Cody Millar named Outstanding Colorado Young Farmer
Even for those who have worked in agriculture all their lives, everyone who knows anything about cattle will say the dairy industry is an entirely a different ballgame.
When a person sees black and white cows covering the ground around a commercial milk barn, he may not spend much time thinking about what it took to get those cows there. Cody Millar of M&C Farms in Fort Morgan, Colo., can tell the observer about the process. He has learned more than he probably thought he could ever know about Holsteins. He was recently selected as the 2013 Outstanding Colorado Young Farmer Agri-Service Award winner by the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association.
In 2008, when Millar married McKenzie Kliesen, he began working for his father-in-law Martin Christensen at M&C Farms, which specializes in raising and breeding Holstein dairy heifers. M&C Farms takes on the task of back grounding the heifers, from the time they are just calves, until they are ready to become producing cows for Badger Creek Farms. There are a few operations around the country that do this—keeping dairies stocked with fresh heifers to replace retiring cows. M&C Farms runs nearly 4,000 of Holstein heifers ranging in age from 6-month-old calves to 3-year-old heifers that have been bred. When the older heifers are approaching their eighth month of pregnancy, they are moved to the dairy where they take their place in the milking herd. These heifers are conditioned, vaccinated, bred and ready to produce.
“When I first started here, I was just a part-time hired man, working along-side the other hired men while I was looking for a full-time job,” Millar said.
He grew up on a farm where potatoes and corn where the prominent crops so working with the cattle was somewhat new. He says it did not take him long to realize that he really wanted to be part of the heifer operation full-time. He has spent every minute since then learning all he can about how things operate and has, much to his satisfaction, inherited many, if not most of the managerial duties. He is now solely responsible for the scheduling and shipping of the heifers, overseeing all of the health-related requirements of the heifers. He now keeps the hired men busy and plays a key role in helping track heifers as part of the record keeping system.
Using a computerized system specifically for dairy operations, heifers are tagged with a RFID tag upon arrival and, according to Millar, with the swipe of a scanning wand, the system is able to track each head over time. The system has the ability to sort heifers by pen and then create reports that lend themselves well to overall record keeping regarding rations fed, feed inventory on hand, and machine hours used. All of the rations fed, many determined with the help of a nutritionist, can be different, depending on whether it is a pen of open heifers or bred heifers.
Millar, now 28, notes that Christensen still does much of the feed purchasing and still has the most weight in the big decision making.
“Martin has been running this business for 30 plus years and for him to trust me with many of the day to day decisions is an honor,” Millar said, obviously proud of what his father-in-law has created.
He adds that Christensen recently bought out a brother who was tied to the business and has offered Millar a more permanent arrangement
“We have built space for up to 800 more head of cattle as we look to future expansion and we’ve purchased a second feed truck,” Millar said, noting that more machinery means more work in keeping things serviced and operational.
The farm raises and harvests much of its own feed. Last year it put up 15,000 tons of silage, 5,000 tons of haylage and purchased 4,000 tons of corn stalk bales. The feed need is going to grow significantly in future years. M&C Farms will consider hiring a custom harvest crew in the future, allowing them to focus more on the cattle and building corrals for an additional 600 head of heifers.
Millar is very active in the Fort Morgan Young Farmer Chapter. He has served as reporter, treasurer, secretary, vice president and was recently elected president of the Chapter which has a whole slew of events and activities taking place every year, most of them community-service oriented. Among the activities he personally got involved in this year was giving a presentation to third graders on eggs and where they come from as part of the Ag in the Classroom program. Perhaps the event he is most proud of this last year was organizing the Chapter’s sixth annual Game Night for a Cause which benefited the disabled veteran’s program. The Chapter raised money to go towards a new van to be used to transport local veterans to doctor appointments and other destinations.