Dairy Profile: Bob Gierok

Bob Gierok of Independence, Wisconsin | Trempealeau County | 50 cows

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How did you get into farming? I grew up with it. I bought this farm from my dad in 1995. I have seven brothers and one sister. My older brother was going to farm here, but he found a different place close by, so the opportunity showed up for me to take this place over.

What are the most significant ways your farm has changed since you started farming? Dairy farming in general has changed so much since I started. The spread of pay between milk plants has gotten wider. At the beginning of my career, everyone paid within 20-30 cents of each other and everyone needed milk. Now, no one wants milk, and there is as much as a $6 per hundredweight gap of pay between dairies.

What was a challenge you faced in your dairy farming career and how did you overcome it? We had a barn fire in 2016 and had to determine whether to build back or not. We lost all of our hay and facilities, and the industry was in a good place at that time. We overcame it by milking our cows at the neighbor’s farm. We ended up building a new tiestall barn. We salvaged the barn cleaner chain and purchased a lot of used equipment to get back up and running. A lot of the neighbors helped to rebuild. It’s funny now to think that all the neighboring dairy farmers took what little time they had between chores to do more work and help me rebuild. Especially on the day we hung the rafters, it was surreal to see all my neighbors swinging around up there. It allowed me to really see the heart of my neighbors. They just wanted to see it get done.

What is the best decision you have made on your farm? Marrying my wife and having kids. There is a 10-year gap between my wife and I, and she works off the farm. We have four kids.

What are three things on the farm that you cannot live without? The skid loader, because we do so many jobs with it. I often tell my kids that we are going to have a skid loader appreciation day where we do everything the skid loader normally does but by hand as a reminder to take care of the skid loader by greasing and maintaining it regularly. The second thing I couldn’t live without is our milking units. We use Surge one-touch machines, and they tell me everything I need to know. It’s so helpful being able to keep an eye on milk weights. Finally, my dog, Patches, because he is my best friend. He’s the first thing I see when I go out in the morning and the last thing I see before I go in for the night.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? Having a plant to process my milk. There are so many small creameries closing down and more farms selling out all the time. Then, the milk haulers have to go farther between farms to haul the milk, and the plants have less patrons.

What strategies do you use to withstand the volatile milk prices? We put things off if we can, and we just fix what we have.

How do you maintain family relationships while also working together? My kids help me a lot, and we just try to communicate. We’re doing pretty good because the kids have started to begin chores without me having to tell them to.

What do you find most rewarding about dairy farming? The kids getting involved and finding what they like about farming. My oldest girl, Hannah, has started doing the records, and my son, Albin, has started to learn milking.

Tell us something special about your farm. This year will mark the 150th year the farm has been in my family. There are 40 acres that were homesteaded, and the abstract shows that they paid $4 per acre for that 40-acre parcel.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? To survive. We have no plans to expand at all. I don’t want to milk any more cows than I already am.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We try to get away for vacation when we can. We went to Mount Rushmore a while back, and it was interesting to see how different the land is out there.

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