CRESTON, Ohio — No farmer should have to go through one barn fire, let alone two, but that is just one of the challenges Virgil and Lois Gasser have faced during their 37 years in the dairy business.
Just one week before the annual Wayne County Dairy Service Unit Twilight Tour, Gasser lost a barn on a second farm he owns to a barn fire. Fortunately, no one was injured.
“We have been blessed by family and friends and surrounding businesses that have helped us over the years,” Gasser said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Love the land
When asked by Diane Shoemaker, Wayne County Dairy Extension educator, why he farmed, Gasser told the audience more than 1,200 people attending the tour that it was because they love the land that God has given to them.
“We enjoy learning from one another day to day,” he said. “We try to set a good example for the community.”
Gasser added that for young people going into the dairy business, it is important for them to be well grounded and prepared for the decisions they will need to make.
Gasser was born and raised on a dairy farm near Creston, Ohio, and farmed with his father and brothers. In 1974, he not only started his own dairy operation, but he began working for W.G. Dairy as a salesman as well.
By 1984, they had purchased the home farm and updated the facilities to include a double six herringbone parlor and a free stall barn to accommodate 100 milk cows.
In 1999, the bank barn that had been on the farm when they purchased it burned. This barn was replaced by a four row freestall barn.
Since then, the parlor has been upgraded to a double 10 unit, new free stall barns have been added, cement feed storage bunkers constructed and a 1.8 million gallon manure storage facility is being constructed to handle the waste from 470 dairy cows and about 400 young animals.
Another improvement on the farm was the recent addition of an automated calf feeding system. Calves are started with bottles in individual pens, but when they are about 10 days old, they are moved to a large group pen in the 30 x 86 hooped roof building with curtain sides.
Because the Gassers use the waste milk from their herd, it is pasteurized before it goes into a bulk tank for storage. From the tank, the milk goes into the calf feeding unit where it is warmed to about 100 degrees.
Each calf wears a computerized necktag containing the calf’s information along with how much milk it is supposed to get during the day. When the calf enters the feeding unit, the tag is scanned to determine when the calf last ate, how much it ate and how much more feed it is supposed have.
When the calf has consumed its daily allotment, the computer records that and the calf is no longer able to get any milk from the unit.
According to David Gasser, who handles the calf raising duties on the farm, the unit is programmed to step up the amount of milk the calf gets as it gets older and when it is time to wean the calf, the amount of milk is decreased as the calf consumers more grain and water.
David Gasser said he saw the unit during a trip to Wisconsin and he like the look of the calves that he saw using the unit.
“The calves receive the same amount of feed they would in a conventional system, but they receive smaller amounts several times a day and they are able to use the nutrients better,” he said. “Another advantage to this unit is that the calves are used to being in a group when they are weaned.”