Elsbernd Family Dairy Farm

Ridgeway, Iowa
April 23, 2024
Elsbernd Family Farm
The Elsbernd Family Dairy Farm is spread across 500 acres of rolling hills and fertile terrain in the Driftless region, nestled near Ridgeway, Iowa. The property is trimmed with white barns and green rooftops. The Elsbernd name boasts a strong farming heritage and spans nearly five decades at the current property. Jay Elsbernd is a second-generation farmer who shares the stewardship of the land with his father, Steve. Jay has worked in tandem with his father for years but is now transitioning into taking over the family farm and leading it into its next chapter.

The dairy farm operates a double eight parallel parlor, milking 160 Holstein and Jersey cows twice daily. The commitment to cow comfort is a continuous priority for the family. Monitoring collars allow for real-time data to keep production in check. Other comforts include new mattresses in the free stalls, however weather permitting, the herd enjoys sprawling and relaxing outside. For the calves, spacious calf hutches support monitoring each animal’s growth and development while effectively mitigating bio-hazard risks. In addition, the family raises steers for high-quality beef production.

Furthermore, the Elsbernd family devotes a significant portion of the property to production for the herd. During dormant months, rye serves as a valuable cover crop, ideally suited for cool climates and acting as a natural weed suppressant. If any additional feed is needed, they purchase it in bulk to be more economical.

Jay noted he likes being a farmer because he gets to be his own boss, but there is a strong responsibility with that privilege. “Being a farmer is constantly learning and doing a better job with what you have to work with,” Jay noted. Committing to the well-being of the animals and land is not just a job but an ingrained lifestyle. To continue to build a foundation for the future, Jay’s father built a shop on the property within the last six years so that any farm worker could become more self-sufficient with maintenance tasks. Also, care and commitment are being instilled in the possible future third-generation farmers. Jay and his wife, Leslie, have four children, who all eagerly pitch in with daily chores. Among their favorite activities are assisting with the calves and tractor rides with Grandpa.

Along with family, community support is instrumental in sustaining a family farm. The Elsbernd children are engaged in 4-H and recently ventured into exhibiting pigs in the summer months. “The local school principal is a Foremost Farms farmer, so there’s an understanding within the community,” said Jay. The family has “taken the farm into the community” by bringing calves to local daycares and preschools, thus showcasing the farm through fun and education outreach efforts.

Jay mentions there are many benefits of being part of the Foremost Farms Cooperative, including a market for their milk: “We have a secure place for our milk to go. Also, our Foremost Farms representative, Richard Bradley, regularly visits the farm and is a knowledgeable source of information about the cooperative and industry insights. He does a good job,” Jay noted.

The future is bright on the Elsbernd family farm as the new generation is ushered in and continues the important work of feeding America.