Dan and Lynn Bolin understand the challenges Dan’s family faced generations before they got their start in dairying. Those ancestors built the solid foundation, and the young couple have built their dairy, New Day Dairy, on it.
“This is a new dairy barn on a new site, but by no means is a new thing. It’s built on a foundation,” Lynn said.
Dan grew up as a fifth generation dairy farmer, dairying with his parents and two brothers just one-half mile from the site of New Day Dairy. Lynn grew up near the Twin Cities on a five-acre hobby farm. They met at Iowa State University, where he was working toward a degree in dairy science; Lynn was working toward a degree in business management. They got married and decided not to return to the farm—at least not immediately.
“Right away, our trajectory wasn’t to return to the dairy farm,” Dan said. So they traveled the world, living in Turkey for a few years, studying the culture and doing some work in dairy consulting.
“More and more I felt like I don’t want to talk about it (dairy farming), I want to do it,” Dan said.
So they returned to the Bolin dairy farm near Clarksville in Butler County.
“We came back and partnered with Mom and Dad (Pam and Dave Bolin) on the farm where I grew up ... to get back into the dairy industry, and catch up with changes and developments (in the industry),” Dan said.
A dairy to call their own
They decided they wanted to have their own cows and dairy farm, and asked the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) for help in deciding how to grow the Bolin dairy farm.
Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF, visited the farm, helping the family determine if they could expand on the site, or if a new location would be the best fit for Dan and Lynn to return.
Eventually they would settle on its current site, just one-half mile from the farm. New Day Dairy opened on Dec. 9, 2015. It is now home to 110 cows.
As young farmers, Dan and Lynn faced their share of challenges getting started.
“A new dairy is an incredibly big task and big venture,” Dan said. They decided to raise 110 cows on their farm for efficiency and production, he said.
“It’s hard to be at a smaller scale and provide a cash flow for a family, so that’s why we’re at that 110 cows,” he said.
A larger herd size takes some getting used to, Dan said.
“It’s been challenging for me management-wise to adjust to a larger farm size and more animals to take care of,” Dan said.
However, with the support of family and friends, Dan and Lynn look at the challenges as opportunities for success.
“The challenges are really opportunities to solve problems and enjoy successes. Each day presents itself with new challenges and new opportunities to grow a little bit, to learn a little bit more,” Dan said.
A helping hand
Dan and Lynn have one robotic milker, an AMS Galaxy USA Astrea 20.20, which they call Rita. It took a while for them to buy into the idea that a robotic milker would be a good tool for their farm. They attended a variety of seminars and talked to other dairy farmers who had installed a robotic milker on their farm before ultimately deciding it would be a good tool for New Day Dairy.
It’s no less work having the robotic milker instead of milking the cows themselves, but allows them to better manage their herd, they said. They sell their milk to Swiss Valley Farms.
“It’s a more flexible way of managing cows,” Dan said. “It’s not less work at all, it seems to be more. But we doubled the (herd) size coming in here, and hopefully we’ll triple our milk production.”
Because the cows are able to decide when they need to be milked, Lynn said the cows visit the milker sometimes up to five times per day to give milk. Although they are constantly on call should Rita encounter problems during milking—the system calls them if a problem occurs—having the robotic milker allows them to do more things as a family outside of the farm.
However, they say, they enjoy working side-by-side and with their children, Amara, 5, and Vance, 3.
“We love dairy farming. There are a lot of challenges and the days can be very, very long. But one of the things that we love most about it is that we get to be together doing it, (and) we get to be with our kids doing it,” Lynn said.
A dairy getaway
The Bolins enjoy telling their dairy story to visitors to the farm. Eventually they’d like to open up their guesthouse to visitors who could stay at the farm.
The guesthouse is attached to the dairy barn and has viewing windows which allow them to watch the cows sleep in the free stall barn on their beds of sand, move around, and they can watch as the cows are being milked. This would be a way to connect consumers to their food, and even to the farm on which the cows are raised, Lynn said.
“We want people who enjoy milk products to see how dairy cows are raised and what it means for them on the farm,” Lynn said. “They can spend the day, spend the night, just get to watch the cows eat and drink and sleep and go get milked. We want people to come to the farm and see what dairy farming is about.”
Learn more about New Day Dairy through their website and blog at www.newdaydairy.com.
Above: Dan and Lynn Bolin, pictured with their children Amara, 5, and Vance, 3.
Above: Vance Bolin helps with the dairy chores.
Above: Dan and his mom, Pam, check milk production stats for the day.
Above: Cow comfort and care are top priorities at New Day Dairy.