MARSHALLVILLE, Ohio — Matthew Steiner believes it is important to take care of the cows, because they take care of his family.
Steiner and his wife, Gail, have seven sons involved in Pine Tree Dairy Farm, the family’s dairy operation near Marshallville.
Their farm was featured on the annual Wayne County Twilight Dairy Tour, July 19.
Following supper, ice cream and a tour of the farm, Steiner addressed the audience of about 3,000 friends, neighbors and dairymen from Wayne and surrounding counties. When Steiner asked if there was a doctor or nurse in the audience, it was not because anyone needed medical assistance. He simply wanted to know if their patients received the same level of care cows at Pine Tree Dairy receive.
“Do your patients eat a computer-analyzed, balanced diet,” he said. “Our cows do. Do your patients have a safe, comfortable place to sleep? Ours do. Do your patients have a doctor living within walking distance and are they treated where they live? Ours do.”
Steiner said taking care of the cows is important because they take care of the family.
“We work together, vacation together and worship together,” he said.
Steiner said the farm is based on two miracles, the miracle of seed and the miracle of birth.
“We cannot make a seed, we cannot make a birth,” he said. “The Lord has blessed us.”
Matthew is the fourth generation on the farm. His great-grandfather, Levi Steiner, spent most of his life on a farm just north of the Steiner home farm on state Route 604 in Rittman.
Levi’s son, Ezra, began farming along state Route 604 in 1919 and Ezra’s son, Alvin, began farming in 1946. Matthew began farming in partnership with his father, Alvin, in 1976 and went on his in 1981.
Today, Matthew fills in where needed, while his sons take care of the day-to-day operations. Nate handles herd health and management as well as the embryo transplant work. Joel oversees operation of the dairy facilities and equipment and is the crop supervisor, Luke handles nutrition and feeding as well as supervising the organic dairy operation located in Ashland county, Aaron is responsible for heifer care and managing the female embryo donors, Andrew handles public relations and merchandising, Ethan handles calf registration and merchandising, and Matthew Jr. is responsible for herd management, heat detection and AI breeding.
In all, 40 family members are involved in the operation and are backed up by Fred Hartzler and Ron Thompson, who provide management and labor for the organic dairy, Aaron Baltic, who provides management and labor wherever he is needed, and Scott Rupp, who does fieldwork, harvesting and maintenance.
Four full-time milkers and maternity pen monitors, and 12-15 part-time employees round out the crew.
“For every $1 of milk that leaves this farm, it generates about $3 in the local economy,” he said. “The most important part of this farm is not what is here, rather, it is what results are realized.”
Steiner estimates that farms such as his generate about 50 jobs in the community ranging from feed salesmen, to milk haulers, to AI industry people to veterinarians.
Prior to beginning construction a new dairy facility in 2010, Steiners milked 270 cows at the home farm on 604 and another 250 cows on a rented facility in Holmes County, in addition to the Ashland county organic dairy.
The new facility has room to house 675 cows and features a drive-through feed alley, side curtains, fans and misters. The barn has a flush manure system with a sand lane to capture and separate sand for reuse for bedding.
Manure flows to holding ponds where the liquids and solids are separated before being applied to the fields.
The Steiners added a double-20 parallel parlor. Each cow has a radio frequency identification tag that allows the Steiners to record milk production and other information on the animal. The system also allows them to sort out individual animals for breeding or health issues.
The barn includes a maternity pen and office. The farm has another 675 replacements and 130 bulls. Heifer calves stay on the farm until they are 3 months old and transferred to a heifer grower.
Heifers used as embryo donors or recipient animals are brought back to the farm at 12 months of age. Dry cows and heifers are housed at the farm.
Lots of feed
It takes 43,000 bushels of corn, 9,000 tons of corn silage and 3,000 tons of dry hay equivalent (dry hay, baleage, and haylege) annually to feed the herd. The Ashland farm has 250 cows and 200 replacement animals. Three heifer growers raise the replacements from the Ashland farm after they reach 10 months of age.
The Ashland farm is comprised of 450 acres of organic crops for the herd, including 150 acres of corn, 60 acres of small grains and the balance in hay and pasture. Steiner said the herd uses 22,000 bushels of corn per year, 1,660 tons of corn silage, 1,750 tons of dry hay equivalent (dry hay, baleage, haylege and pasture) soybeans, navy and black beans and small grains.
“We purchase most of the corn and protein for both dairies, which in a year such as this present challenges for producers,” Steiner said.
Steiners not only focus on cow comfort, but they focus on cow quality as well, breeding for health and longevity traits, giving them additional income from the sale of breeding stock and embryos.
They market about 100 females and 30 bulls per year to bull studs and other breeders. A particular favorite of Steiners is Wesswood HC Rudy Missy, now 15 years of age. For Steiner, she is the complete package for production, longevity and progeny performance.