“We were each farming with our parents at the time and both looking to do something,” Rick Lehman says.
Tim Evert adds, “We were both looking for a lifestyle change and it made a lot of sense for us to pool our equity and work together.”
The new parlor/freestall facility was built in 1997 on 40 acres contributed to the dairy by the Everts. The Lehmans contributed an equal value of springing heifers to start the operation.
Originally a double-eight Universal parlor with adjustable height floor was installed. The parlor has since been expanded to a double-12, and they are slowly converting the equipment to DeLaval.
The 420-cow dairy is averaging 92 pounds of milk per cow with a 3.6 percent butterfat and 3.1 percent protein. The somatic cell count (SCC) is 110,000, but they can achieve less than 100,000 in their mattress barn system.
Time has been spent altering freestalls for better cow comfort. Brisket boards were removed and the width of the stalls was expanded to 50 inches.
When it came time to replace the curtain sidewall, they moved the curtain wall out 18 inches to provide more lunge space for cows along the outer wall of the six-row barn.
In 2002, the dairy added a freshening barn with 32 stalls and two bedded-pack calving pens. “This was one of our better investments,” Evert says.
Dry cows and heifers are moved to the dairy about three weeks prior to calving. Both sets of animals are then housed in one group. To reduce the stress of commingling, they try to move all animals on the same day.
Before arriving at the dairy, these groups are housed at the Everts’ and Lehmans’ original farms that are still owned and maintained by each couple.
Calves born on the dairy are sent to the individual farms at 3 to 5 days old. They are all sent to one location until the calf facilities there are full – then new calves go to the second farm.
It usually works that one group of calves is weaned before the same farm receives wet calves again. The Everts’ farm has room for 24 calves, while the Lehmans’ can hold 20.
At the Everts’ farm, calves are kept in individual hutches placed under shelter in the winter. In the summer, the hutches are removed and replaced with wire pens.
Once weaned, the calves are moved to group pens of 6 to 12 calves per pen.
Each group of heifers stays at its respective farm until they reach breeding age. They are then moved to the Everts’ farm to be bred A.I. Once confirmed pregnant they are all moved to the Lehmans’ farm.
A professional hoof trimmer comes to this location for hoof trimming. Bred heifers are also dry treated here at 21 to 22 months old. The partners found that by dry treating heifers they have reduced SCC in first-lactation animals by 70,000. The entire herd saw a drop of 25,000 SCC.
All dry cows are housed in a modified machine shed at the Everts’ farm. Freestalls were added and some steel was removed from the end of the shed to allow access to the outside feeding area.
An important part of every dairy operation is its employees. The Everts’ son, Jeff, and the Lehmans’ nephew, Michael Niemann, are now working on the farm full-time. In addition, the farm employs two married couples that have been there for more than a decade.
Tim Evert’s and Rick Lehman’s moms are also still involved with the dairy, each one feeding calves at their respective home farm.
While Evert and Lehman each maintain their own individual operations, they also have responsibilities at the main dairy. Evert works with the herd and related consultants, such as the nutritionist and veterinarian.
Lehman focuses on employee management, custom operators, manure management and feeding the newborn calves each morning.
Based upon those responsibilities, both owners agreed on the salaries they would receive from the dairy.
The dairy also pays the individual operations on a monthly basis for providing housing, feed and feed storage. Each farm is responsible for putting in its own crops, and then the dairy hires a custom harvester to harvest all crops.
In early November, the owners sit down to determine how much an acre of corn or alfalfa is worth. The number is then divided by 12 and that is what the dairy will pay the individual farm for the coming year.
According to Evert, the LLC is designed to make a profit, whereas it tends to be more of a breakeven proposition at the individual farms. However, when the dairy experiences a good year, money is sent back to the individual farms to upgrade facilities and equipment.
“Rick and I make it work very well,” Tim says of an idea that started over a decade ago and is still going strong today. PD
TOP RIGHT: After milking with their parents in two separate stanchion barn dairy operations, the Evert and Lehman families joined together to form one dairy. The owners of United Dreams Dairy include, left to right, Rick Lehman, and Lisa and Tim Evert. Missing from the photo is Rick’s wife, Ronda.
MIDDLE RIGHT: In one of their “better investments,” the dairy added a freshening barn with 32 stalls and two bedded-pack calving pens.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Calves at the Evert farm are kept in hutches in an open barn. In the summer, the hutches are removed and replaced with wire pens. Photos by Karen Lee.