Farm tourists traveling southeastern Nebraska’s Highway 103 can scarcely miss the “Classic Dairy” sign that assures them they’re in the right place. But for Brooke Engelman, it’s moments — like watching her family members work together to cover a silage pile — that remind her she’s where she ought to be.
Brooke and her husband, Adam, are part of a fourth generation of dairy farmers tending to the farm that previously belonged to Adam’s parents, their parents before them, and so on. A fifth generation may be in sight, as the Engelmans’ oldest child currently aspires to go to college for dairy management so she can become the next herdsman and take over the dairy.
Though reluctant to push any family member into the dairy long term against their will, Brooke gleams at the thought of the farm — now 3,000 acres and 1,100 cows — remaining and thriving in the family and the community.
“We do it because we enjoy it, and I’m proud that my kids enjoy it,” said Brooke.
When the family invested in a new barn in 1996, they thought hard about how to recycle and maximize the use of its resources. Today, the water that cools their cows’ milk is transferred to a holding tank, and then used to flush the dairy parlor clean. Then the water is recycled again to clean the free-stall barn before it is stored in a basin and applied to fields to grow feed for their cows.
Also, the sand that the water rinses away from the free stalls is thoughtfully collected, dried and reused. The herd’s manure is separated into solid and liquid states to maximize its worth. And in recent years, Classic Dairy has even erected a wind turbine to help supplement and offset some of its energy use.
Brooke noted that such undertakings come at a cost, but believes they demonstrate the love dairy farmers like her family have for their cows and the pride they take in their jobs. “Creating a nutritious, healthy product is the end game, but there are so many good things we do to make that happen.”