Kregel Dairy: Sixth generation follows passion back home

Kregel Dairy has been in operation since the late 1800s in Guttenberg, Iowa. Kregel is managed in part by sixth-generation farmer, Megan Kregel, for whom dairy farming has always been a way of life.

With 400 cows, Megan, her sister Maureen (Seevers), and her mother, Darlene, are the primary caretakers of the dairy. On the other side of the farm, her dad, Gary, and brother, Travis, manage the row crops.

Megan attended Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in Calmar, Iowa before transferring to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa to earn her bachelor’s degree in dairy science. While she was at NICC, she planned to return to the farm right away after graduation. However, while at ISU, she saw opportunities off the farm the dairy industry offered.

Megan began working for the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation in Calmar. She loved supporting dairy farmers like her family and advocating for an industry she is passionate about. But after seven years, she knew it was time for a change.

“Since putting in robotic milkers, the number of cows increased, and my parents are getting older. Plus, I missed being with the cows every day,” Megan says. She has been back on the farm for just over three years.

When asked what she loves most about being a dairy farmer, Megan says, “I love my Jerseys and I love being around livestock.” She also says she enjoys seeing a calf grow and mature into a cow. Currently, Megan oversees several tasks on the farm including feeding calves, managing all aspects of heifers, hoof-trimming and creating the farm’s to-do lists.

At the dairy, Lely Robotic milkers are used. While the robots have made milking easier, daily tasks around the farm keep the Kregels and their employees busy. This has been an increasing challenge over the last few years.

Megan says, “Even with the technology, an adequate labor source has always been an issue. We were milking 250 cows, but with technology, we are now milking 400 cows.” She shares that finding people willing to work hard, are trustworthy, enjoy being around cows and like the job itself, is becoming more difficult every year.

Outside of the farm, Megan keeps involved in Midwest Dairy as well as her community. She is a member of the Iowa Dairy Experience and Agricultural Leadership program (IDEAL) and serves as the chair of the Iowa Dairy Princess Advisory Council, both of which are programs hosted by Midwest Dairy.

Within her community, she is a part of the Clayton County Dairy Promoters and the Farm Bureau. Her involvement has provided her with opportunities to learn more about dairy promotion, business and marketing decisions.

One of the most impactful opportunities Megan said she had was Engage training with Midwest Dairy. The training has helped her become more effective in the way she communicates with consumers. The training focuses on “listen, ask, tell.” Megan says, “I used to jump right into a conversation with a consumer, now, I take that minute to think about what they are really asking.”

One thing that Megan wants everyone to know about dairy farming is that, yes, it is a business, but the cows come first. “It is true that often, the cows receive better care than I do.” Megan said. She also pointed out they are not putting millions of dollars into barns and equipment for no reason. Everything a dairy farmer does is for the cow and the high-quality product at the end.

Megan shares the following advice for young dairy farmers and agriculturalists: “Be willing to adapt. Whatever the situation may be.”