Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greg Lemke - Arkansas Cattle Producer

Today we welcome a post from Jeralyn Stephens of the Beefmasters Breeders United. She has shared with us the story of Greg Lemke a cattle producer from Arkansas. 

Greg Lemke of Gentry, Ark., always had a passion for cattle. However a hog hunting accident in 2007 followed by a layoff as a result of downsizing in Latco in Lincoln, Ark., fine-tuned the passion into a livelihood necessity. Greg found himself wheelchair-bound, out of work and unable to use his engineering design degree but not his intelligence and determination.

Greg has 130 acres on which he runs 50 Beefmaster mommas. Greg is very partial to the Beefmaster breed. Greg said, “I always liked the breed and already had a small cow herd when I was young. Then I talked with a guy who raised Beefmasters. Many years ago we traded my labor for painting his truck for a heifer. Then I bought another and started my Beefmaster herd with two. I have never looked back at that decision.”

According to Greg, Beefmasters are the top momma cows in fertility and milk production with a higher weaning weight. The cows also have good fertility, longevity and can also be successfully bred at 14 to 16 months. Because calf weight can vary from 60 to 80 pounds and because Greg wants to take advantage of the latest refinements in the breed, he pays very careful attention to EPDs (expected progeny differences) and carcass scan data. He scans his cattle and matches them to bulls for his AI breeding program. In addition, he has a particularly good momma cow that he flushes twice a year before breeding her back. He then uses some of those eggs in his cows and freezes the rest for his personal use and for sale.

Greg said, “The Beefmaster Breeders United Executive Vice President Dr. Tommy Perkins, has done amazing work with EPDs and scan data.” Beefmasters are a three-way cross between Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman. As a result of a strict culling process, and a sever Texas drought, three quarters of the original Lasater herd was sold off. The result was that the remaining animals had a higher fat content in the rump area, which has given them higher fertility and drought tolerance. Later Dr. Perkins began to pay careful attention to the technical data. Now many Beefmasters have higher marbling with enhanced taste and tenderness.

Greg said, “When you’re in the business of selling meat animals, EPDs are far more important than pedigree. You want the highest quality and weight animal with the least amount of expense and intervention. That means careful breeding.” The final critical component in Greg’s breeding program is his cleanup bull. It is the brother to the Grand Champion Bull at the 2012 Beefmaster Breeders United National Futurity. Greg leaves nothing to chance.

While Greg feeds his cattle sweet grain a couple of times a month to keep them docile and comfortable with the corrals, his cattle are mostly grass fed with free-choice minerals that contain high magnesium in the spring to offset Fescue poisoning and high potassium one month before breeding. Because of his heavy dependence upon grazing, Greg pays as much attention to his land as he does his cattle. He hays about 40 acres of mixed grass. The drought over the last two years caused a loss of 80 percent of his forage with the dominant survival species being Bermuda. One of the reasons Greg was able to survive the drought was being able to send most of his herd to Oklahoma on water rich creek-fed land that belonged to the man who originally introduced him to Beefmasters. Nonetheless Greg planned extensive replanting this fall. He explained that the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) recommended fall replanting because more moisture and lower temperatures for a longer period of time promote better and stronger germination.

One of Greg’s choices during replanting was the use of a strain of Fescue called Jessop Max Q. It is entophyte free thus eliminating most of the Fescue toxicity problem. Greg said, “The intent is to bring up the conception and production rates because regular Fescue is hard on cattle.” In addition Greg mixed clover seed with his fertilizer this year to add nitrogen which for better grass growth and because cattle love clover.

Greg said, “I love what I do. I catch myself in the middle of the night thinking about which cows to cull and new ways to optimize my operation and income. Cattle is my passion." Greg's accident has led to two additional changes. Because he needs the extensive, but willing, help of neighbors and friends, he has recently purchased a new cattle chute for better safety, efficiency and ease. He has also started an online business featuring a wide variety of Beefmaster semen. The business helps fill in a void in the accessibility of those Beefmaster materials.

Thank you Jeralyn for sharing this great feature!!! You can learn more about Beefmaster and cattle producers by checking out the United Beefmaster webpage, and check out their Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Blog!
We need to hear your story! How are you involved in agriculture? To become a feature e-mail Jamie and Elizabeth at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mackinson Family Dairy Farm

Welcome to Mary Mackinson Faber as she shares with us about her family's dairy farm! 

Hello! My name is Mary (Mackinson) Faber and I am proud of my family’s dairy and grain farm located in Pontiac, Illinois. Where is Pontiac? Pontiac is in Central Illinois about 100 miles south of Chicago on Interstate 55. If you are ever traveling Interstate 55, it cuts our farm in half at mile-marker 203. You can call it living in the country but Interstate 55 and Historic Route 66 are the north and east borders to our home farm. We also have an airport and railroad tracks within 5 miles of our farm.

We cannot talk about where we are today without going to back to how Mackinson Dairy Farm (MDF) was started. MDF began over 100 years ago with a handful of cows and 161 acres. My great-great grandfather Daniel Mackinson was the original owner of our farm. Today our family continues to live and farm those same acres plus about 2,000 more. The dairy has grown to include about 165 milking cows and over 140 head of heifers and calves. We are proud to own a great herd of Holsteins, Ayrshires and one Brown Swiss! In addition to our cows we milk another’s family’s small herd of Milking Shorthorn. 

The farming operation is owned by my parents, (Donald & Rita) my uncle (Roy) and my brother (Matt). Donald and Roy are great-grandsons of Daniel, the original owner. I am confident to say that farming is all my Father, Uncle and Brother have wanted to do and they truly have a strong passion for the soil and cows. I am the oldest of three children. While I don’t work on the farm full-time, I am still actively involved. My husband, Jesse and I are proud parent’s of a one-year-old daughter. I work as the controller of a local cooperative that provides farmers in our area with feed, crop inputs and is a grain storage facility. Jesse is from a beef and grain farm and one of the agriculture teachers and FFA advisors at our high school. Matt is the middle child. He married Amy almost one year ago and she is a Registered Nurse and is also from a swine and grain farm. David is the youngest and lives with his partner Pato in Santiago, Chile. David is an economist and recently graduated with his Master’s in economics and Pato works as a family court clerk. We also have two employees. Dan Jones has been with us full-time for over three years and is getting married to Mallory this fall. Aaron Jenson started working for us last fall and just graduated from high school and is starting at the local community college this fall. Both are great assets to our operation!

Rita, Pato, Grandma Theresa, David, Matt holding Ava, Mary, Amy, Jesse, Donald
We milk our cows 2x a day (4:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) every day in a double 6 parlor. The parlor was constructed in 1975 and remodeled in 2001. Our milk is picked up every other day and goes to the fluid milk bottling plant in Peoria, IL. We are proud members of the cooperative, Prairie Farms Dairy. The cows and heifers (older than 6 months) are fed a total mixed ration (TMR). TMR means we mix and blend a certain number of pounds of corn silage, haylage, soybean meal, corn gluten and other necessary minerals together. The milk cow ration consists of 11,600 pounds of feed! Our TMR is just like your Kitchenaid mixer but much bigger! The heifers are grouped according to age. In 2011 we constructed a new heifer barn which has 4 separate areas that can house 70-90 heifers depending on age. In the summer, we are able to utilize some pasture for the heifers, dry cows and milking herd. We have two free stall barns (almost 16,000 square feet) so the cows have a choice of where they choose to spend their time. The newer freestyle barn utilizes sand bedding. Yes, it’s just like the beach and the cows enjoy putting their hooves in the sand. 

Our crop rotation is corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. We do grow a majority of the crops we feed our cows, the only exception would be the soybean meal and additional vitamins and minerals which we purchase. The excess grain is sold to grain storage facilities and is either moved via rail, barge or turned into ethanol. We try to utilizing minimum tillage and no-till on the highly erodible soil. Cover crops have also been implemented into the rotation. In the fall of 2011, we built a manure storage facility that is adjacent to the dairy. This storage facility holds 2.8 million gallons of manure which is applied to our fields in the fall. On a beautiful summer day it is not uncommon to find us baling hay, scouting fields, maintaining equipment or other jobs that require our attention. 

Donald, Matt and Roy
I asked my brother what is a typical day consists of and he laughs and says that every day is different. I will try to offer a glimpse into what we routinely do daily. Milking the cows, feeding animals (calves, heifers and cows), and cleaning the parlor and barns must be done every morning and night. Matt takes responsibility of the mating choices for the cows. A majority of the cows are bred through artificial insemination but we do have a bull if that is necessary. Heifers are bred for feet and legs, the first time around 14 months. All calves are house in individual calf hutches and are vaccinated twice and receive semi-annual boosters. MDF currently works closely with 3 veterinarians and a nutritionist to keep our cows healthy and comfortable. We are currently utilizing embryo transfer with a few of our top cows. Growing up, we showed our cows through 4-H and today are still competing at a few shows. You might see a few of our animals at the Illinois State Fair, All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, PA, World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI or the North American Livestock Expo in Louisville, KY. 

My Dad, Uncle, Matt and Dan put in a lot of hours every day from sun rise to sun set. Never once have I heard them complain (too much) because they are all doing a job that they love. We are committed to providing the consumer with a safe, high-quality milk and products. Our commitment to quality means taking good care of our cows and the land. Thank you to Faces of Agriculture for asking us to tell our story on your blog. If you are ever in Central Illinois, we would love to meet you and show you our farm. I encourage you to find us on social media - Facebook or on Twitter.

Thanks Mary for the look inside your dairy! Be sure to check Mackinson Dairy out on Facebook and follow Mary on Twitter! 

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Stauffer Dairy

Please welcome Krista & Brandon on the blog today from Stauffer Dairy in Washington! Brandon & Krista have a small family farm where everyone helps out to make their dreams come true! 

Hello, we are Brandon & Krista Stauffer of Stauffer Dairy in Washington. Brandon is a third generation dairy farmer & I (Krista) is a second generation dairy farmer. We have three kids under 6 years old & milk on average 150-180 jersey/Holsteins/crosses.

Brandon was born & raised in Whatcom County which is well known as a dairy community. At a young age he worked for his uncle Craig & other local dairy farmers. He knew that when he grew up that he wanted to be a dairy farmer & nothing else. His senior year in high school he had them put in his year book that he wanted to be a dairy farmer!

In 2008, he decided that it was time to make his dreams come true. His grandfather & father no longer dairy farmed so he would have to figure out another way to get in the industry. He began the process & started seeking out potential dairy farms to lease. After going through all the motions he had found a dairy farm, had the startup loan, found some cows to add to the 20 he raised himself and it was go time! He moved away from everyone & everything he had ever known. In May 2009 he started milking cows. He worked endless hours, battled tremendously low milk prices & all with moving to a county where he knew only a couple people.

I was not born on a farm & knew next to nothing about farming especially dairy farming. My great grandma was a dairy farmer, but I knew very little about what she did or how she did it. I was just a kid when she was still milking cows. She did pretty much everything on her own. I met Brandon the summer of 2009. I was actually trying to set him up with one of my friends. We began dating the end of August. I had a daughter from a previous marriage & we found out we were expecting in May 2010. We had our son May 2010 & were married July 2010. I dove in head first into the world of dairy farming. I took on the books, the calves, helped with milking & basically anything to help take some work off Brandon. There have been plenty of times where I have had a baby in the front pack & carrying two five gallon buckets of milk or a stroller in one hand & a bucket of milk in the other. We had our youngest son in May 2012. I have taken on the task of agvocating for the dairy industry. I have a Facebook page & a blog. I try to post daily on Facebook but find it hard to make time for the blog. In addition to everything, I have taken a job off the farm two days a week. I felt it necessary to have something of my own.

Brandon is the brains of the operation. He is very business orientated & is the main laborer. An average day for him is up early in the AM to feed cows. He also feeds the calves as we have a new program & not too many calves right which means feeding calves doesn’t take much time. He fixes anything that needs fixed from fences to tractors. He tends to any cattle that may be sick or calving. Pretty much anything & everything on the farm he does it. Then most nights he milks the cows. When the kids are cooperating we help with the night milking. We are very fortunate after four years to have some reliable help. We have two part time milkers that do all the morning milkings so Brandon can feed cows. With the exception of 2013 the last couple summers we had all our hired help quit in the middle of silage season leaving everything to us. We got creative & made it work. If the weather was bad the kids watched a movie during milking in the milk house. If the weather was good, they played in buckets of water or a pool in the milk house. Our youngest son slept in the swing in the parlor or a pack on mommy’s back. Makes milking really fun! ;) We have chickens & love our farm fresh eggs! AND of course we have plenty of beef!!

What we both wish people understood about farming is everything! We wish that people understood what it takes to farm & that is not for the money. The public tends to think dairy farmers all abuse their cows & that we do not care about them. It’s simply not true. Dairy farmers simply cannot afford to not take the best care of their cows possible. Happy, healthy & comfortable cows produce milk. The cows have to be able to pay for what they eat & then some and in order to do that they have to be happy & healthy. We spend 24/7/365 taking care of our girls. Also we would like everyone to know how important it is to support all farmers from organic to conventional. From hobby farm to “corporate” farms. Every farm & farmer has something to offer & we need everyone to feed the growing population. There is not one way of farming that can be applied to everyone, to every farm or every part of the world. Farmers need support more than ever. Know your food, know your farmer.

The past four years have been tough as a new dairy farm especially operating on a cash flow only basis. We have amazing support & great relationships with our local farmers in which we buy feed from. Time spent with family & the way of life is why we do it. It’s not for the money, well because there is no money to be made in dairy farming. It’s 2013 and we are still going strong. Everyone said it would be over in the first year & we are not ready to give up. We have dreams of owning our own farm & plan on making that a reality some day!

Thanks so much to Stauffer Dairy for the great feature! Be sure to keep up with Krista on her blog, Facebook page & Pinterest account