3rd generation dairy farmers carry on family tradition
Ryan and Niki Eipers are third generation dairy farmers living north of Dodge Center where his grandparents moved to from Illinois in the early 1970’s.
Ryan said they milk 145 cows and raise many of their replacement heifers plus also buy some heifers too. They are able to grow the majority of their feed supply especially corn silage and haylage.
Their two daughters, Olivia, age 7 and Eva, age 4, really enjoy feeding their young calves and so are the fourth generation living on the farm, Ryan said.
The couple has been married nine years. Ryan is a Triton High School graduate and Niki grew up in the Leroy and Brownsdale area but did not live on a farm. As a result, milking was something new to her but she said she has she adapted quite well. Since she joined the farm operation the couple have increased their dairy herd numbers by 100 cows. Nothing is planned at this time to increase their dairy operation, Ryan said, but a lot will also depend on future milk prices.
It has really been a struggle for dairy farmers for several years with low milk prices, he said, so many farmers have gotten out of the business throughout Minnesota. It is estimated that 300 Minnesota dairy farms quit milking in 2018 and 2019 resulting in a 30% decline in dairy operations during the last decade across the USA. Milk prices have really been on a roller coaster ride in 2020, Ryan said, and when schools and restaurants were closed due to the virus, the milk prices dropped to one half what they were earlier in the winter. Of course, he added, their family living costs did not shrink in the same corresponding amount!
Niki does a lot of the milking which starts are 5 a.m and again at 3:30 p.m. but Ryan’s father, Steve, also helps with the milking in the morning. They also have a 16-year-old Triton student, Kiya Avery, helping with the milking.
They use a 12 swing parlor for their milking operation. Since the Eipers are expecting their third child the middle of this summer, Niki has to limit some of the milking and chores she has normally does. She is also a Certified Nursing Assistant so has worked in that capacity at the local nursing home at times.
Their two daughters were involved with the online learning with Olivia in first grade and Eva in pre-school. They both said it worked but using books really worked much better for all of them.
Dairy farming takes a lot of hours each week but this young couple seem to enjoy what they are doing and are willing to put in the hard work each day.