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Mountain Area Members of Distinction - Morgan Ranches
The Morgan family has been in expansion mode since Paul Morgan first started dairying in 1945, milking eight cows by hand with his dad.
Today, Paul, along with his three sons, McKay, Lynn and Marty, milk approximately 2,300 head two times a day in Circleville, Utah.
The journey from eight cows to 2,300 was gradual. Paul started milking cows on his father’s farm when he was 13. When a community barn was built in 1950, they bought shares and began milking in Circleville.
They had expanded their herd to more than 150 cows when, in 1991, they built a dairy a few miles outside of town.
“Once we moved, we expanded from 150 to about 300,” McKay says. “We continued to increase, and we were milking about 900 cows before we decided to build a new facility.”
That was their most recent expansion, which began in 2008.
The decision to build a dairy was not an easy one for the family, but it is not in their nature to stay with the status quo.
“We feel if you are not moving forward, you are going backward,” Marty says. “We wanted to keep being proactive. This is our lifestyle, so we wanted to do this not only for our families, but to employ more people here in the community.”
McKay, however, needed convincing.
“At first I figured I was maybe too old,” McKay says. “I thought I had built the last dairy I needed to build. It took Marty a couple years, but he finally talked me into it. We’ve always been the kind of people who like to keep improving, and I decided we maybe were at a standstill.”
Once the decision was made to move forward with the expansion, the family got to work on designing their new dairy.
As they explored their options, they visited different dairies across the country to get ideas.
“We visited dairies in Minnesota, California and Idaho, to get some ideas of what kind of parlor and equipment we wanted and how big we wanted to go,” Marty says. “What we found out is there are a lot of good dairymen across the country, and a lot of good ideas. We liked to pick their brains and find out what they were doing that was working for them.”
In the end, the Morgans elected to build a 60-stall rotary parlor and a cross-vent barn.
The choice of barn was an unconventional one for their area where dry lots are prevalent. In addition, it was a departure from the operation they were used to, where they housed their herd in dry lots and milked in a parallel parlor.
“For me, the cow flow of the rotary parlor was appealing,” Marty says. “You can get the cows in, get them milked and get them off. You can also really nail those prep times. Each cow’s getting the same prep time every time they come into the barn.”
The cross-vent barn was a new concept that the family had picked up on their travels to other dairies.
“The idea for the cross-vent came from some fellow dairymen,” McKay says. “We researched them, read articles and visited several dairies in the Midwest.”
The design of the barn offers several advantages.
“We were in dry lots in our old facility,” Marty says. “We looked around, and we liked the management style of free stalls. We can take away the extreme cold and extreme heat, and we feel the cows are performing better now all year round in that environment.”
Marty also notes that the cross-vent barn makes it easier for them to manage their milk quality, which he utilizes DFA’s myDFA to help monitor.
“I look at myDFA every day,” Marty says. “I look at it for the milk and corn markets and to monitor my somatic cell and bacteria counts. That tool is allowing me to make sure I’m getting all the premiums I can and not leaving money on the table.”
Based on research and their visits to other dairies, they designed the barn and parlor themselves and also did the construction.
“The cost savings was significant, and we enjoy building,” Marty says. “It gives you a sense of pride when you get done.”
“We like to be able to design and put it together and see it when we’re done,” echoes McKay. “We’ve done 90 percent of all the building around here.”
They started the construction process in July 2009 and on January 18, 2010, moved into the new facility.
“It took us a little more than six months from start to finish,” Marty says. “It was just the right timing. We had a pretty harsh winter, and it was nice to move the cows in the cross-vent.”
The Morgans built the new facility just up the hill on the same land from their existing dairy. When building the current dairy, they left space to build another cross-vent barn and designed the parlor so they could add cows in future, leaving room to grow their herd down the road.
Surrounding the dairy, they farm approximately 2,000 acres, 500 of which is grain and the rest alfalfa.
“We want to grow as much of our feed as we can,” McKay says.
The Morgans produce about 60 percent of their own forages. What they do not produce, they have trucked in. Keeping with being self-sufficient, the family recently stopped feeding flaked corn and bought a hammer mill. They now buy whole corn and grind it for feed.
“There’s a significant amount of money to be saved, and so far, the cows have done great on it,” Marty says.
In addition to the hammer mill, the Morgans have also added approximately 500 Jerseys to the herd to cut down on feed costs.
“We are in the trial stage,” Marty says. “We understand that they’re better converters and they have better components, so net to net, we feel they might do a good job for us. We live in a remote area, so we truck a lot of feed in, and we truck our milk out a long way. With Jerseys, we think that might be a better combination for those freight rates.”
Whether they are expanding their herd or looking for new ways to make their operation run more efficiently, the Morgans are living by their philosophy of always moving forward.