Running the whole show

Mallow takes over farm following parents’ retirement

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IXONIA, Wis. – In seven years’ time, Ann Mallow went from acquiring her first calf to taking over the family farm. She got an early start at the age of 14, and by the time she was 18, Mallow was milking her own herd and running a business separate from her parents.
The two generations farmed side by side at the same location but with independent herds, freestall barns, bulk tanks and feed. It was a strategic move that would set the young Mallow up for success and make the current transition a smooth one for all three family members.
“I already had my name out there but was still under my parents’ umbrella,” Mallow said. “I had experience dealing with the financials and different farm programs. Being separate for three years helped get me to where I am now. It was the best thing we could’ve done.”
Now at age 21, Mallow is running the entire farm after her parents, Joe and Karen, retired in spring. She bought their herd of 30 cows April 1 and added them to her herd of 40. Mallow took over the operation and began renting the land and buildings as well.
“Every single input cost is mine, and I have input costs as far down as I can get them,” Mallow said. “My parents are 100% out of it financially. They are truly retired. My dad even sleeps in now.”
Mallow milks 70 cows and farms 130 acres near Ixonia. A lot has changed for this entrepreneur since the time she received her first milk check. For starters, Mallow’s milking herd has more than tripled in size.
“My goal is to be milking 80 cows by next year,” she said.
To grow her herd, Mallow has been buying cows from cattle auctions. She buys most animals over the phone sight unseen – a testament to the trust she places in those she deals with.
“I buy cattle from some really amazing people,” Mallow said. “I don’t worry about what’s coming on the trailer. I tell them I’m looking for so many animals, and they bring them over, and so far, I’ve had no unpleasant surprises. The people I deal with have good eyes for cattle.”
Mallow bought 25 cows through auctions last year. She will take any breed and currently has every breed on her farm except Guernsey, including many crossbred cows.
“I don’t care what color they are just as long as they milk and have a nice temperament,” Mallow said. “I try not to buy a problem.”
Mallow likes the variety in her herd and enjoys comparing pounds of milk and components among breeds.
“Each time, there is a different breed in every spot for my top five components cows,” she said.  
Mallow likes to take on what she calls TLC cows, which she said are nice animals but sell for less money. Their problems are small in her book, such as a cow that needs some hoof work or one that could use a little extra weight on her bones, or a cow that needs to be bred. A cow whisperer of sorts, Mallow has a knack for transforming a less-than-ordinary animal into a top-performing member of the herd.
“I can work with pretty much anything,” she said. “I’m willing to put the time in, and it’s kind of fun to see the results. Some of the TLC cows are my best cows now.”
Mallow no longer raises youngstock but rather ships calves at 5 days old. Several years ago, she was focused on registered genetics, but her focus has changed. To maximize available labor and save input costs, Mallow abandoned A.I. and now breeds cows with a bull. Alleviated from calf chores, Mallow can devote more time to her milking herd. Milk quality and components are now her focus.  
“I adapt to the times and do what I have to do to keep going,” Mallow said. “Raising a heifer costs around $2,000, but the most I’ve paid for an animal is $1,500, so it saves me money to buy my replacements.”
The Mallows recently took down a corn crib used for raising calves and turned a heifer building into a commodity shed.
“I’m trying to leave the calf stuff behind and modify buildings according to what’s more useful for me today,” Mallow said. “It’s a nice change.”
This fifth-generation go-getter of a farmer is determined to see her family’s farm continue to thrive. Management responsibilities are now Mallow’s, who is the primary labor force, while Joe and Karen have become their daughter’s employees. Their hours vary by season, and Mallow pays her mom and dad an hourly rate for their work.
Her dad helps with fieldwork and tending to equipment. Her mom helps in the holding area, bringing cows into the double-4 flatbarn parlor where Mallow milks twice a day. Her parents also help with making hay, and she can rely on them in a pinch when she is having a busy day. Mallow has taken over every facet of the farm, including fieldwork.
“I love the crop side,” Mallow said. “It’s fun. I like being able to decide what to plant. My dad helped me more in the spring so I could get my feet on the ground. I went from renting 5 acres of land to renting 130, and I only owned two pieces of equipment. But now, I’m taking on the majority of the fieldwork and will do all of the planting next year.”
Mallow’s first equipment purchase was a skid loader she bought in 2020. She now also owns three tractors, a manure spreader, mower conditioner, baler, mixer and planting equipment. Her parents did a lot of chopping and bagging, but Mallow chose not to buy any of that equipment. Instead, she bought a new round baler and individual bale wrapper.
“I bale everything, and I make quite a bit of baleage now,” she said. “I don’t use bags. The original plan was to make all dry hay, but with Wisconsin weather, that didn’t work. The baler was an in-season purchase, and it works well.”
Mallow does not own any chopping equipment and plans to hire out corn silage harvesting.
“I’m sticking to what I know but also branching out some,” she said. “I like thinking outside the box. Earlier this month, I got my first load of sweet corn silage. It’s a cheaper feed, and I wanted to see what it can do. It’s working pretty good, and I will most likely keep feeding that in the future.”
Her cow smarts and financial wit have brought Mallow a long way. But surrounding herself with the right people is what Mallow considers her biggest success.
“I would not be here without the great connections I have in this industry,” Mallow said. “I’m very lucky to have a good, strong team behind me. It takes the burden off. They’re my support system – the glue that helps hold it all together – and I wouldn’t be farming if it weren’t for these people.”
Looking ahead, Mallow hopes to buy the farm one day and also perhaps put in a different milking setup.
“I might even consider putting in robots someday,” Mallow said. “The parlor is as old as me, but everything is set up nicely for now. I’m pretty happy I’ve made it this far, and my dream is to keep going.”

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