Building a business during the recent economic downturn has been a tough row to hoe. Some segments have been especially tough.
Last fall, the Milwaukee Journal reported total U.S. beverage milk sales in 2011 were 53 billion pounds - about 6 billion gallons - the lowest level since 1984, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures released in August; and, whole milk beverage sales were less than half their level from the early 1980s. Those numbers were part of a decade long downward trend.
So why would Cattlemen’s Beef Board member Doug Temme and his wife, Mary, choose to grow their dairy herd while consumption was nose-diving? “My son John came home from college four years ago. It seemed like a good time to expand the herd,” he told me.
John had graduated from South Dakota State’s renowned dairy school. Managing a herd that had always been around 150 to 200 cows just didn’t seem like a good use of his skills, so they began the expansion. With 1,100 acres there was plenty of room to grow. Today, they’re milking 650 to 700 cows three times a day.
“We plan to grow some more,” Temme said. “We might be able to double in a few years.” John and his fiancée Molly will be married by then with a possible next generation of dairy farmers in the works. There are two other family members – a daughter Ann and her husband Connor Rocole, and another daughter, Lisa, who’s working on a degree in Textile Science at the University of Nebraska.
While they were building the business, they took the opportunity to upgrade the facilities. “We’ve made some changes, mostly for the comfort of our herd. We built a new tunnel ventilated barn with sand for bedding – we want our animals to stand while eating and lay down while they’re chewing their cud. We were getting 65 to 70 pounds of milk per animal per day; now we’re getting 85 to 90 pounds.”
Just finishing his first year as a CBB member, Temme claims he’s still in the ‘learning curve’ but he has plenty of experience to bring to the table. Temme was nominated to the Beef Board by a caucus of the Nebraska Cattlemen, Farm Bureau and Associated Milk Producers, Inc. (AMPI). He has served as vice chairman of AMPI and is president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association.
Temme serves on the Freedom to Operate Committee, whose goal is to protect and enhance beef producers’ freedom to operate. He had worked with “We Support Agriculture,” a coalition of individuals and organizations that stand behind Nebraska farmers against attacks by animal right extremists.
“We want to make sure the public knows we support agriculture and the truth about animal rights groups,” he said. His work with WSA as well as his service to the cattle industry through his committee work with CBB underscores his enthusiasm for the dairy industry and his faith in the continued success of animal agriculture.
Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.