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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Family dairy small but efficient

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Holstein cows line up to eat breakfast in their free stall pen at the Wilcox Dairy. Mark Wilcox and his family milk 65 head of cows along with farming 720 acres of land. Photo by Sarah Gengler
Today's dairy industry might be few and further apart, but there is still a small family dairy just outside of Marcus called Wilcox Dairy.

Mark Wilcox has been milking cows at the family dairy since he graduated from Iowa State University in 1976 with a Farm Operations degree. Mark moved home to the farm, which was known as 'Wilcox Brothers' at the time and was being run by his father, Ernest, and his uncle Les.

Only a short time after moving home to the farm, Mark lost his father to a heart attack ,leaving he and his uncle to run the family dairy.

Mark Wilcox washes off one of the 65 cows he currently milks at Wilcox Dairy. Wilcox milks the cows twice a day in his 16 cow parlor. Photo by Sarah Gengler
"My uncle had his first heart attack in 1983," Mark said. "He was like an old war horse, though. He kept coming back and coming back."

To make the work load easier,,Mark broke ground on a new dairy parlor in the spring of 1993. Unfortunately, his uncle passed away only months before the parlor was up and running that August. The parlor held six cows on each side and was efficient enough that in 2005 Mark expanded his parlor to hold eight cows on either side of the barn.

"Now with the parlor, milking cows isn't nearly as physical, not nearly as demanding as it was," he said, "and you don't have to be raised with these cows to be comfortable with them in here."

Mark Wilcox shows off one of his prize cows, S.S. Coco, at his dairy just southeast of Marcus. The Wilcox Dairy sells its grade A milk to Dairy Farmers of America, which delivers the product to Anderson Erickson in Des Moines and Roberts in Omaha. Photo by Sarah Gengler
The herd has only 65 cows, but for Mark and his wife Sara it's just enough.

"The parlor really made an impact on being able to go to family functions and things because it's easier to find help," Mark said. "When family is at home, I don't want to spend more than two hours in the barn."

The registered herd of cows produces more than 9,000 pounds of milk every other day, and the milk is sold to Dairy Farmers of America. The milk is shipped either to Anderson Erickson in Des Moines or to Roberts in Omaha.

In addition to the milking, Wilcox also raises 85 young stock, and farms 720 acres of land. The farm has stayed with the Wilcox kids as they have moved off the farm and gone to college. Mark's son Zachery just completed his freshman year in the veterinary program at Iowa State, and his son Joe just completed his sophomore year, majoring in Dairy Science. Joe is also home for the summer to help his father on the farm.

The Wilcox Dairy has also sold one of their bulls to an artificial insemination company in Wisconsin, and it is currently on active service and sold to breed other heifers.

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