WILLARD, Ohio — If you ask Joel Albright what is it about dairying that he enjoys so much, that he would continue to milk over 400 Jersey cows while also being a full-time agriscience teacher, he answers, “I don’t think we know any different.”
Now on the third generation, Joel has been taking on more and more responsibility from his father, Fred, who doesn’t mind sitting back and letting his son call the shots. These days, “Joel is pretty much looking after the dairy,” said Fred Albright, adding Joel serves as the dairy herd manager and, most days, the whole farm manager.
“You often hear the older generation doesn’t want the younger generation to make management decisions — that’s not the case here,” said Joel. “He’s (Fred) taken a mentor approach which is pretty neat — I don’t take that for granted,” he said.
Albright Jerseys LLC, in Huron County, milks 465 head of Jerseys which produced a herd average of 21,800 pounds in 2016. The Albright’s farm around 400 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat for silage — farming enough acres to grow what they need to feed the herd.
The parlor being used today was originally built by Joel’s grandfather, Allen, in the early ’70s. He originally began milking cows in the late ’40s until brucellosis wiped out his herd of 24 cows.
Fred returned to the family farm, with his wife, Becky, in the summer of 1977 and took up a job teaching while helping out on the dairy. In 1985, Fred quit teaching to work the dairy full time, which was milking around 150 head.
His son, Joel, went off to college to study agriscience education at Ohio State University and would take a job with Crestview High School in 2001 — while also continuing to help on the family farm.
The herd began to grow and a new freestall was built in 2003. A second freestall was built in 2011 to accommodate an additional 200 cows being added to the herd. The milking parlor was also retrofitted at this time, to a double-16 parlor, and milking went from twice a day to three times a day.
In 2014, the final freestall barn was built and a sand lane flush system was installed. Joel estimates they are able to save around 90 percent of the sand with this system. “It’s a little difficult to measure,” he said. “I’ve only bought around five loads of sand this year and we used to buy sand twice a week.”
Another improvement to the farm was a silage pad built in 2006. “We basically made a big parking lot to put silage on,” said Joel. This pad got the stored silage out of the mud and improved feed quality.
“Dad’s always been conservation minded,” said Joel. “He’s been no-tilling since the ’80s.”
Double cropping wheat allows the Albrights to not only have more feed for the cows but also provides a ground cover going into the winter months.
With over 500 cows, heifers and calves on the farm, there is certainly no shortage of manure. So much that the Albrights sell surplus to neighboring farms.
As far as precision agriculture goes, Joel admits they are pretty minimal. They have used soil sampling and GPS, but most of the cropping is done through custom operators.
“We offer a grid soil sampling service at the school,” said Joel. His students go to farms and take soil samples to send into a lab. Farmers who request the service can use an online account to see their results and get fertilizer recommendations based on the sample.
Joel said, he used the service on his farm and determined they did have some areas that were deficient in nutrients.
“It’s been a really good way to give the kids a connection to production agriculture and earn a little money for the chapter,” he said.
Joel met his wife, Mary Beth while attending Ohio State. Mary Beth serves a the Erie County 4-H Extension Educator. Whether their two young children will take over the family farm one day is still undetermined.
Lauren, 7, enjoys they cows and has been practicing leading a calf for the fair this year, explained Mary Beth. And Luke, 5, “likes the mud, the machinery and the cows,” she said.
Balancing life as an agriscience teacher, full-time farmer and father can be tricky, but Joel said his future plans are to keep milking more cows.