OSSEO, Wis.—Brad Goplin of Osseo is relatively new to the dairy world, jumping in during a time of poor prices. But he’s determined to carry on his family’s tradition as the sixth generation on his Trempealeau County farm.
Goplin recalls the 1 a.m. phone call he received from his dad while he was taking agriculture classes at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Asked to come to the barn, when he arrived he opened the door and saw the gutters were flooded from a stuck water cup.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” his dad asked.
Goplin’s answer was a definite “Yes.”
After graduating from college in 2011 at the age of 19, Goplin started his herd by buying existing Holstein cows and equipment from his dad and uncle. Two years later he was able to update the 1927 barn by putting in new stalls, lights, tunnel ventilation and comfort mats.
The result was a 1,500-pound increase in production, which is now at 23,000 pounds.
“Little things added up,” he said.
When Goplin first started he was favoring good dairy-type cows but lately he is looking more closely at components.
“I’m trying to keep the (veterinarian) out of the barn and breed back in a timely matter,” he said.
To meet his goals he currently has two herds – 60 cows that he milks on the 120-tillable-acre home farm and 40 cows that his neighbor milks for him on a nearby dairy. He said he likes one-on-one contact with the cows.
“I would like to stay at 100 and try to be more efficient,” he said. ”If I expand it would be a snowball effect.”
Because of the uncertainty of the dairy business he wants to be sure there’s a future for him before he expands.
Goplin also farms 700 acres of crops including corn, soybeans and hay. He rents from his dad, his uncle and five other landowners, the farthest being 15 miles away from the home farm. Enough beans are roasted and corn harvested as high moisture to feed the animals, with the remaining crops sold for cash. Hay and corn are stored in silage bags and ensiled to be fed in a total mixed ration. Protein is top-dressed for feed efficiency.
His dad, Eric Goplin, still helps with feeding chores.
“It’s a family effort. Dad and I work well together,” Brad Goplin said.
He said he thinks his dad and uncle’s experiences with farming work well with his agricultural schooling.
“Yes, that’s what the book says, but the book is a guideline,” his dad and uncle like to remind him.
Goplin’s future goal is to know “by the time I’m 30 if it’s going to work out or if I should try something else,” he said. “I felt like it was an honor to keep the torch lit and I have deep roots that are in this valley.”
Eric Goplin said, “If you want to get out, then get out. It won’t be because you failed, Brad, it will be because agriculture failed you. Don’t go on if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Brad Goplin’s concern is with milk prices.
“We’re hurting ourselves,” he said. “People are expanding when prices are low and expanding when prices are high.”
As an active Wisconsin Farmer’s Union member he supports supply management with a minimum price. He said he would like to see a fair sustainable price so he can make a living as well as a fair price for processors and a quality product for consumers.
For now Goplin is fortunate to have his family’s help and an understanding banker. This year he plans to marry Jada Schaub, who already helps out when she can. As the farm moves toward its sesquicentennial the family hopes to keep it moving to another generation.