It was summertime, the cows were in for milking, and the sun was still rising, casting a warm glow over Kevin Johnson’s farm and the rolling hills behind it.
Kevin Johnson owns and operates a dairy farm in Cascade, IA that has been in the family for 3 generations. The farm started with Kevin’s Grandparents, Hans and Agnes Johnson, and was later passed down to Kevin’s parents, Don & Pat Johnson. Kevin and his late wife, Elaine, became the 3rd generation to farm the land and were blessed with 2 children, Nathan and Melissa, during their time together.
How it all started
Kevin’s father worked a full-time job off the farm as a Dairy Field Representative for National Farmers that required him to travel almost daily, requiring Kevin and his siblings to help out more around the farm. Kevin remembers his farm responsibilities beginning around the age of 12. Alongside his mother and siblings, Kevin helped milk the cows and do the fieldwork. But, it wasn’t all work and no play. Kevin’s fondest memories from childhood were spending time with fellow farm kids, “making forts and hideouts in the hay loft.”
After graduating high school, Kevin and Elaine married, and both having dairy farm backgrounds, they decided that they wanted to start a farming career together. So the duo worked side-by-side everyday as herdsman for various farmers around Wisconsin before returning to Iowa for a herdsman job.
It wasn’t until 12 years after leaving home that Kevin got a call from his father asking him to come home and run the farm with his brother. His father was ready to retire from dairy farming. Kevin and his brother starting farming together in 2001, and a year later, Kevin’s brother decided to leave the family farm. Kevin became the sole owner.
Today, Kevin milks about 60-70 cows in a double herringbone parlor that he installed in 2003. With this setup, it takes Kevin about 1 hour and 15 minutes to milk the cows. Morning milking starts at 6am and evening milking begins at 5pm. Kevin recalls his parents milking about 80 cows, but he said, “production wasn’t near what I get now – they weren’t into TMR feeding, good genetics and cow management;” all things that are closely monitored today.
Kevin owns 200 acres of land – that both his grandparents and parents owned – and rents another 120 acres. While a lot of the land is tillable, Kevin also utilizes some of the land for pasture for both his heifers and cows. In addition to pasture, the heifers also get hay and corn silage, while the cows get a total mixed ration (TMR) of hay silage, corn silage, dry shell corn, protein feed and minerals.
When Kevin was asked what he enjoys most about farming, he said, “Getting up early and watching the sun come through the back door while milking.” He also enjoys growing crops, experiencing something different everyday, and the freedom that comes with being your own boss. He said, “you can do what you want to do, you can quit when you want to quit, and you can take a nap in the afternoon.”