Inside Idaho

January 7, 2014 08:21 PM

Pete Wiersma

Pete Wiersma
Buhl, Idaho

In addition to helping manage 1,500 cows on his family’s two dairies in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Wiersma serves on the boards of United Dairymen of Idaho and Independent Milk Producers.

After having been born and raised on dairies in Southern California, an opportunity arose that my wife, Annette, and I felt we could not pass up. My sister, Barb, needed help running her dairy near Twin Falls, Idaho, and we were thinking that Southern California was getting a little too busy for our taste. So with only a little discussion, we made the move to the Magic Valley of south central Idaho.

That was in 1991, and we’ve been here ever since, with no regrets (well, not many, anyway). After a few years, I became a partner in the dairy operation, and that is how it remains today. Currently, we milk about 1,500 cows, mostly Holsteins, on two dry-lot facilities located within a couple of miles of each other. We also have a heifer and dry cow facility within a mile of both dairies. We have never grown our own feed, so all of our farm ground is rented out.

We operate each facility independently; cows are not moved from one dairy to the other. Close-up dry cows are brought back to the dairy they came from. Bull calves are sold, and heifer calves are sent to a raiser until they are 300 lb., and then they are brought back to our heifer facility. As springers, they are returned to the dairy of their origin.

Being a family business has given us the opportunity to include various family members in the running of the operation. Barb’s son-in-law, Aaron, who has been with us for 15 years, manages the cows and crew at the No. 2 dairy. My son, Michael, age 18, helps with feeding and other jobs as his college schedule permits. My two oldest daughters, Janelle, 30, and LoriAnn, 28, have lives of their own off the dairy, and my two younger girls, Traci, 21, and Shelley, 14, chip in when they’re able.

Without a doubt, our employees are the most important part of our operation. Without them, we could accomplish only a fraction of what we do. We’ve found that if we treat our employees fairly and with respect, they reward us with honesty and integrity in their work. The result is that we have very few issues that cannot be resolved with just a conversation.

In addition to being busy keeping our cows healthy and employees happy, I am privileged to serve on the board of the United Dairymen of Idaho, as well as on the board of our local milk marketing co-op, Independent Milk Producers. I am also on my church board, and I even get to play guitar in our worship band once in a while. That makes sense–I’ve got lots of reasons to "make a joyful noise."

Wiersma’s recent prices

Milk $18.22 (3.63 bf, 3.29 prt)

Cull cows $72-$75/cwt.

Springing heifers $1,500/head

Alfalfa hay $210-$240/ton

Cottonseed $398/ton

Ground corn $219/ton

Canola meal $365/ton

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