Farm Horizons, Feb. 2011

Back in the business of milking cows

By Kristen Miller

Once a dairy farmer, always a dairy farmer seems to be the case for Jim Juncewski of Dassel, who, after selling his herd of cows seven years ago, has returned to what he enjoys best.

Jim and his wife, Rose, have been married for 21 years and live on the farm where he grew up milking cows in Stockholm Township.

In 2003, the Juncewskis made the difficult decision to sell their herd of dairy cows, which numbered about 36 Holsteins.

“We went through 18 months of $9-$10 per 100 pounds of milk,” Jim said, which is very low in the dairy industry.

“Basically, my nerves gave out,” Jim said. “You didn’t know where the next dollar would come from to make ends meets.”

After selling the cows, Jim worked for Johnson Seeds in Dassel for two years on a seasonal basis, doing a number of duties, before being laid off.

Jim then worked at Dura Supreme in Howard Lake for three years, before he was laid off from there in 2009. He remembers the date was Aug. 13; the same day six years prior when his cows were sold.

Getting back into the dairy industry was always in the back of his mind. He took this date as somewhat of a sign that the cows would come back.

“I missed it,” Jim said. “I always liked working with the animals . . . especially the calves. I enjoy raising calves. To me, there was always a challenge with it.”

He also liked working by himself, though he does consider the cows to be his boss. “You don’t take care of them right, they don’t pay you good,” he said with a laugh.

The couple was able to purchase 42 cows last May. They are currently milking 38, and have a total of 82 head of cattle. Jim had never sold his milking equipment, hoping that someday he’d get back into the business of milking cows.

The couple feels fortunate to be able to raise all of their own feed on their 240 acres. This includes corn, beans, wheat, alfalfa, and pasture.

Things are going good for the Juncewskis, with prices currently around $15 per 100 pounds of milk, and futures around $17, according to Jim, which he considers to be marginal.

Together, the couple have two daughters, Kimberly, 20; and Jessica, a senior at Dassel-Cokato High School.

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