Idaho provided the perfect location for Bill and Susie Millenkamp to start their calf-raising operation 20 years ago. On a small line of credit, the Millenkamps began with just a few dozen head on 40 acres.
Today, in addition to raising calves, the couple also operates a dairy farm and feedlot. They manage around 100,000 head of livestock between the calf-raising facility, the dairy, and the feedlot. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and housing to clean and bed.
To help complete a never-ending list of chores, the Millenkamps run 40 John Deere four-wheel-drive loaders, including 35 recently purchased 544Ks. Ten of the new loaders are used for feeding, 15 for manure and bedding, and the rest for construction and other miscellaneous tasks.
Deere was the first loader we bought, and we’ve never had a reason to look anyplace else.
“I’ve been really happy with John Deere equipment,” says Bill. “Deere was the first loader we bought, and we’ve never had a reason to look anyplace else. We’re Deere people! We rarely have issues, and our dealer, Coastline Equipment, stands behind the equipment, providing the service and support we need to stay up and running. We have 100,000 animals to care for, and we need our equipment to run every day.”
To keep tabs on the fleet of new 544Ks, Millenkamp uses JDLink machine monitoring. “We can access machine hours and location, and get machine-health alerts. This allows us to quickly diagnose an issue with a piece of equipment and address it before it becomes a major problem. This saves time
and money on extra service calls.”
HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD
Bill was born and raised in eastern Iowa, where his dad was a dairycattle dealer. After high school, Bill moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and went to work for the DeJongs, a well-known Dutch dairy family. It was there he met Susie. After the couple got married, they looked for a place to start their calf-raising operation, including California, Washington, and Idaho. “At the time, Tulare, California, was booming. But we liked Idaho the best. I liked the hunting and fishing, and we both liked the lifestyle Idaho has to offer.”
The Millenkamps raise calves for approximately 40 local dairies. New calves as young as one-dayold arrive daily, and they stay up to seven months. The work is incredibly labor intensive. Calves must be kept comfortable, well fed, and free from sickness. Bottle feeding alone requires the help of 150 workers who hand-deliver thousands of bottles to the calves several times a day. And each bottle must be cleaned.
“Raising calves is one of the most difficult jobs in the cattle industry,” says Bill. “It’s kind of like a daycare center. We keep everything meticulously clean and do everything we can to keep all the livestock comfortable and healthy. We’re really good at what we do, and that’s why we’ve grown over the years.”
The Millenkamps’ dairy farm, also known as Idaho Jersey Girls, is in Malta, which is about 80 miles east of Jerome.
Most of the dairy cows are Jerseys, which produce a higher content of fat and protein that is highly valued by the dairy’s customers, such as Glanbia, a major cheese producer.
Currently Glanbia is picking up a tanker of milk from Idaho Jersey Girls every two hours.
The Millenkamps’ state-of-the-art facility is one of the most technologically advanced milking centers in the country. It features two 106-stall rotary parlors under one roof. Thousands of cows are milked there daily.
Many of the facility’s systems are monitored and controlled by the management team via sensors and Programmable Logic Control (PLC) technology. This gives them the ability to monitor, troubleshoot, and control the lighting, ventilation, cooling, hot water, foot baths, and surveillance cameras, either on site or remotely.
A unique feature of the milking center is the incorporation of robots. FANUC Robots from Green Source Automation LLC perform the pre-milking sanitation and stimulation steps as well as the post-milking application of a teat sanitizer. Millenkamp says, “Cows thrive on comfort, cleanliness, and consistency, and that is what this milking center and its employees deliver 24/7.”
Millenkamp Cattle LLC is serviced by Coastline Equipment, Jerome, Idaho.