The Illinois Milk Producers’ Association annual Dairy Tech Showcase farm tour included two area dairy farms.
Schaffer Dairy, located northwest of Fairbury, was the first stop. Lynn Schaffer and his sons operate a new milking parlor built to maximize technology, management and cow comfort. The Holstein herd of 100 cows average over 27,000 pounds of milk annually.
Lewis Schaffer stays busy with custom forage harvesting. Lynn provides some advice and his brothers help run the equipment.
“I’ve got a big square baler and I can square bale hay, straw or corn stalks. I also have a round baler,” Schaffer said.
The younger Schaffer also chops corn silage and has the wagons and baggers for it. He travels as far as 70 miles and uses a semi to haul equipment. Schaffer recalls the drought of 2012 when he chopped quite a bit of silage.
“We picked up quite a few new customers and we’ve retained quite a few of them.”
Luke Schaffer focuses more on the dairy side of things, helping his father with day to day decisions. He admits the dairy industry is a hard job to take time off from.
“We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of siblings.”
The second tour stop was at Kilgus Farmstead south of Fairbury. The family farming operation includes grain and dairy and they milk around 140 Jersey cows. The Kilguses started their own on-farm processing plant in 2009 to give family an opportunity to come back to the farm.
“Since then, it’s not only grown from the farmstead bottled milk but into the beef, pork and goats. We’ve kind of added a meat aspect to our business,” explained Matt Kilgus.
Kilgus Farmstead products can be purchased from the farmstead store and the items are also distributed throughout Illinois. The Kilgus family participates in quite a few events throughout the year, one of which includes the annual Breakfast on the Farm in June. Over 400 guests were served at this year’s event and Kilgus says they give tours to 2,000-3,000 people every year.
Each farm stop included an organized tour conducted by the dairy owners along with management discussions and question and answer sessions led by Dave Fischer, former University of Illinois dairy educator. University of Illinois dairy specialists Dr. Phil Cardoso and Dr. Mike Hutjens also joined Fischer on the tour.