The Ayers milk three times a day in a double-18 herringbone parlor and grow 875 acres of corn, 60 percent of which is used for feed. They also grow 500 acres of beans for cash crop, 800 acres of double-cropped rye for heifer feed, 100 acres of wheat for straw, and 130 acres of rye for seed and straw. Ninety-eight percent of the family’s crops are no-till, which the family began utilizing in 1969. The farm is located in Ohio’s terminal moraine, which is rolling and requires intense soil erosion control practices to ensure future productivity.
Over the years, the family has worked hard to expand and enhance their operation. To advance their health and breeding records, the Ayers began using Dairy Comp 305, an on-farm dairy management software program that tracks a cow’s reproduction, production and health in 1995. They also record milk weights three times a day with Dairy Plan to track herd performance and productivity.
In 1998, the family began building a flush system for their freestall barns, which was completed in the spring of 1999. Now, instead of scraping their existing cow and heifer barns, recycled water is used to flush the barns eight times a day.
During the spring of 2005, they worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to install a gravity-operated liquid and organic solids separation area. Collected, separated solids are loaded on the farm’s conventional manure spreaders and distributed on the cropland, Kathy says. That same year, they also built a sand lane to capture sand bedding, which is now recycled back into the freestall beds. The liquid portion from the lagoons is surface applied to the cropland after cover crops are established in the fall. A drag hose system, along with an underground pipeline, conveys the liquids to the field sites.
In 2003, the family constructed the dairy’s pre-fresh and maternity barn and built their newest freestall barn in 2005, which can hold up to 320 head.
“Looking ahead and expanding has always come natural for us,” Carl says. “Dad was always a progressive farmer. While other producers were milking 10 to 20 cows, we were milking 40. He also built one of the first parlors in our area. He always told us that growth didn’t happen overnight, but step by step. I think he’d be pleased to see what we’ve done.”
While Carl and Steve grew up on the farm, it took their spouses, Janet and Deb, a bit longer to become accustomed to dairying lifestyle. But after raising their children on the farm, the women say they couldn’t imagine another way life.
Each August, Janet and Deb work together on the family’s community square dance event, which drew more than 250 friends, neighbors and business associates last August for food and fellowship. Kathy and Janet also work together on scheduling farm tours for local elementary schools.
Along with overseeing the baby calves, Janet spent 25 years as a part-time industrial nurse in a neighboring town.
“I really enjoy working with the babies and seeing them grow,” Janet says. “I suppose handling all their immunizations and boosters appeals to the nurse in me. It’s also rewarding to know that I play a critical role in future of our operation. It gives me the opportunity to ensure Kathy has healthy heifers to raise, and Jesse has healthy and productive springers and cows.”