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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