The Deetz Family
Dairy Farmers from Sugarcreek, Ohio
Four Pines Farm in Tuscarawas County, Ohio is home to 1,500 Holstein cows. Bill Deetz works alongside his three children, Mackenzie, Spencer and Dawson and a team of employees to provide the best care for their cows and land all year long.
What’s the history of your dairy?
Bill: I’m the fifth generation on this farm. I was born and raised here, and this is what I’ve done for the last 55 years. So it’s in my blood. I have three children, Mackenzie, Spencer and Dawson, and I think all four of us have a passion for dairy farming. We love taking care of cows. We love taking care of the land and we just try to do our best. It’s a lot of hard work, but we see the results of the hard work and we’re just happy to be dairy farmers.
Now we’re presently milking 1,500 cows. We milked about 90 cows up until 1988, and that’s when we built a double 10 herringbone parlor, milking anywhere between 250 cows to 700 cows. In 2014 we built our new dairy facility on the hill. We did a lot of research. We drove around the country looking at different dairy barns and how different dairy farmers were doing things. We tried to pick the best from each one and put it all together. We tried to be the most efficient and recycle everything we could.
HEAR FROM THE FARMER
The Deetz family shares how they have grown their farm to support the next generation.
What are some ways you recycle on the farm?
Bill: I think dairy farmers are probably the ultimate recyclers. When we designed this dairy facility it was all about the cow, and cows like to lay on sand. So that was the ultimate decision there – we had to design our manure system and barns to accommodate sand. Five or six times a day the barn is flushed with a big surge of recycled water and that water will remove all the manure and any sand bedding that’s in the alleys to keep it perfectly clean. All of that goes to our collection system, where we’re trying to recycle all the nutrients and all the sand out of that manure. The sand will settle out and then we recapture that and stack it and let it dry for a month before we reapply that into the beds for the cows. We mechanically separate the manure solids then we’ll recycle those by applying onto a field as fertilizer for whatever growing crop that we’re doing. And then the liquid manure is actually pretty diluted, so we’re able to use that material to flush the alleys out.
Spencer: We’re also able to recycle water from the milking process. So milk goes through a plate cooler that cools it from cow temperature, which is 100 degrees, down to about 34 degrees in a few minutes. The plate cooler has water on one side and propylene glycol on the other and uses a path of heat exchange to cool the milk. Well, the water from the plate cooler goes back out to the watering troughs and that’s what the cows drink. It doesn’t go down the drain and it’s not wasted. All the water that is ran through the plate cooler goes right back out directly to feed the cows.
How do you decide which fields to apply the manure from your farm?
Dawson: I studied crop and soil management at Ohio State ATI and then I came back to the farm. So my main job I’d say is manure, at every level. I take care of the records from it, clean it out and haul it to the fields. There are regulations for dairy farms as well as any other business. There’s an amount of manure we can apply to the fields and we have to have soil tests for the nutrient levels. If levels in a field get too high, then we can’t apply manure on it. We’re not going out there just spreading as much manure on the field as we can. We have a set amount that we’re allowed. And that’s what we do. Crop removal takes up the nutrients and the cycle keeps going. It’s all about recycling. It goes from the cow to the field, back into the cows. The best thing about manure is we grow better crops with the manure that they produce.
What is your favorite thing about the farm?
Mackenzie: We have 28 to 30 employees and this big operation has so many moving parts. Our crew is awesome. That’s my favorite thing about it is the people – the camaraderie we have together makes this farm what it is, I think. And we have very smart people on this farm, they know what they’re talking about. There’s stuff you have to figure out day to day and we usually do, we can ask the right people.
Dawson: I just want to keep the farm growing. My dad’s a really good businessman and I want to be able to continue that and have a successful farm for many years.
Spencer: And to have it stay a place where people want to come to work. Because the farm wouldn’t be what it is without the people that work here today.