent,” Schultz said. “I am also trying to breed for good components.”
    Breeding for type is the mainstay of Schultz’s breeding program, but she is trying to stay away from negative daughter pregnancy rate bulls as much as possible.
    “I’ve probably made more breeding mistakes along the way, but I have been able to take away from those mistakes and learn from them,” Schultz said.  
    There are improvements Schultz would like to make to help increase the efficiency of the farm and make the work easier, but she does not feel the benefits outweigh the financial input with the current economic status of the industry.
    “The dairy economy is what it is, and it makes it hard right now to put a lot of money into a lot of renovations to change things up,” Schultz said.
    One of the biggest challenges she has faced during her dairy farming career has been labor.
    “It is definitely more than I can do by myself, day in and day out,” Schultz said. “One full-time person would probably be sufficient, but I’ve had better luck hiring part-time people instead. Most of them are moms, so this year has been extra challenging.”
    While she is managing the farm on her own, Schultz is far from being alone. She has help from her aunt as the primary calf raiser and chore help from a variety of family members. Her brothers run a custom chopping business, so Schultz relies on them for a great deal of her crop work. She also has several part-time workers, including some of her sisters-in-law, to help her accomplish all of the chores each day.
    “I really enjoy giving my nieces and nephews and cousins the opportunity to be involved in the farm and watching how much they enjoy being here working with the animals,” Schultz said.
    Schultz is active in promoting the dairy industry. She participated in the Adopt-A-Calf program through Ag in the Classroom, which is facilitated through the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence. The farms provide updates and educational photos, videos and information about a calf and the dairy industry several times throughout the year.
    “I had four calves adopted this last year, and I paired each calf up with one of my nieces or nephews to help the students relate to the calf,” Schultz said. “It has been a fun way to help bridge the gap between the farm and our future consumers.”
    Schultz admits the past few years have been challenging and said sometimes keeping things going each day on the farm can be a monumental task.
    “Balancing physical, emotional, mental and financial health is a challenge for dairy farmers right now,” Schultz said. “There is so much negativity going on, not just in the dairy industry, but in the world in general right now.”
    While she sees the challenges of the industry, Schultz retains a bit of the embedded eternal optimism that most farmers possess, looking for ways to help the dairy industry progress and move forward with viable options for production and management models.
    “There are lots of positive things going on for our industry despite all of the turmoil right now, but you need to figure out how you can fit into it and take advantage of it, how a farm like this can stay relevant,” Schultz said. “I think there are lots of us younger dairy farmers who would like to be part of the solution, but sometimes we are so bogged down with just keeping our farms going. We don’t have much left to offer as far as time at the end of the day. The last few years, realistically, have been kind of survival mode.”