Women in Dairy

Suzie Menzer Byron, Wisconsin Fond du Lac County 600 cows

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Tell us about your farm and family. My husband, Ryan, and I have four children: Sierra, Riley, Emma and Logan. Majerus Dairy Farms has been around for 60 years. My father, Phil, is an entrepreneur, and early on in his career, he invested his money into farming land and stanchion farms. He started by cash cropping, and after 18 years, he bought his first milking barn. Over the years, he continued to buy more; we were milking in six stanchion barns before building our current double-20 herringbone parlor. Our hired hands at the barns were not getting any younger, so he decided it was time to build. He wanted to provide more time off and an easier milking process. We moved all of our milking animals to the new facility and milked our first animal there in June of 2011. Our six other barns now house our remaining dry cows and youngstock. While we milk 440 animals at our original parlor, we purchased another milking parlor nearby and are milking an additional 160 animals there as well.

What is a typical day like for you on the dairy? As someone who works on a farm, I often do not have a typical day. Other than herd health on Mondays, I could be doing anything from data entry, payroll or moving heifers. I also manage our milk-purchase relationship, various equipment needs, and employee relations and training. 

What decision have you made in the last year that has benefited your farm? I have organized and committed to quarterly meetings for our farm employees. I put together an agenda of expectations, protocols and discussion points. We then have a translator put the agenda into a presentable format in Spanish for the employees, and we attend the meeting. We aim to encourage communication between farm management and employees, as well as show the employees they are valued and have a voice on our farm.

Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. This is an easy one — Day on the Farm. We hosted Day on the Farm this year and were visited by 700 kindergarten and first grade students from 12 schools. The majority of the kids had never been on a dairy farm before. It was incredibly memorable seeing the enthusiasm on the kids’ faces and the genuine presentation of farm life to them by our youth Day on the Farm workers.

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? I have enjoyed having the opportunity to meet such amazing people in this industry, with stories about their upbringing and what led them to life in dairy. They often have and continue to experience hardship, but they embody the values of commitment and hard work. I love being in an industry where you’re surrounded by so many people with an incredible level of integrity.

What is your biggest accomplishment in your dairy career? My current biggest accomplishment is completing our herd health plan. Many of us are now being evaluated by the FARM program. I decided to take all the doubt out of it and create my own manual, which is fully bilingual and personalized. It includes everything from employee training to all protocols, even how to handle down cows. For new personnel, it’s an easy resource to get them documented and trained quickly. It makes us more confident as a team and more efficient in getting employees on the right track, right away.

What are things you do to promote your farm or the dairy industry? I always try to push our farm to new levels of involvement in our community. Some of our favorites to support are local FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, schools and other farms. We also contribute to the county fair farm-related exhibits and enjoy having high school students on staff via the school-to-work program.

What advice would you give another woman in the dairy industry? Keep a smile on your face. Even in the crappiest moments (sometimes literally), a smile will always make you feel better, and it often will make someone else feel better too. And always think the best of people … not the worst. Positivity is contagious.

When you get a spare moment, what do you do? I enjoy spending time with my family, being on the lake and cooking.

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