Beef & Dairy News
Windy Lane Jerseys expands with a business plan
By DOROTHY NOBLE
TYRONE, Pa. — “Here’s a different breed of entrepreneurs.” That assessment came from John Frey, executive director of Pennsylvania’s Center for Dairy Excellence, in introducing Ryan and Jennifer Clark.
Frey was referring to their youth — both are 27 — plus their interest in dairying, and they are building up equity in their herd before taking on land ownership.
At the open house sponsored by the Center, Ryan Clark said he started a few years ago with 28 pregnant and springer cows.
Why the Jersey breed? Ryan said, “They can breed back fast.”
The Clarks milked 50 the first year while he still held his dairy nutritionist job with Cargill.
The second year the Clarks had a seven percent cull rate, but expanded to 80 cows.
Then a drought precipitated his decision to sell cows. But by the end of this year, the cows will likely number 200.
The herd production average is 63 pounds, with 3.75 percent protein and 5 percent fat.
Although Ryan says, “The milk price is never enough,” he adds, “I like what I do.”
Windy Lane Jerseys uses 90 percent sexed semen. Ryan said he has no use for bull calves, “They’re only worth $20 for me.”
The Clarks plant close to 150 acres in corn and about 40 in orchard grass from which they get four cuttings a year.
No-till is employed as much as possible, but Ryan adds, “Except for the ruts.”
Regarding their lease arrangement, Ryan reports that it takes a special type of person from whom to rent.
In this instance, landlord Todd Lewis, who has lived in the area for some time, is supportive of agriculture and is willing to help the Clarks expand. In fact, after building a new barn last fall he extended their four-year lease to 10 years.
The equipment and the cows on the farm are owned by the Clarks.
Jennifer Clark, who still has a full time job off the farm with Dow Chemical as a sales representative, says, “This is a great way to start.”
Both Clarks indicate the importance of being able to communicate with a landlord.
Their banker, Dan Brogdon of Ag Choice, said that the Clarks had all the right ingredients, including their work ethic, education and experience with the dairy industry.
“They were well prepared, with their plan in mind, and had the numbers to support it,” Brogdon elaborated.
Brogdon continued, “Ryan was working off the farm until they expanded, and Jen was working outside.”
The banker said the keys to success include preparation and support from family and the industry.
The Clarks now milk about 160 and the milk is handled by DairyLea.
Jennifer, who grew up with Holsteins and Jerseys, reinforces Ryan’s choice for the Jersey breed, “They are the best feed-efficient animals, and they are easier to handle and work with,” she explains.
The Clarks employ one full-time person and four part-time workers. Jen gets pressed into service on weekends as well.