Standing in David Jackson’s office at Bentwood Dairy in Waco, Texas, it takes less than a minute to realize he runs a diverse operation.
In addition to their two dairies, which milk approximately 600 cows twice a day, the Jacksons have a sprig business — selling jigs sprigs, coastal sprigs and jigs tops to area horse farms and others to use for sodding pastures in central Texas. They also have a beef cattle operation, farm cropland and raise all their heifer replacements and feed steer calves to finish.
“Dairying is still 80 percent of what we do,” David says. “I love the dairy business, but there are ups and downs. That’s when diversity of our business helps. I have been criticized for having diversity, but that is what it takes for us.”
David’s wife, Jodi, who oversees the beef cattle, echoes his sentiments.
“We are very diverse,” Jodi says. “I think diversity is important because in agriculture, it is never stable. There is always something good or bad and, especially with the weather, that affects agriculture, so it is just a nice thing to have so much diversity.”
Despite the diversity of his operation, David always knew he wanted to be a dairyman.
His parents, with little money but a strong work ethic, started dairying in 1956. By 1965, they had four young boys and lived in a $500 house with no windows or doors.
The work ethic of his parents, who built their dairy from the ground up, is ingrained in David.
David’s mother, Mary, had a profound effect on his life, and many of the principles he applies in his own business he learned from her.
In 1972, David’s father, Gene, was killed in an unfortunate farming accident. After his father’s passing, his mother kept the dairy going with the help of David and his four siblings for another 36 years.
When David wanted to start a dairy, he talked to his mother.
“I wanted to give dairy a try,” David says. “My mother said that was a good idea, but that I better go get one.”
His mother was a proponent of David and his brothers each having their own operation instead of partnering together.
“That was a very good decision,” David says. “My brothers are each good businessmen, but we each have our own views of how to run a business. My mother was a fine business person, and she ran the dairy for 52 years. I believe in my dairy career, I got a lot of breaks because everyone knew my mother.”
David started small and continues to build his business today.
At 24 years old, David leased a dairy and started milking 30 cows, gradually building the herd to 125. At the age of 27, he bought his first farm. Today, he owns seven farms, two of which are dairies. The farms cover 1,350 acres and they lease an additional 460 acres.
“I started small, and I crawled my way in and eventually bought the dairy,” David says. “We just added a few more cows each year. It takes time to learn how to manage. I see those who want it all at once, which is o.k., but there are more risks.”
To help finance his first dairy, David worked with Associated Milk Producers Incorporated Financing, now know as DFA Financing. David says he is thankful he chose them because they knew the dairy business as he was learning it.