Names: Justin, 30, and Kara, 28, Wolff
Operation: Wolff Dairy, Medina County, Ohio
Dairy: The Wolffs milk around 60-head of Holsteins, averaging around 70 pounds of milk per cow per day.
The parlor is an “old-school” tie stall barn, retrofitted with headlocks and milks eight cows at a time. The freestall barns were converted to sand in 2009, which Kara said the “girls love.”
“We definitely have a strong focus on cow care,” said Justin. Kara said, “a lot of the herd is getting older and they are still great cows. We have cows producing at eight or nine lactations.”
The maternity pen is also closely monitored by a web cam, which Justin’s dad, Lowell, checks every night before bed.
Crops: The Wolffs farm around 200 acres total, with 20 of those acres in pasture and 30 in woodlands. Everything planted goes into feed for the cows, which includes: corn and soybeans, some wheat, hay and rye.
Conservation: In 2016, the Wolff family was recognized as a Conservation Farm Family for the northeast Ohio area, at the Farm Science Review in September.
“Justin’s dad (Lowell) is really big on conservation and stewardship of the land,” said Kara. In the past 10 years, Justin said he has really noticed a difference in soil quality in the fields that have had cover crops, compared to a field with no cover crop.
A combination of no-till and cover crop practices have helped improve the soil quality, especially with compaction. “We are on a heavy clay soil here and it has to be managed right,” he said. The cover crops also provide an alternative feed source for the cows.
In 2009, the Wolffs put in covered manure storage to manage excess manure. In that same year, a milk room waste-water system was installed to divert wash water into a settling tank and sprinkler system, which is then used to irrigate pastureland.
Some of that excess water is also used to irrigate Kara’s vegetable garden, where she sources some of her produce to local restaurants.
In 2016, a plate cooler was installed in the milkhouse that uses water to cool the milk before it enters the tank. The water that comes off the plate cooler is collected outside the parlor and the cows can drink it as they exit the parlor. Kara said the system saves on energy and, “the cows love the water that comes off the cooler,” said Kara.
Family: Justin is the sixth generation on the farm, slowly taking over for his 62-year-old father.
“As far as farming relationships go, it can get tricky,” said Kara. But Justin said he is fortunate he and his father have a strong working relationship.
Kara did not grow up on a farm but said, “My mom will tell you she wanted one of us to marry a dairyman.” She and Justin met while attending the Medina County Fair.
Humbling life: Kara said living and working on a dairy is “a frustrating life, but it’s a humbling life.”
“Marrying into the dairy was a huge learning curve,” she said. “I understood agriculture, but I didn’t really know the dairy aspect as much.”
“The cows come first — I think that was the hardest part for her,” said Justin.
Kara also has an off-the-farm job, working full time with Dairy Farmers of America, in Medina, which limits the on-farm labor mostly to Justin and his father. Kara said she helps with calf care and has been slowly taking over the farm books from Justin in effort to computerize records.
Above all, cow care and being good stewards of the land are important to the Wolffs. “We hope to be here for seven, eight, nine generations, and in order to do that, we have to take care of it,” said Kara.