Portraits in Progress: Norwescor Farm among top herds in Stark Co.

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CANAL FULTON, Ohio – Tucked into the northwest corner of Stark County is Norwescor Farm, owned and opernted by Jim and Mary Stockert, their children, Ellie, Grace and Joe, and Jim’s mother, Carolyn.

The farm has been in the family since Jim’s grandfather, Raymond, purchased it in 1930. Jim’s parents, Paul and Carolyn, purchased the farm in 1968 and Jim joined his father in partnership, following his graduation from Ohio State. After Paul passed away, the Stockers formed an S corporation.

Mixing old and new. The pristine farmstead is a unique blend of old and new buildings. A Yankee style barn built in 1889 is used for hay storage and heifer housing, while a two-story bank barn built around 1876 is used for calves and breeding-age heifers. A new barn houses bred heifers and dry cows.

“When we put up the new barn, we had to design a new traffic pattern to use the facilities,” Jim Stockert said. “Now everything moves in a clockwise pattern.”

The bank barn was remodeled to include hutches for calves up to weaning age and a freestall area with headlocks and side curtains for ventilation.

Calves are raised inside the bank barn in hutches until they are weaned, when they’re to the main freestall barn. At about 6 months, they move to the flat barn until they reach breeding age.

Stookert said housing his breeding-age heifers in a freestall area of the bank barn lets him do a better job of catching heifers in heat. It is closer to the semen tank and the headlocks allow him to catch heifers for breeding or veterinary work.

They recently completed an 82-by-80 foot barn with side curtains, an open ridge, two sliding doors and a roil-up door on the west side to give the animals access to a pasture for exercise. Adjacent to the new barn, Stockert built a pad for silage bags by laying out a 150-by-35 foot pad of asphalt road grindings. Ground asphalt provides a firm base, and it is cheaper than concrete.

Built for cow comfort.

Stockert said cow comfort is the key component of the new barn. It allows him to sort and manage animals and feed separate rations if he needs to.

‘We had the dry cows in freestalls before we built this barn, they just didn’t do well,” Stockert said. “Now we have them in loose housing on a dirt floor, topped by a bedding pack, so they are more comfortable.”

The heifers use 61/2-by-3 foot freestalls with a base of old tires filled with sand. Stockert didn’t install brisket boards in front of the stalls in the new barn, which heifers the lunge space they need to get up in the stalls.

“They are much more comfortable.’ he said. “The heifers lay in the stalls and no one lays backward in the stalls.”

The old dry cow barn now houses fresh cows for three to four weeks. This lets Stockert limit their access to the TMR, yet gives them access to second and third cutting orchard grass/alfalfa hay and pasture at night. Since he started this program, he has not had a single LDA.

Milking 3x.

The milking herd is housed in a freestall barn and milked in a double-five parlor with meters and automatic takeoffs.

With a 3x milking schedule, Jim milks three milkings, generally the night milking, per week. This helps him keep tabs on the day-to-day routine. Two employees, Tim Snyder and Cindy Haas, also handle the milking and feeding chores. Jim’s mother, Carolyn, is a part-time milker, a chore she juggles along with keeping the farm records, delivering meals to senior citizens and her music. This year, she was selected as a member of the Blossom Music Center chorus, which performs with the Cleveland Orchestra at various concerts throughout the season.

Stockert is fortunate to have a good pool of part-time employees as well.

Nutrition management.

Stockert worked with his nutritionist to develop a TMR of corn silage, haylage, wet brewers’ grain, protein mix, shelled corn and ear corn balanced for 78-80 pounds of milk. Currently, the herd average is right around 23,500 pounds of milk and 870 pounds of fat (3x).

“The more the cows eat, the better they do,” he said. “I think using a TMR will keep them eating and keep the production up when it gets hot.”

Cows are fed outside at a feedbunk, which helps get the heat out of the barn.

He added that installing fans over the feedbunk keeps the air moving, improves cow comfort and hopefully will keep milk production up during hot weather.

Top cows.

When Stockert looks at production in his herd, cows such as Norwescor Cleitus Jewel stand out from the rest of the herd. A 12-year-old 87 point Cleitus daughter, she is Stark County’s top lifetime producer with 252,770 pounds of milk, 9,230 pounds of fat and 7,708 pounds of protein.

Another Norwescor-bred cow, Norwescor Mathie Lydia, comes from a long line of Excellent cows and is the county’s top cow for fat. She was purchased at the Spring Dairy Expo sale by fellow Stark County Holstein breeders, the Ramsey family at Louisville.

Merchandising.

“We try to emphasize cow families,” Stockert said. “We want to get a calf out of every cow we breed. We do some contract matings, but we don’t do a lot of embryo transplant work. We only flush a cow if we have a contract on the calves.”

For example, a flush on an 88 point Bellwood daughter resulted in three bull calves headed for A.I.

Stockert merchandises his cows through state sales, the Buckeye Classic and the Spring Dairy Expo sales

“If you want to sell cattle, you have to keep them as clean as possible,” he said. “We try to manage to prevent problems. We have a herd check every two weeks and we have a vaccination program, beginning with calfhood vaccinations.

“This disease thing can be dangerous. Between mad cow disease, Johnes and foot-and-mouth disease, it is enough to decimate the industry.”

The Stockerts farm 300 acres with crops consisting of corn and alfalfa and 40 acres of pasture, including eight acres for intensive grazing. The 8-acre lot is divided into nine paddocks and the cattle are moved about every three days,

Conservation is important to Stockert. He uses contour strips and has installed waterways and is using reduced tillage on cropland.

“We don’t use no-till because we don’t like to use a lot of chemicals,” he added.

They have 110 replacement animals and a milking herd of 120 head of registered Holsteins with plans to go to 140 head in the next 10-12 months. Stockert said the expansion will give him the cash flow to hire an additional person.

“We are fortunate that everyone works hard to get things done,” he said. “The way the facilities are built, it shouldn’t be difficult to try to get more time off for everyone, once we finish the expansion.

“It is a constant challenge to get more family time, but a lot of the decisions we made have allowed us to hire additional help. I am lucky to have very good people.’

Stockerts market their milk through Dairy Farmers of America, and are members of the state and national Holstein associations. Jim has also served on the DHI board and they are active in their church.

An eye on sprawl.

Located right on the edge of Stark, Summit and Wayne counties, Stocked concedes that he, like all business people, is faced with challenges.

The family is watching as more houses crop up in the neighborhood. “I am not in the thick of it, but it will be here,” Stockert said.

“The reason we are losing farm land is because the land values are high, people are selling out and it is hard to find land to farm. Unless we have a famine, I don’t see, farmers having the same leverage for land that people working other jobs will have.”

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