Family operation grows and makes room for younger generations
By BECKY COOK
For the Capital Press
DECLO, Idaho -- Ben Andersen is a third-generation dairy farmer who looks forward to seeing the next generation take over the dairy.
His grandfather, Lyle Andersen, began a dairy operation many years ago in Tyhee, Idaho, which is near Pocatello, as a side business to being an agricultural agent.
Years later that dairy was handed down when Ben's father, Alan, bought his father out. Then a few more years later Alan's two sons -- Ben and Greg -- came on board and the cows were split between two new dairy operations.
One is in Declo, Idaho, and is called Andersen Dairy, where Ben primarily runs things. The other is near American Falls, Idaho, and is known as Seagull-Bay Dairy, where Greg runs the operation.
Andersen has a lifetime of memories surrounding cows.
"I've been doing this since I was a kid," Andersen said.
Andersen has 1,500 cows at his operation in Declo being milked with a double 16 parallel barn. The cows come from a blend of breeding genetics using Montbeilard -- a French breed -- and a Swedish Red mixed with Holstein.
Seagull-Bay Dairy has 600 cows, some of which are registered Holstein and shown at area dairy shows. The two brothers trade off raising the heifers in their operation with Seagull-Bay taking care of all of the newborn calves until they are about 450 pounds when they are brought down to the Andersen Dairy.
"We used to have the calves custom raised but we changed that the first of this year," Andersen said. "We figure we can get a better heifer and put more growth on her this way."
The cross-breeding program they have been using results in some additional longevity and fertility due to the hybrid vigor, as well as having less downtime with health concerns. Andersen believes they are also getting good production results, with their cows averaging about 75 pounds per day.
The resulting crossbred bull calves can be sold at a slightly higher price, which is a nice bonus, he said. Anderson usually gets $80 for the straight Holstein bull calves but will get between $100 and $150 for the crossbred calves.
Andersen said that his favorite thing about being a dairy farmer is being able to work with the cows, working outside and being with his family. He balances that out with his least favorite aspect of the dairy business, which is working outside in subzero weather.
But even taking that cold weather into consideration, Andersen Dairy will likely see another generation of the family milking cows when Andersen's three boys get older. His oldest loves the dairy, as does his youngest. The second son says "absolutely not," but Andersen just laughs about that.
"They might all change their minds and the second son might be the one who continues with the dairy," Andersen said.
Another benefit to having a larger dairy is that Andersen has a little more flexibility than he might have if he had only 100 cows.
"A smaller herd makes it difficult to get away," Andersen said. "With a larger dairy I have capable employees who can handle the breeding, feeding and milking."
Being a dairyman isn't the easiest job in the world, but Andersen really enjoys it.
"I love it," he said.
Owners: Ben, Greg and Alan Andersen and their families
Location: Declo, Idaho
Number of cows: 1,500
Number of employees: 13
Location: American Falls, Idaho
Number of cows: 600
Number of employees: 8