By Kelsie Hoitomt
CONNORSVILLE — This week’s “Farm Feature” highlights the fourth generation dairy farm that is now owned by Steve and Angie Olson.
After taking over the dairy farm in 2008 from his parents, Pork and Carol, Steve and his wife Angie decided to name their place Maple Hills Dairy.
Prior to the change in ownership, Steve was in a partnership with his parents for 13 years.
The dairy farm began years ago with Steve’s great-grandparents, Karl and Clara. From there, it was Clyde and Muriel and then Pork and Carol.
In 1998, Steve and Angie moved into their home, which is just up the road from the original farm at Pork and Carol’s on the outskirts of Connorsville.
In 2008, he and Angie came to the conclusion that dairy farming had to be easier than it was so they made contact with a company that aids in the installation of milking parlors.
Once the parlor was in, they expanded their herd and now they have around 70 cows and 70 young stock including those on their own property that are milked, the calves across the road at Pork and Carol’s and the dry cows at another location near by.
The farm consists of four locations, which covers roughly 496 acres. They recently purchased a property that has two sheds, a house and crop land.
They are using the sheds for additional storage and the house is where their hired hand lives.
According to Steve, they crop mostly alfalfa and corn with typically 130 acres of corn, 130 of alfalfa, 50 of oats and around 50 for soy beans.
The majority of their crops are kept in house and put into a TMR mixer, which is in turn fed back to their own livestock.
When asked about prices over the years, Steve stated that the fluctuation in crop prices over the years hasn’t affected them as deeply due to growing and feeding of their own.
However, milk prices on the other hand are something that has a large impact.
“This year has been excellent, but when we took over in 2008 that was the bad year, milk was about ten dollars,” explained Steve.
The numbers more recently have roughly been at the $24 to $27 range, but that is also an all time high so an average of $17-18 is more of what they look for.
“Milking is more stable. In dairy there’s about one or two bad years out of 10 versus crops there could be three or four in that ten from what I hear,” said Steve when asked whether milking or dairy farming is more profitable in terms of stability.
“I think there are more headaches with dairying though, its constant versus peak seasons and down time with crops,” Steve said.
Steve laughed as he shared that maybe one day he would consider crop farming when he wanted to slow down, but for now it is dairy full speed ahead for the Olson family.
“I’ve always liked animals and one thing I don’t like about just crop farming is I like seeing hay on the land and grass,” explained Steve. “We pasture a lot of ground, probably 150 acres… we have cattle all over, had some by Glenwood… you don’t see much of that anymore. I’m not exaggerating when I say we have at least 10 miles of fences to maintain.”
The cows at Maple Hills Dairy enjoy free range pasturing all year round, but when the cleaning system kicks on for the parlor, they know to come running to the barn.
The cows are milked twice a day with the help of their hired hands, one full time and three part time workers and then Steve himself two or three times a week.
Pork still helps run the tractors and he does field work and he and Carol will help feed the young stock as well.
Steve and Angie both praised their workers for their excellence, which has helped keep them off the farm.
With two young children- Megan and Nick, Steve and Angie are busy running to programs and sporting events so being able to rely on good help has been very appreciated by them.
Aside from the farm and children, both Steve and Angie have full time jobs as well.
Steve has spent 14 years working for St. Croix County. He is currently in the Community Development Department, which has become a conglomerate of programs such as Planning and Zoning and his area of expertise- Land and Water Conservation.
Prior to that, he also worked in the Land and Water Conservation Department in Dunn County.
Steve shared milking and working a separate job is a unique trait that the Olson family carries.
Karl was a carpenter and milked, Clyde was a milk hauler and milked and Pork was a carpenter and managed a lumber yard and then milked.
In those days, Karl was managing around 40 acres of crop land along with his dairy cows and Clyde had around 240 acres.
Steve shared that in those days, they typically grew a little bit of corn and then some barely with the majority being hay. Steve is now the first generation to grow soy beans.
Steve is the first generation to use the milking parlor as was stated. Prior to this, he grew up first using milking buckets, then they had a step saver and prior to the parlor they had a pipe line.
Steve shared that one day he hopes to upgrade to using a robot, but that is a few years out.
As far as milk, the liquid is picked up by Steve Nelson Trucking and is sent to AMPI in Jim Falls where it is transformed into cheese.
One of the big contracts AMPI has is with pepper jack cheese, which is sold to a wholesaler and then in turn sold to the food franchise, Subway.
It is their milk that has given Maple Hills Dairy great recognition over the years.
Their cows have produced quality award winning milk, which was given to them by the AMPI Co-op for having less than a 200,000 somatic cell count for ten out of 12 months.
Away from the farm and their jobs at the County and Bremer Bank – Angie has worked for Bremer for 22 years – the Olsons keep busy in a variety of ways.
This past fall Steve helped coach his son’s football team and he is an avid hunter with several trophy bucks on display in his home.
Aside from football Nick also plays basketball and baseball. Megan too plays basketball as well as volleyball and softball, she runs cross country and she is an avid dancer.
In their spare time as a family, they like to go camping every summer and spend time fishing and tubing on the water. In the winter months they like to travel some place warm.
Aside from their milk recognitions, the Olsons were recently honored with hosting the 2015 Dunn County Dairy Breakfast.
They will now open their farm up to visitors on June 6, 2015 and the County will provide a large waffle breakfast buffet that is available for $5.
“It is definitely appreciated and a huge honor,” expressed the Olsons.