By Sara Tischauser
Dairy farmers and many interested in the dairy industry will be attending the 2019 National Holstein Convention in June which will be held in Appleton.
Convention attendees will have the opportunity to attend host day tours on June 25 and one of the places attendees may choose to tour is Synergy Family Dairy in Pulaski.
Synergy Family Dairy was purchased on May 1, 2004, in partnership between Heather Jauquet and her husband Jay and Heather’s parents Gary and Linda Olson.
Jauquet said that both her and her husband Jay grew up on dairy farms in Kewaunee County, however after college both pursued other career options than dairy farming.
“We both ended up in college at UW-Madison and got degrees there,” Jauquet said. “We both got jobs in the AI [artificial insemination] industry close to Madison once out of school.”
Both Jauquet and her husband continued to work in the agricultural industry but decided to make a change when their third son was born.
“Jay and I had third son born late 2003 and we were both working in the agriculture industry,” Jauquet said. “When third son was born I looked at Jay and said OK now we have three boys, we have to farm, that’s how I want to raise them.”
Jauquet said her and Jay looked at a 50-60 cow dairy, but realized one of them would have to continue to work off the farm in order to support their family. When they first started looking, Jauquet said her parents were farming a 60 cow dairy in a tie stall barn and their facilities were starting to age.
“We just broached partnership with them [my parents] and bigger operation and they were open to discussion,” Jauquet said.
As they searched for farms to purchase, Jauquet said they found the Pulaski farm and made arrangements to look at the farm.
“We saw the farm for sale and came and looked at it on a bitter cold winter day,” Jauquet said.
The following week after they had looked at the Pulaski farm, Jauquet said they sat down to determine if they could get the farm. She said they had enough equity to purchase the farm and start a new part of their life owning and operating Synergy Family Dairy.
“I have to give my parents a ton of credit to make that big of a change at that time in their life and join a partnership with us,” Jauquet said.
The farm was purchased on May 1, 2004, and Jauquet said they had to start learning how to run their new farm.
“Whole new management style with taking care of cows and how to manage employees, which was new to all of us,” Jauquet said. “But it worked really well because at heart all of us are cow people.”
From the start, Jauquet said their number one concern was always the cows. She said they didn’t invest money in equipment but instead invested their money in making sure the cows were comfortable.
Jauquet said when they bought the farm it housed about 175 cows and over the years they have expanded the operation. She said they have modernized, updated and added on to the old facility and can now house 500 mature cows.
The milking parlor was modernized to maximize cow comfort. She said they have a double eight parallel milking parlor.
Also, the entire milking herd (including dry cows, milking cows and heifers) are housed in deep bed sand free stalls to provide a comfortable resting surface for the animals.
Jauquet said they now also have appropriate sized stalls for the animals. She said mature animals are given bigger stalls so they will be more comfortable. In addition, she said they have worked to keep temperatures most comfortable for the cows.
“We added fans to the old free stall facility for cow comfort in summer,” Jauquet said. “New barn is tunnel ventilated.”
In addition, Jauquet said they try to time all of their vaccinations and other protocols to happen at the same time to put the animals through less stress.
“My husband always says let the cows be cows and I think if you base decisions on that it is the right decision,” Jauquet said.
All the cows, heifers and calves on Synergy Family Dairy have names and Jauquet said she knows all the animals by name because the animals are all very important to her.
That first year at Synergy Family Dairy may have been a little rough on Jauquet’s family, but she said they made it through.
“Transition from a tie stall to a free stall facility we all had to learn ins and outs of new facilities,” Jauquet said. “We all got real skinny that first year, but it got better.”
One of the harder parts, Jauquet said for them was learning to trust others to help with the work.
“We had to train, empower and trust our team to do things that are their responsibility,” Jauquet said.
When they bought the farm, Jauquet said one of the employees who was already working on the farm stayed on and worked for Jauquet and her family when they took over.
“It helped to have someone who knew the quirks that every facility has,” Jauquet said.
Synergy Family Dairy does have 500 acres of land but Jauquet said they custom hire all of their cropping so they can stay focused on cow care.
Raising her family on the dairy farm, Jauquet believes has been beneficial to her sons.
“I think they’ve learned a lot of responsibility,” Jauquet said about her three sons. “They’ve learned if it’s Sunday afternoon and they were going to go somewhere and cows need something, the cows come first.”
She said the reward her sons have gained is knowing the value of hard work and seeing what their hard work can accomplish. She said they have learned valuable life lessons as well.
“They’ve been able to experience a lot of life lessons,” Jauquet said. “They’ve seen life and death.”
While Jauquet said her and Jay would be happy if any of their sons wanted to come back and work on farm, she realizes they need to choose what they want in life.
“We’ve encouraged them to explore life beyond the farm and don’t expect them to choose this life,” Jauquet said. “But if they choose that [farm life] we would be excited to offer them that opportunity.”
One of the ways Jauquet said they were able to keep their farm going was the money they could make from the genetics in their herd.
“The ability to merchandise Holstein genetics has definitely made a positive difference in the profitability of our farm,” Jauquet said. “Bull sales to AI in past have been lucrative. We have been fortunate to sell embryos overseas from our elite heifers and cows.”
She said they have been fortunate to have elite females in their herd that can create AI bulls and she said they can profit from selling these genetics. Also, Jauquet said their animals have had success showing which makes them more desirable.
Before they built their new barn to house more animals Jauquet said they were selling about 100 milking cows per year to other farmers. However, once they built the new barn and expanded their herd Jauquet said they didn’t have to sell these cows each year, which she said worked out well for them. When they stopped selling replacement cows to other farmers was also the same time the price for replacement cows dropped.
As milk prices continue to stay low, Jauquet said they will need to continue to find ways to keep money coming into the farm.
“We will have to continue to diversify through genetics and other options to help our business stay strong through milk price recession,” Jauquet said. “This has been one of longer down recessions.”
The milk production efficiency Jauquet said is part of the reason for the recession.
“We have gotten so good and efficient at producing milk at low cost it’s made market what it is,” Jauquet said. “We had good export market, but it’s been reduced.”
Jauquet said dairy farmers in the US need a good export market to get a better price for the milk being produced.
“We need export market with this level of production in United States,” Jauquet said. “Globally needs are there. We need to figure out how to use US products to meet that need.”
Unfortunately, Jauquet said if milk prices stay low more dairy farmers may find themselves unable to stay farming.
“It [recession] has held on for so long,” Jauquet said. “You can only erode your equity for so long before you decide it might be better to get out of business than ride any further.”
While farming can be very difficult at times, having the support of those around the farmer can help.
“I still feel we are really fortunate in northeast Wisconsin to have the support of infrastructure-businesses, extension, vet clinic and nutritionist,” Jauquet said. “We are fortunate to have that.”
She said in other areas that are more isolated, farmers may not have all the support.
Those who attend the host day tour at Synergy Family Dairy on June 25 as part of the National Holstein Convention will have the opportunity to see and learn about the farm.
Jauquet said they will start with a tour of the new freestall barn where the cows that are the highlight of the herd will be on display.
“We also plan to offer a tour of our calf raising facilities,” Jauquet said. “We will talk about our calf raising program and how we achieve the success we do in calf program.”
Sharing their farm and animals with the public is something Jauquet said they are looking forward to.
“We were surprised and honored to be chosen as the host tour farm,” Jauquet said. “We are absolutely thrilled.”