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Building on a lifetime of dairying

Beringers continue traditions of family farm

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FARLEY, Iowa — Tom Beringer remembers moving to the farm with his parents in 1952. He was just 5 years old at the time, and his parents had a myriad of animals: cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. The farm buildings were barely usable, and the house had snow drifts in the living room in the winter.

“This is my home, that is for sure,” Tom said.

Today, Tom lives on the farm with his wife, Carol. The Beringers milk 180 cows near Farley in a double-12 parlor. The cows are housed in a sand-bedded freestall barn and fed a total mixed ration.

Tom helps on the farm when needed, as his children and grandchildren manage the day-to-day operations. The Beringers’ daughter, Lisa, with the help of their son, Wayne, do the majority of the milking.

Wayne custom raises heifers on his farm near Bernard.

The Beringers’ son, Don, is involved as well while their daughter, Lynn, and her husband live near Petersburg.

The farm has seen a lot of changes since Tom was a young boy.

The house was rebuilt in 1957. The original barn had a row of 16 stanchions on one side and horse stalls on the other and a dirt floor. Most of the farm buildings were torn down and rebuilt.

“There was nothing here,” Tom said. “They had to dispose of most of it.”

Hogs were a big part of the farming operation in its early years, so the family built a farrowing barn in 1961. They hired two local men for $2 an hour. All summer, they dug the footings for the building by hand, fixed fences and made other repairs.

“When we built that farrowing house, we thought we died and went to heaven,” Tom said. “We had heat, water and everything else.”

Eventually, the family added a few machine sheds, multiple cattle barns and calf housing to the farmstead. The original barn was remodeled to remove the horse stalls and milk more cows. The family also purchased additional land as it became available.

Today, they crop close to 1,000 acres. They have cattle on a few locations, with a lot of them being dairy-beef crossbreds.

The family built the freestall barn and manure pit in 1999 and the parlor in 2001. Don clearly remembers its construction.

“Back then, it was pay-as-you-go,” Don said. “They didn’t borrow money to build, and it took us a whole summer to build.”

As the farm progressed, a TMR was added, which led to updated feed storage. They now use three bunker silos and multiple bags to store feed. They chop around 100 acres of corn silage every year which is put into bunkers. Other bunker silos store ear corn and ground corn. Cows are also fed a big square bale of hay on top of the TMR. A lot of hay is purchased.

The family hauls feed to different locations to feed cattle and puts feed up at two locations.

Tom spent many years raising and marketing horses in addition to his dairy career. 

He and a friend partner in the purchase of colts. He said his dad was such a good horseman that he could drive a team of horses making hay by just talking to them, never laying a hand on them.

“My dad is the reason I got into horses,” Tom said. “That served me well. I met a lot of people and made deals all over the country.”

Tom’s dad passed away when they were building the parlor. He was 86 years old and had been cultivating corn all day. When he brought the cultivator home, he asked Tom to take him to the hospital. He passed from a heart attack and never returned home.

 Tom said the dairy has made quite a transition from when he first moved in with his parents. From picking corn by hand to milking in a parlor, the times just keep changing. Tom said he appreciates the blessings of good health for his wife and him, and that she was able to stay home on the farm with him the entire time. 

“We were able to bring this up from nothing and always had money to pay the bills,” Tom said. “We’re all proud of it.”

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