Dairy Profile: Leroy Baldwin

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Leroy Baldwin
Norwalk, Wisconsin
Monroe County
80 cows

How did you get into farming? I grew up in a house with no running water. I started working for Ron Clark until I bought his cows in 1990. I rented a farm until I was able to purchase my own farm in 1992. We were $12,000 per cow in debt. From 1992-2020, I have been able to purchase five farms. When we bought our first farm, we just about starved, but our last one was bought easily.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I am concerned about trying to hold the price of milk. If people would cut back 1 or 2 pounds per cow per day it would help hold the price. Farmers spend 99% of their time producing and 1% of their time marketing, and that’s why things never hold.
 
What is a recent change you made on your farm and the reason for it? I am not making any changes because I am 57-years-old and trying to slide out the other side. It’s working so I’m not changing anything.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I have studied the business side of farming a lot, and I farm within my checkbook. It has also made a big difference to have a good banker. I am very appreciative of that.

What is the best decision you have made on your farm? Marrying my wife Stephanie. It was also a good decision to put a manure pit in, and I decided a long time ago not to monkey with junk. That has helped me be successful too.

What are three things on the farm that you cannot live without? My total mixed ration because it feeds the cows. My loader tractor because it makes everything a lot easier. My wheel barrow because it only cost me $39, and it lasts for years. It also makes for a good fitness program because I feed all my cows with it. I can feed three cows per minute with the wheelbarrow.

What strategies do you use to withstand the volatile milk prices? I put money away when the price is good. Self-discipline is so important.

How do you maintain family relationships while also working together? We do not have employees; it is just my wife and I. We milk in two separate barns which helps maintain a good relationship. But really, we have gotten along great ever since I figured out who the boss was (her).

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I like that it is a forced savings plan. If you get up and work every day and pay attention, you will end up with a net worth.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? If something can be fixed with money then don’t worry about it. It’s not a real problem then. A real problem is something you can’t fix with money like health issues.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? I plan to retire and live off the rent in the next five years. I’m not investing any more in machinery or anything like that.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We never do anything but farm. Now our kids do things besides farm because they are grown.

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