Darren Otte, of Columbus, Indiana, is proud to own a herd that isn’t your typical black-and-white herd. He started his dairy with a less well-known breed.
“Our Ayrshire cows are our distinguishing feature. I know of only three other herds that are Ayrshire in Indiana,” Otte says.
Otte started his dairy career a couple of years after he graduated from high school. He began by working for a neighboring dairy for four years. Meanwhile, he started buying and showing purebred Ayrshire cows.
By the time he was ready to start his own herd, he already had 20 of his own cows. He bought another 25 head to start the dairy that he now co-owns with his brother.
Otte says that when he first started buying cows, he was looking for a cow with longevity, udder health and feed-to-milk efficiency. His Ayrshires fit all these qualifications.
“We’re not setting the world on fire with milk production, but they have a great milk-to-feed ratio,” Otte says.
One of the reasons that Otte decided to start a dairy was because of the cost of land in his area. With what he already had, he knew he could run a successful dairy. The dairy sits on 50 acres, and they have access to another 200 acres where they grow their own corn silage.
Otte notes that he and his brother learn a lot as they go, sometimes through trial and error.
“When we planned the dairy, we didn’t plan enough room for the heifer facilities, and it has affected our expansion. The heifers don’t grow like they should,” Otte says.
His plans on sending his heifers to a custom heifer-raising facility in the future, he says.
“It’s cheaper or about the same for me to send them to the facility. It will be better in the long run. Right now they are calving at 30 months, and we could get it down to 24 months by sending them to the facility,” Otte says.
Otte and his brother have been running their dairy for 11 years now. He says his favorite part of dairying is having two harvests every day.
“I like the fact that every day you see the pay-off. It’s a labor-intensive industry, but I’m not afraid to do that. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes,” he says.