Raising quality forages and the 6th generation
Consultant: Meaghan Huffman
- 5th generation family run business, started in 1886
- Switched from computer feeder to TMR diet in December 2016
- Diversified between dairy, crops, beef cows, and different sales
The three big keys to success? Strong family values, quality homegrown forages and diversification. At Bunse Family Dairy, everyone is a key player. The farm is home to Steven and Carole Bunse, their daughter, Amy, son, Nathan, and his wife, Rachel. The sixth generation on the farm has already arrived as Nathan and Rachel have two children, Emma and Caleb.
In 1886, Steven’s great grandfather came over from Germany to farm. Steven took over in 1983 with 40 cows, and has since grown the herd to 60 head. Today, each player has a part in the dairy’s success. Steven manages the cows, while Amy focuses on calf care and improving cow comfort. Nathan specializes in crop and forage management and runs the TMR wagon.
Over the last 10 years, the team at Bunse Dairy has worked with Cargill on their nutrition. They now work with Cargill Dairy Focus Consultant Meaghan Huffman, who transitioned onto the account to make sure they’d be taken care of even when their first nutritionist retired. “She likes everything to be perfect,” Nathan continues, “Which is good for us. It helps keep us consistent.”
One of the first items of business when Meaghan took over was helping transition cows from a computer feeder to a TMR diet in December 2016. This has allowed the cows to consume a more consistent diet and nutrients, one of Meaghan’s big goals. Steven has noticed a difference since they switched, stating, “We definitely have more control now. There is less wasted hay, and milk production is going up more than it was before the switch.” Nathan added on, “Before we had some [cows] that looked too skinny. Now, they look healthier overall.”
Part of that success is also the commitment the dairy has in growing a high-quality forage. “Raising quality forages really helps the price of everything,” Nathan continued, “We’re already spending so much on input, we need to have a good, profitable outcome.” Meaghan is out at the farm taking a lot of forage samples, and sends them to Cargill’s global research lab in Elk River, Minnesota. This allows her to formulate a more precise diet to meet performance goals she sets with the dairy.
Their ability to grow high-quality feed for their animals is complemented by their efforts to diversify their business and incomes. “The diversification of business and crops on the farm helps. You have to depend less on the market, and you can control your own quality and outcome more,” Steven said proudly.
When reflecting back on what makes them proud, Rachel summed it up for the whole family saying, “I’m really proud that there are so many generations on this farm that really have a passion for farm life, raising their family in a rural community and that consistently want to raise the next generation to do the same.”