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How Small Farm Survives Amongst the Giants

How Small Farm Survives Amongst the Giants

Hard work and outside income are key ingredients for this couple.

On a gravel road in southern Boone County near Sheridan you'll pass a small, unpresuming milk house with barns and Jersey cattle out back. The sign above the milk house door proudly reads Dandy Breeze Dairy, operated by Tom and Sally Waitt. It also notes that they sell their milk to Prairie Farms dairy.

Such a scene wouldn't have been noteworthy 50 years ago, maybe even 35 years ago. It's fairly rare now to find a small dairy still selling milk commercially. Most dairies range from 500 cows and up, with Indiana's biggest diary somewhere above 10,000 cows.

How Small Farm Survives Amongst the Giants

What would have been rare even 35 years ago would be to have seen a small, commercial dairy raising primarily only Jersey cattle. Known for high butterfat production but producing less milk than Holsteins, the predominant breed in Indiana, Jersey Farms were few and far between by three decades ago.

That's about the time Tom and Sally Waitt started up their operation. They milk about 30 cows in a stanchion barn, raise their own replacements, and farm slightly over 100 acres, with much of it in hay and other forages for the dairy. This year they will grow some corn and soybeans.

Why did they do it? "We just wanted to have this lifestyle, and we enjoy milking," Sally says. To support the farm, both work full-time off the farm, Sally working at a vet clinic. They continue to work full-time off the farm today.

For many years the dairy was pretty much a break-even proposition, Sally notes. Over the past couple  of years, it has been a profitable venture. They do most of the work on the farm themselves, with help from a friend when they need help.

The Jerseys have lived up to their billing. The herd ran a 5.0 butterfat at the peak of production this past year, and still runs a 4.5% butterfat reading. Most Holstein herds run closer to 3.5%. Most dairies still pay a premium for higher butterfat content above a set minimum level.

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