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A Jersey farm in Iowa

By Staff | Jun 26, 2009

Sheila Jones preps cows on the family’s dairy operation near Spencer.

SPENCER – Dairy farmers Patrick and Nancy Jones are hosting an open house Tuesday at their dairy farm. The farm, located at 2508 270th St., north of this central Clay County Community, will be open to the public to see how a modern family-owned dairy operates. Their children are the fourth generation to farm the land and milk cows.

Three of the Jones’ eight children have already chosen to return to the farm after college. One who is still in high school also helps. Daughter Aaron has a dairy science degree is the herd and calf manager. Son Nate was an electrician before returning to the dairy. He is the feeds, crops, maintenance person.

“If it breaks we call him,” said Patrick Jones.

Daughter Sheila is their assistant dairy herd manager and handles human resources chores. She has a degree in Spanish, which is useful when working with 10 Latino employees.

The Jones’ dairy farm expanded in 1997 from 80 milking cows to 350 head. In 2005 another expansion occurred increasing the number of cows milked to 650. A double 12 parallel milking parlor design is employed. Two people do the milking in eight hours shifts with the cows milked three times a day.

The gate opens at the push of a button. Willingly the cow comes in for her milking. The blue tag at the bottom records the amount of milk she gives.

“We were asked by other WIDA (Western Iowa Dairy Association) members to host this,” said Nancy Jones. “They thought the Iowa Great Lakes Corridor would be a great area to showcase a dairy.” There aren’t many dairies in that area.

Besides seeing cows milked, attendees will not see the usual black and white Holstein, but Jersey cows instead. Patrick Jones’ parents had Jersey cows. At one time there was a Jersey dairy in Spencer, a creamery that specialized in bottling and selling Jersey milk to area stores. That has since closed, but the Jersey cows have remained at the Jones dairy.

“Jersey cows are easy to handle,” said Patrick Jones. “They may not produce as many gallons, but they have a higher protein and butterfat content.” Because they weigh less, their feed consumption is less.

The Jones dairy raises their own calves and keep dry cows on site. They also produce much of their own feed raising corn and silage. Much of the corn is chopped into silage and stored in bunker silos.

With two to three calves born on average each day, it’s possible that a calf may be born during the two hours of the open house.

Patrick and Nancy Jones invite you to come visit their dairy north of Spencer.

“We are hoping for a nice day,” said Nancy Jones. “The Clay County Cattlemen’s will be grilling burgers, Blue Bunny will be serving ice cream.” Other sponsors include the Midwest Dairy Association and Iowa State Dairy Association.

Farming has changed much in the last 30 years. Whereas many farms used to feature a mix of livestock and grains, they have become much more specialized, to the point where what happens on a dairy farm might be unknown to other farmers.

‘Not only does this open house show the consumer where their milk comes from,” said Megan Ritter of Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. “It’s a great way for the public to learn more about what is happening on a modern dairy farm.

“They will get to ‘kick the tires’ as well as see how the Jones family manages their farm.”

Ritter said it is important for the public to learn more about what is happening at a modern dairy operation and to hear from farmers who are working to grow a safe and wholesome product.

Always curious, these young heifer calves pause from eating as if to to say, "Hi."

These open houses are a great way to reach out to neighbors and the public, Ritter said.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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