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The Toays could write a playbook on the art of how to work hand in glove. Dan, 42, and Jim, 74, are two generations of a Dodgeville, Wisconsin, family farm tradition dating back over 152 years.
“They work so well together that others envy their relationship,” says Dan's wife, Lisa. “Few words are spoken, but the business is done the way it should be.”
Jim and Phyllis began married life in 1960 with a 35-head Holstein milking herd. By 1991, they had a 65-head operation.
Today, Dan and Lisa are taking steps to solidify these gains. Together, they're successfully mobilizing modest resources and fine-tuning their 85-head herd to produce a quality milk product.
Dan commuted from home while earning an animal science degree at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville in 1991. “He managed to work hard on the farm and do well in his college classes,” Phyllis says.
Jim and Phyllis were farming 360 acres when Dan joined them full time. “I'm thankful my parents let me farm,” Dan says.
In 1994, they expanded the barn, later adding two silos and a heifer shed as they grew the herd to support two families.
Dan began building fertility with greater use of soil testing and manure nutrients on hay and corn acres. He converted to intensive grazing three years ago. “We're utilizing our land base to get more from our pasture,” he says.
Early on, Dan selected Accelerated Genetics for artifical insemination and its mating program. “Dad's been very supportive of the changes,” he says.
Phyllis, retired after 25 years at Land's End, tends an assortment of miniature animals. Jim helps with the barn chores, fencing and driving tractor. His chore tool is a Ranger utility vehicle. “I plan to keep on truckin',” he says.
Lisa handles financial records, helps with milking, and is in charge of calves. She and Dan often attend workshops at the University of Wisconsin Extension Center for Dairy Profitability. “We're always looking to improve herd health and financial planning,” she says.
The Toays focus on disease prevention. Three years ago, Lisa began giving calves 1.5 gallons of pasteurized milk daily to add protein and promote health.
Here are two other decisions that are working out for the Toays:
1. Switching to custom harvesting. “Getting our feed up at a critical time has paid big dividends,” Dan says.
2. Feeding vitamin supplements. The Toays adopted the practice 1½ years ago to build immunity. “Our first line of defense is the natural way,” Dan says. “We're seeing a difference.”