From scratch

Written by Christine Bush
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“We have no secrets in this business,” he says. “We all get the same price for milk, according to location. We have the same expenses and feed costs. It’s not just a way of life anymore. It’s a business.”

Jim and his family also rebounded from an unexpected setback on the farm. In August 2010, the family lost a building and its contents in a fire. They say that a lightning strike started the blaze that destroyed 500 tons of hay, a front end loader and a windrower. Within months, they finalized insurance payments and had the shed rebuilt.

While family members say they embrace a slow and steady approach to growing, they also explore innovation. This past July, the Docheffs installed a manure separator. For years, they tried to stockpile the manure and spread it in the fields, but Jim says that because the waste is 90 percent water, it was a slurry and difficult to pile. The new system separates the water and fiber and piles the fiber in one area while sending the water to holding ponds. The waste water moves through settling ponds until it’s ready to be spread out as fertilizer.

“We have close to zero waste with the manure,” Judy says. 

Not only are they cutting down on waste, the Docheffs use the fibrous remains to make fertilizer and with that, they started a small side business. Jay heads up the effort to sell fertilizer to landscape companies and area gardeners. 

It’s important to keep up with the times and innovation that can help the operation, Justin says.

“Things are always changing,” he says. “We have all of this computer stuff now, and four months ago, dad thought it was the stupidest thing. Now that he sees what it can do, dad is sold on it.”

Jim doesn’t have to sell anyone on the quality of his milk. His office wall is lined with quality milk awards from DFA. His first award dates back to 2000 when DFA recognized the Docheffs’ dairy for 12 consecutive months of bonus quality milk. The awards added up every year as they continuously achieved quality milk standards. 

Jim credits his commitment to the family and his cows for the success of the operation. Judy says her husband often comes home and says he’s tired, but not tired enough to take time off of the farm.
“People say why don’t you retire,” Jim says. “I won’t retire because I like what I’m doing. This is my life.”