Working toward his future

Brumm joins family dairy full time

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STACYVILLE, Iowa — Caleb Brumm has been helping on the farm since he was getting off the bus as a kindergarten student. 

“He didn’t spend much time in the house,” said Steve Brumm, Caleb’s dad.

Brumm Dairy is a partnership which began in 1997. The Brumms have 280 cows that they milk in a double-12 parallel parlor. They have 1,000 acres of cropland which they use to grow feed and cash crops. Their milk cows are housed in free stalls with sawdust on top of waterbeds.

Caleb is working full time on Brumm Dairy alongside his dad and uncle, Dean Brumm. They are assisted by two employees as well as Caleb’s younger brother Nathan — who has worked alongside Caleb since they were young and is attending Iowa State University — and Dean’s son, Dylan Brumm. Caleb’s grandfather, Rick Brumm, lives on the main farm site and is retired.

“It would be great if it could stay a family dairy,” Rick said.

Caleb joined the farm in April 2022 after finishing college. He attended Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar and received a degree in dairy science technology and agriculture business.

During his final year of college, Caleb lived near the farm and commuted more than an hour both ways four days a week to class. After graduation, he transitioned his involvement to full time.

“I’ve thought about doing other things, but it’s kind of what I’ve always wanted to do,” Caleb said.

Steve said Caleb coming on the farm full time coincided with a labor shortage.

“When you have a son who ... knows what to do on a day-to-day basis, ... it has been kind of a huge relief,” Steve said.

Currently, the farm is owned in partnership, so eventually if Caleb wants to own the farm, he will need to buy one or more of the shares in the business. Rick said the partnership was created in hopes that if someone was interested in farming, the partnership could hand the farm down.

Steve said they have not yet talked through the specific details of bringing Caleb on.

“We are getting his feet on the ground … seeing if this is what he really wants to do,” Steve said. It’s a huge commitment.”

Caleb also has a cousin, Owen Bentley, who is a senior in high school and is interested in farming. 

Steve said that it is gratifying to have family members interested in the farm.

Caleb said carrying on the farm is important to him.

“I wouldn’t want to see it leave,” he said.

Caleb’s role revolves around the calves and youngstock. Heifers are in loose housing at the farm site where Caleb lives. Milk calves are housed at the main farm site.

Calves are fed pasteurized milk. This has been important for their farm, Steve said.

“It seems like we get bigger calves,” Steve said. “They just perform a lot better.”

Calf feeding has been part of Caleb’s role for a long time. When he was younger, he said, driving skid loader and feeding calves were his favorite chores.

Caleb said one of the challenges of transitioning onto the farm has been relational aspects with family members.

“You try to get along with both these two (his dad and uncle),” Caleb said. “Usually, most days are pretty good.”

Steve said that Caleb brings ideas and fresh energy to the farm. However, being the youngest farm member, Caleb has not gained a full seat at the decision table yet.

One new technology Caleb has brought to the farm is auto steer for two of their tractors and Haybine. Caleb is in charge of this because Steve said he does not know how to operate it.

“He’s got friends that use it all the time,” Steve said. “We’re just out of that gap now.”

The Brumms do not have plans to expand their dairy farm. When it comes to the future, Steve said, they are looking at viability after the last few years of low milk prices.

Once Steve and Dean retire, there will be a labor void.

“Labor is going to be huge for (Caleb),” Steve said. “That’s up to him what he decides to do ... (for what) this picture looks like.”

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