John Nederend and his brother, Hans, manage the family dairy near Marsing, Idaho.
They live by the family motto: “Take good care of your cows and they will take good care of you.”
The family arrived in Idaho by way of California.
In 1952, their grandfather, Hans Nederend Sr., arrived in Chino, Calif., from the Netherlands. His passion was to be a dairy farmer.
“My grandfather started a partnership dairy with his best friend in 1956,” John said. “Later they went on their own with 120 cows apiece. My dad, Hans Nederend Jr., was born in California.”
In 1999, John’s father — who was 1997 California Dairyman of the Year — moved his dairy to Marsing, Idaho, where John and his brother, Hans, grew up. They now run the dairy together.
In 2001, their father purchased another dairy, Mirada Farms. Between the two dairies, the Nederend family milks 8,000 Holsteins.
“Hans and I are only a year and 26 days apart; we’ve always worked side-by-side,” John said.
They didn’t go to college.
“Our father’s rule was that when you turn 18 you can go to college or work for someone you don’t know — to broaden your experience,” he said. “Hans and I worked for other people and have done every job there is on a dairy.”
John worked at a dairy in the Melba-Kuna area for 2 years, and met his future wife — the farmer’s daughter.
“In 2008, we came back to my family dairy. My brother came back a few months earlier, and he and I have run the day-to-day operations ever since,” he said.
Family is a large part of their lives.
“We both have four children. The dairy is our passion. A person is blessed if they can make a living doing what they love,” John said. “Our kids work with us — driving tractors, helping move cows or whatever else needs to be done— whenever they are not in school or sports.”
Passing their knowledge of the dairy industry on to the next generation is the goal, he said.
On a dairy, kids grow up learning the value of a day’s work, and parents enjoy watching their kids take pride in milking their first cow, feeding their first calf, driving their first tractor, or helping in the office and balancing a mock budget.
John and his brother want to pass on this opportunity that was passed on to them. Their best Holstein cows are bred with sexed semen to have heifers. Cows with lower production are bred to Angus.
“We produce about 4,000 beef calves each year and they have good growth and gain,” John said.
“We think of the dairy as a resort for cows; they are women so we treat them nicely,” he said. “They spend their time on white sand beaches.”
The free stalls are bedded with desert sand.
“It’s perfect because it stays clean and dry and bacteria won’t grow in it,” he said.
The extra effort leads to high-quality milk.
“Our milk quality is in the top 1% of industry standards — and we are paid a premium,” he said.
“We have a full-time nutritionist and full-time veterinarians and 24-hour surveillance of the cows,” he said.
“The whole dairy is on camera and I can log in anywhere from my cell phone and make sure these animals are always being treated correctly,” he explained.
“We are part of the FARM program; it involves animal care, environmental stewardship, antibiotic stewardship and workforce development. All the people who work for us go through monthly training,” John said.
Calves are sent to a farm in California that specializes in calf-raising. The weather there is ideal, he said. They spend their first three months there — through the bottle-feeding period — before coming back.
Nederend Farms grows most of their hay and corn silage. The dairy and farms work in a perfect cycle. The farms supply 75% of the feed for the cows and the dairy supplies nearly all the nourishment for the soil to grow crops. Manure from the cows is recycled onto the fields.
“All our protein — canola, soybeans, et cetera— is shipped in, however. A dairy cow eats 100 pounds of feed daily, and our nutritionist makes sure the cows have a balanced ration,” he said.
The whole milk is sold to Lactalis American Group.