By Roberta Olson, Correspondent
Three generations of Meyers were on hand Tuesday, for the Stearns County Dairy Field Day which showcased the rural Sauk Centre dairy operation to about 80 area producers and ag businesses.
Nick and Tara Meyer are the present owners of Meyer Dairy LLC, which Nick took over from his parents, Gerald and Joyce Meyer in 2003. The next generation, Tyler and Maddie, rounded out the family representation.
The Meyers spoke about the dairy operation, which is situated on 550 acres of land six miles south of Sauk Centre. A total of 240 cows are milked there three times daily in a double-eight parlor. A 30,000 pound herd average is maintained.
Gerald and Joyce Meyer answered questions about the transition of the dairy from one generation to the next. How did they accomplish it? Was it difficult?
“You can’t force a child to farm because you want to pass it on,” Joyce said. “Farming is a commitment. You have to love it.”
Nick gave a short history of the operation and talked about the expansions that have been done over the last 14 years. One of the milestones was his marriage to Tara in 2007. She came from a farming background and knew and understood the business, which they run together.
Big changes and decisions have been made over the years. The Meyers’ original tie stall barn was converted to a 150-cow free stall and parlor setup.
In 2012, the transition cow barn was built and 80 milking cows were added.
A Doda manure solids separator was also installed, with the solids being used for bedding.
The tour showed the area and equipment used to separate the manure solids.
The old tie stall barn has been converted into a calf barn with individual stalls. The tour of the operation showed the 36 clean, white plastic individual stalls in one end of the barn, and the weaned calves housed freestyle at the other end. Calves are fed pasteurized milk twice a day.
Meyers installed automatic alley scrapers in the 2012 barn last year. The alley scrapers run every hour and a half in summer, but continuously in the winter to prevent freeze-up.
The operation is neatly and logically organized, flowing from one barn into another with ease.
Cows are milked at Meyer Dairy at 3 a.m., 11 a.m., and 7 p.m., each shift taking about three hours for two workers and one barn cleaner.
The farm produces its own high quality corn and alfalfa forage, and sells its soybean crop.
Records and studies of the milk production have resulted in specialized feed formulas and high milk production. Reproduction methods have been converted to the AI synchronized double Ovsynch program. ABS comes to the farm daily to complete breeding work.
Cow comfort is considered and the naturally ventilated free stall barns result in high milk production.
Bedding materials are manure solids and chopped straw.
The Meyers include a nutritionist, veterinarian, AI professional, and banker on their team.
When Nick and Tara are considering a change or an innovation to the business they consult with each other, as well as their team.
The Meyers have 10 part-time employees. Finding labor is a challenge, they said. Some employees are students from Ridgewater College during the school year, and some of the three hour evening shifts include high school laborers.
Extension educator Randy Pepin spoke briefly on the research being done on integrating cover crops and injecting manure. Cover crops reduce wind and water erosion, build organic matter and increase soil health.
He spoke about the time frame for planting cover crops, and how to manage them to preserve the nitrogen in the soil.
Following the presentations, the gathering broke into two tour groups, one led by Nick Meyer, and one by Tara Meyer.
Walk-throughs were made in the 2012 barn, and 2003 barn, the transitional barns, the milking parlor, the calf barn, past the heifer lot, and ended on the tar pads where the corn silage is stored and distributed.
The tours were followed by lunch sponsored by Central Minnesota Dairy Initiative and VitaPlus.