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Marty Hallock: Details key to dairy’s success

This 2023 Wisconsin Master Agriculturist from Mondovi is passionate about dairy farming and education.

Fran O'Leary, Wisconsin Agriculturist Senior Editor

March 7, 2023

5 Min Read
Josh, Marty, Becky, Robin and Jonathon Hallock
FAMILY FARM: The Hallock family includes Josh (left), Marty, Becky, Robin and Jonathon. They milk 1,400 Holstein cows in Buffalo County, Wis. Marty has been farming for 40 years.Courtesy of the Hallock family

Marty Hallock and his family own and operate a 1,400-cow dairy farm and grow about 2,800 acres of crops in Buffalo County in west-central Wisconsin. Their Holstein cows average 1,285 pounds of fat and 961 pounds of protein.

“Our goal is to be above 6½ pounds of fat and protein per cow per day,” Marty says. “We have been at that for a long while, so now we’ve raised it to 7 pounds.”

While he owns and operates a highly successful farm, Marty is quick to point out he didn’t grow up on a dairy farm.

During high school, Marty started working on his uncle’s dairy farm. He used his uncle’s farm equipment to start his own cash cropping enterprise.

“I’m a big believer in education,” Marty says. “People have taught me a lot. I feel education is very important.”

During college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, he worked on an Ellsworth dairy and hog farm and continued to raise his own cash crops.

“The family I worked for were very good at managing their farm,” Marty says.

Marty graduated in 1989 from UW-River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a dairy emphasis. He married Becky in 1990 and continued his cash cropping enterprise using his father-in-law’s equipment. He rented a dairy barn and started milking a herd of 43 cows. Three years later, the Hallocks bought their current farm south of Mondovi near Gilmanton.

Related:Wisconsin’s cream of the crop

After purchasing this farm, they were able to expand their herd to 120 cows, which maxed out their barn.

In 1998, the Hallocks expanded their heifer facilities and added calf hutches so they could raise calves and sell them as springers and fresh heifers.

In 2000, they built a 400-cow dairy facility and milking parlor. Over the years, the herd has steadily grown. To accommodate more cows, the Hallocks added onto the parlor and built more freestall barns. A calf barn was built to bring calves indoors and out of the hutches.

Mar-Bec Dairy today

As the Hallocks’ herd grew, so did their feed needs. They purchased and rented more land. Today, Mar-Bec Dairy owns 1,360 tillable acres and rents 1,600 acres. They grow 800 acres of alfalfa, 1,100 acres of corn for silage and 850 acres of corn for grain to feed their cattle.

The Hallocks rely on custom operators to plant and harvest their crops.

“We do the tillage work, but we don’t plant our corn or mow or chop our hay and corn silage,” Marty says. “The same with manure hauling. We have two manure trucks, so we help haul a little manure. I hire a retired farmer to help — he likes hauling manure.”

Farming more acres led to a move from upright silos to forage piles and ag bags. Last year, they built a new forage bunker.

Related:Who’s who in Wisconsin agriculture, 2023 edition

Three years ago, a weaned calf barn was added along with remodeling the pre-breeding heifer barn. Through 2015, the Hallocks raised and sold Holstein heifers.

“But that market is gone,” Marty says. “At our peak, we were selling 200 heifers a year as springers or fresh heifers.”

Today, they raise 800 heifers at the home farm, and 350 heifers are raised by custom growers.

To create an additional income stream, 60% of their dairy herd is bred to AI beef bulls. Most of their dairy-beef calves are sold at the sale barn. They keep about 70 dairy-beef calves.

“We raise them until they are weaned, and then a neighbor takes them,” Marty explains. “He feeds them our waste feed. I get a percentage when he sells them.”

They use sexed semen from AI Holstein bulls on 90% of their heifers and the top 10% of their cows.

Mar-Bec Dairy has won quality milk awards for close to 15 years from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, where they sell their milk.

Marty says the secret to their farm’s success is in the details. “It’s not one thing that we do better than everyone else; it’s the 1,000 things we do 1% better that makes our farm successful. Every cow and every heifer matters to me,” he says. “I hate guessing; we don’t guess, we know.”

Next generation

The Hallocks have two sons, Jonathon, 32, and Joshua, 28.

Jonathon graduated from UW-River Falls with a bachelor’s degree and joined his parents on the farm in 2013.

“He worked here for us for four years before we brought him into the LLC,” Marty explains. “He can fix pretty much anything.”

Jonathon is married to Robin, who works in agronomy services at Black’s Valley Ag in Durand.

Josh graduated from UW-Stout in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree. He is an ag loan officer with Nicolet National Bank in Eau Claire.

Focus on education

Marty is active in his community and farm organizations. He served on the Gilmanton School Board for 19 years, including 10 years as president. He also served on the Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10 board for 10 years, including three years as president. He is a member of the Gilmanton Community Club, giving him the privilege to play a major role in Santa Day.

Marty is currently a member of the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery board, and has been for 18 years. He is a member of the Food Armor Foundation, serving on that board for four years. He was on the Professional Dairy Producers (PDPW) board for six years, including one year as president and two years as vice president.

PDPW’s major role is to provide educational opportunities to farmers and dairy professionals. Over the years, Mar-Bec Dairy has hosted several of those educational programs. Marty has also served as a mentor to college students through PDPW’s mentoring program.

Master Agriculturist at a glance

Marty Hallock
Age: 56
Location: Mondovi, Buffalo County
Farming enterprises: Dairy cows and heifers, dairy-beef, crops
Size of farm: 1,360 owned tillable acres; 1,600 rented acres; 1,400 Holstein cows; 1,150 dairy heifers; 100 dairy-beef cattle
Family: Wife Becky, sons Jonathon (Robin) and Joshua

Read more about:

Master Agriculturists

About the Author(s)

Fran O'Leary

Wisconsin Agriculturist Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Fran O’Leary lives in Brandon, Wis., and has been editor of Wisconsin Agriculturist since 2003. Even though O’Leary was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, she has spent most of her life in Wisconsin. She moved to the state when she was 18 years old and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Before becoming editor of Wisconsin Agriculturist, O’Leary worked at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson as a writer and editor of farm business publications and at the Janesville Gazette in Janesville as farm editor and a feature writer. Later, she signed on as a public relations associate at Bader Rutter in Brookfield, and served as managing editor and farm editor at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Fond du Lac.

She has been a member of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 2003.

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