Taking care of the herd, not following it – that’s Wisconsin farmer Roy Grewe.
Dairy farmers are well-known for their hard work and timeless commitment to their cows and rural way of life. But Roy Grewe's bold move 25 years ago elevated that dedication to a whole new level.
The Wisconsin transplant's roots are in the northwest, 50 miles north of Seattle, to be exact. During the early 1970s, in an attempt to ease traffic congestion, a portion of his Arlington, Washington, farm was acquired by the state through eminent domain and divided through the middle by a new road. "The roofs of our buildings were literally dripping rain on the edge of the roadway," explains Grewe. "They were supposed to put a tunnel underneath to get to the other side. But instead, they built ramps, which made it difficult to drive over with a tractor pulling a wagon followed by cars traveling at 60 mph. So we’d take the long way around just to get to the other side of the road."
Grewe endured the inconvenience the best he could, as long as he could, but the aggravating issue finally came to a head. "It was 2:30 in the afternoon when I set out with a tractor and wagon, and with a half-mile to go, was passed by 36 cars. I turned off onto another road and there were another half-dozen cars behind me. I got done with the feeding, went into the house, and told my wife there was no way our boys were going to drive equipment on that road."
Something had to be done. So while attending a Guernsey convention in Wisconsin, Grewe took some time to tour several farms. "I just fell in love with the state," he says. "There was good farmland available, and the base for the ag industry was in place — with plenty of dairy and equipment dealers to work on your stuff."
GO EAST, YOUNG MAN
So in May of 1994, Grewe and his wife Gina "packed the dogs, cats, cows, and two kids" into nine semi loads and moved to Cumberland, Wisconsin. "We had 92 cows and 120 heifers on four trucks, four loads of equipment, and a load of personal items," he recalls. "We decided to bring our herd of registered Guernseys because we wanted to keep the animals we’d spent a lifetime breeding."
Today, Grewe's Valley Gem Farm is comprised of 500 acres and 160 cows. He and his oldest son Brandon operate the farm. "My son is in charge of the milking, animal health, and calf feeding, and I feed the cows and do other chores," he says. "We have every breed of cow except Ayrshire, and we strive for longevity over production, shipping 18,000 pounds of milk every other day."
As with his cows, Grewe also seeks longevity in his equipment. When he was looking to replace his loader, durability was at the top of the list. "The ag tractors and loaders we were using didn't hold up with the amount of loader work we do, feed we load, and the weight we put on them," he says.
That's when the John Deere 324K Loader was brought to his attention. After learning that it was available with a high-lift boom and a skid-steer attachment-compatible quick-coupler, Grewe was sold. The boom provides the extra lift height required to clear the sides of their feed mixer, and the coupler adds versatility. "We use it primarily for loading feed and hauling and feeding bales," he says. "Plus, we've drilled postholes and jackhammered with it, unloaded pallets, and hauled logs with a grapple bucket. In fact, all of our skid-steer implements hook up to it. It’s super versatile."
The compact loader's relatively small size and unique steering system enable it to work with ease in tight quarters. "We’ve put on 200 more hours a year than expected because it’s so maneuverable," says Grewe. "It’s like four-wheel steering, and it’ll turn in a tight circle. We can snake that thing in and out of lots of places."
WHEN IT RAINS, IT SHINES
Grewe's 324K Loader is equipped with ag tires for increased traction in the marginal conditions they're frequently forced to work. "We load a lot of our feed on the ground, and when it rains, it’s a little iffy," he says. "It gets gooey, wet, and slimy. With the 324K's combination of tires and steering, you can walk through just about anything."
Valley Gem Farm, Inc. is serviced by Frontier Ag & Turf, Turtle Lake, Wisconsin.