Crops, cows, cheese — and repeat. That’s not only the pattern and purpose at Full Circle Jersey, but also how the operation got its name.
When Sieto Mellema, an eleventh-generation farmer and second-generation dairyman opened the dairy in 2007, he wanted it to be sustainable. But he went one step further than that. He also wanted to have the utmost control over quality throughout the process.
For Mellema, that meant growing crops to feed the cows, using the cow manure to fertilize the crops and even buying back whey from the cheese factory they deliver milk to — to feed the cows. You could say this dairyman is the ultimate recycler!
He also knows where his greatest strengths lie — in the fields. That’s why he brought Dan Cundiff on as dairy manager.
“Dan has milk running through his veins,” Seito says. “And I appreciate that from him tremendously. He understands cows — the way they function, what makes them tick. He has a true feeling for a dairy cow which is substantially different than a beef cow.”
Sieto says the duo is the perfect pair on the dairy, both by complementing each other’s strengths and working together. On an hourly basis, they’re conversing about crop needs.
“I’m the guy with the green thumb,” Sieto says. “I can raise the crops. He’ll tell me what growth stage he wants them in and when it’s time to go chop silage. Then, we communicate those efforts back and forth and, together, we can bring a good, clean product to these dairy cows and give them the best opportunity to produce high-quality milk or cheese.”
He says good communication is key.
“It’s quality in, quality out — especially with a Jersey cow,” he says, matter-of-factly.
See, the average Jersey cow in the Full Circle barns will weigh about 900 pounds, and she’ll eat roughly 10 percent of her body weight every single day. That’s about 90 pounds of feed. With that much feed going in, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right balance.
“If you compromise the quality, you can upset their stomachs,” he explains. “You can make some changes in their metabolism and rumen function really, really quickly. So it’s important you provide a good, clean quality feed — that’s my job — and that you feed it properly — that’s Dan’s job.”
More than a job, though, Sieto says being a dairyman is a lifestyle.
“You have to like it,” he says. “It’s tough. You deal with a lot of variables. You deal with the weather, the cows, the markets. And you have to function within all of those crazy things that go on, on a daily basis.”
But when it comes down to it, Sieto wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We live and breathe this every day. We care about the well-being of our cows, the well-being of our facilities and the area we live in. We live here. We drink the water,” he says.
And, of course, he adds, “We drink the milk.”