According to an old African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. But for the Ayers family, owners of Ayers Farms in Perrysville, Ohio, it takes a team of dedicated and skilled employees to ensure the success of their dairy operation year after year.
Today, a total of 22 full-time and part-time employees work on the operation that Edwin and Ina Ayers first purchased in 1947. The farm, which started with 30 milking cows, has since expanded to its current herd of 620 lactating cows.
In an effort to make the process of passing the farm down to future generations easier, Edwin and Ina incorporated the business in 1964.Today, Ed’s sons, and now partners on the dairy, Carl and Steve Ayers; their wives, Janet and Deb; Carl and Janet’s daughter, Kathy Davis; and Steve and Deb’s son, Jesse, own and operate Ayers Farms, a seventh-generation, 2,400-acre farm that sits on the edge of State Route 39, a busy thoroughfare in Ashland County.
Carl and Steve say it didn’t take long to discover that dairying was in their blood. While Carl spent two years in the Army and served in a helicopter ambulance unit in Vietnam, he says he returned home after his discharge to work alongside his father and their cows. Steve, who is five years younger than Carl, spent two years at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute to obtain a dairy management degree.
As equal partners, Carl and Steve share the farm’s overall management responsibilities. In addition to their roles on the farm, both brothers are active in their churches, serve on their local zoning board and are Farm Bureau members. Carl is a trustee of the area electric cooperative and also serves as chairman of the Mohican Basin Landowners Association, which was formed two years ago to help inform landowners and to deal with oil and gas leasing issues throughout the area. Steve is currently serving on the board of directors for the Loudonville Equity.
Janet works with the baby calves, while Deb oversees the operation’s finances. Kathy works with the young stock, and Jesse serves as herdsmen, overseeing herd health and management.
In addition to their roles, the family relies on their employees, several of whom who have worked with the family for more than 20 years.
“Making sure that our employees have a good opportunity to apply their knowledge and ability to contribute to our productivity is a huge part of our farming philosophy,” says Carl. “We have several employees who play key roles in our operation. For us, being considerate of all of our employees and providing them the climate to earn for their families is just as important as being good stewards of the land and being responsible and caring producers for our animals.”
According to Carl, the family couldn’t manage the farm’s day-to-day operations without their team of employees. To retain their employees, the Ayers have regular employee meetings and offer training on a periodic basis. Carl, Kathy, and Jesse also learned Spanish to enhance employee communication. The herd has been in the top 5 percent for milk production in Ohio the last several years, a result of each employee’s dedication and skill.
“We’ve gotten to the point where it’s necessary to have key people who are very responsible in different areas,” Carl says. “Without them, it would be impossible to dairy on the scope that we are dairying today.”