Nick Vande Weerd
The Vande Weerd family is majority owner and manager of Pleasant Dutch Dairy, which milks 1,400 Holsteins.
**Extended comments highlighted in blue.
Pleasant Dutch Dairy is a 1,400-cow family operation located near Willow Lake, S.D. We are a commercial operation with nearly 100% Holsteins. The dairy was purchased three years ago and is located 45 miles from our home operation.
The home operation where I grew up was a 160-cow dairy. We were a diversified operation that also raised hogs and cattle. In addition, we farmed 1,200 tillable acres and grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Today the home operation is used for raising our heifers from eight months of age until 22 months.
Due to the size of our operation while I was growing up, I planned on the possibility of not returning to the farming operation after college. With that mentality, I joined the Air National Guard my senior year in high school. I have now served for nearly 13 years and feel it has provided me with many experiences and tools that help me manage the current operation. The Air National Guard also assisted with my college tuition. I graduated from South Dakota State University with my master’s degree in economics and proceeded to work off of the family farm as a dairy financial consultant.
Three years ago, my family was looking at different options to grow our 160-cow dairy. We decided not to pass up the opportunity to partner with some family friends and purchase a struggling 1,200-cow dairy. The majority of the dairy is owned by my father, mother, two brothers and me. When we took over, we knew two things: we didn’t have experience running a 1,200-cow dairy and many positive changes needed to be made.
One of the first things we did was put together a management team that consisted of a reproductive specialist, nutritionist and two veterinarians. The team met each month with the goal of improving the dairy. We have had many heated discussions but have also made some positive strides. We still have many areas to improve and plan to always set the bar higher as we accomplish our goals.
Due to the hard work of our team and employees, production has increased from 70 to 90 lb. per cow per day, and somatic cell count has decreased from 380,000 to 175,000. We recently leased some facilities nearby, which allowed us to expand the herd from 1,200 cows to our current 1,400 cows. In addition, we raise all of our own heifers. The heifer herd is split between three locations and has grown to over 1,200 heifers.
The dairy has been a great learning experience. Due to the great team we have working with us, I have found time to continue to develop my leadership skills through continuing to serve in the Air National Guard and serving as a board member for Farm Credit Services of America. I hope to continue to participate in opportunities that help improve the dairy industry.
|Vande Weerd's Most Recent Prices
|Milk (3.8% bf, 3.05% prt)
||$65 to $73/cwt.
||$1,300 to $1,500/head
|Alfalfa hay (milk cow)
||$275 to $325/ton