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Serving: NE

Dairy outlook is bright

Curt Arens cows at feeder
DAIRY DIARY: Brooke Engelman, a graduate of LEAD Class 33, shares her insights into the legacy of her dairy business, Classic Dairy in Jansen, Neb.
LEAD Comment: There are challenges in the dairy business, but the industry is ripe for growth.

My family owns and operates Classic Dairy Inc. near Jansen, Neb. We milk just under 1,100 head of cows and raise all of our own replacement heifers. 

The Engelman family has been involved in the Nebraska dairy industry for many years. My husband, Adam, is a fourth-generation dairy farmer. 

The family dairy has changed a lot over the years. The current Classic Dairy Inc. was officially started in 1996 by brothers Dean and Gail Engelman. In 2018, Gail sold his half of the shares to Dean’s three kids, Adam, Evan and Amie. 

There are six family members that work full time on the farm, and five work part time.  We also have 11 other full-time employees and five other part-time employees. Having employees allows all of us to be able to take time off. Family is very important to us, so we want to make sure all employees get to spend time with their families.  

Sustainability is very important to us, so that our farm will continue to be around for generations to come. We raise our own corn and corn silage and about half our own alfalfa. We have sand alleys to recycle our sand bedding, and a water recycling system to recycle water. Our manure is all used as fertilizer for the crops. 

Promoting dairy

My experiences in the Nebraska LEAD program have helped me to have the courage to be more involved in the dairy industry. I am currently the secretary of the Nebraska State Dairy Association. I also help educate the public about dairy and other agriculture through my position on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s promotion and education committee. 

We have an open-door policy at Classic Dairy. If someone has a question about our procedures or dairy farming in general, we want them to come and see how it really works. We are proud of our farm and the healthy, safe and nutritious product we are producing.

One of the biggest obstacles for Nebraska dairy farmers today is the lack of processors in our state. We currently sell to a cooperative, so our milk goes all the way to a plant in Kansas City because there aren’t any other options for us. This means we have no options for marketing. 

Currently, the milk prices are pretty good. For us, this is a chance to make repairs and upgrade equipment that we can’t always afford to do. The prices will inevitably go down again, so we ride those times out when they come.  

The number of dairies in Nebraska seems to decline every year. The smaller farms that can’t afford to hire help are fading out. No one wants to be tied down to milking cows 365 days a year. Overall, I would say the outlook for the dairy industry in Nebraska is good.  I expect some new farms to come in, as some existing farms fade out. There will also be growth of some of our current dairy farms. 

As of now, our family doesn’t have any plans to expand our dairy. However, that may change as the next generations move into the operation. And we continue to be grateful for those consumers who drink milk and eat ice cream!

Engelman is a graduate of LEAD Class 33.

TAGS: Dairy
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