Iowa dairies: No one way to do things
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:06 PM
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — Five families talked about their operations at last week's Dairy Iowa meeting at the Heartland Agribition Center in Independence.
"We have five very diverse operations," said Leo Timms, Iowa State University animal science professor. "There is no one way to do it. It's all about believing in your cows, your industry, your family and your employees."
Hoeflers use robots
Eileen and Brian Hoefler milk 184 cows with three Lely robots near New Vienna. Brian's father and the couple's four children are all involved in the operation.
Eileen said that when their oldest son went to ISU several years ago, they started looking at robotic milking systems. After lots of study, they made their decision and have been operating with the robots for 10 months.
"The quality of life, I don't even know how to explain it," Hoefler said.
Nick Rolling and his wife, LuAnn, milk 72 to 85 cows in a swing-8 parlor near Waterville. Their oldest daughter, Amanda, and her husband, Brian Streeper, recently returned to the farm.
"With them coming back, it brought a renewed sense of purpose to LuAnn and myself as to why we're dairying," Rolling said.
The Rollings' operation blends low-input grazing with modern dairy practices.
"We try to keep our capital investment down when possible, but not always, because you need to invest to make money at times, and we try to be labor efficient," Rolling said.
Their initial investment in milking facilities was $20,000 for used equipment, a building conversion and a new milk house. Cattle are housed in a free-stall barn bedded with sand.
The Rollings are fall seasonal calvers. Their cattle are a three-way cross of Jersey, Swedish Red and Red and White Holstein genetics.
Lantzkys are on Twitter
Brian and Heidi Lantzky, who milk 160 registered Jerseys near Hawkeye, shared how they use social media.
"Twitter is like talking to people in your local coffee shop only it's worldwide," Brian said. "I talk to people around the world, and I don't have to leave the farm to do it."
He likens Twitter to leaving Post-It Notes. He communicates with a variety of dairy and agricultural industry people, politicians, chefs and consumers.
"I can jump on Twitter via my smartphone while I'm mixing feed and see what all my friends around the world are doing," Brian said.
Communicate with Brian at http://twitter.com/heibri. Heidi does the farm's Facebook page. Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/heibri.jerseys.
Reuter keeps moving
Rick Reuter and his son, Dan, farm in partnership near Peosta. Reuter was just out of high school when he started dairying in 1975. He had $13 in his checking account, and his father cosigned the loan for him when he bought his first bunch of cows.
"He told me that I'd learn fast on how to do things and what works and what doesn't work," Reuter said.
Reuter had the first herd in Iowa to produce over 30,000 pounds of milk.
He milked 60 to 80 cows until 1997 when he built a 240-stall free-stall barn. Ten years later the herd was at 400 cows. He built a double-12 milking parlor. In 2009 they built another free-stall barn. They milk 700 to 750 cows and have 850 head on the farm.
"These young guys, they push you," Reuter said. "It's a lot of fun. I've always said that if you aren't going forward, you're going backwards. There's no such thing as coasting."
An Iowa move
Harvey VanEss, his wife, Lisa, and their sons Joshua, Tyler, Jeremy and his wife, Patricia; Chad and his wife, Kimlee; and Todd and his wife, Stephanie, have a 4,000-cow dairy near Sanborn.
VanEss relocated his dairy from Washington to Idaho in 1994. In 2008 the operation had grown to 2,000 cows on two drylot dairies. With the boys wanting to join the operation, they decided to build a new dairy.
"We looked in Idaho, Orgeon, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, South Dakota and Iowa, and we ended up in Iowa," VanEss said.
They started moving dirt in May 2007 and built a 4,000 cow dairy with a cross ventilated barn and a double-50 parallel parlor where they milk three times a day.