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Dairy Industry

The Family Dairy, Reimagined

  • In the small town of Lindsay, Texas, with just a few milking dairies still operating, Circle N Dairy has reinvented the standard for family dairies.

In the small town of Lindsay, Texas, with just a few milking dairies still operating, Circle N Dairy has reinvented the standard for family dairies.  

Michelle Neu married into the family dairy business, and the lifestyle that came with it, in 1980. Her husband, Tommy Neu, is a second-generation dairy farmer.  

Michelle Neu, adoring the calves, said that animal welfare is a top priority for the Circle N Dairy.

“Choosing this life was easy, I just loved him. I supported him,” Michelle said. 

Tommy’s father opened the dairy in 1967; the family’s only source of income was from the cooperative. The milk truck would gather milk from neighboring dairies, then combine the milk at the processing plant to be used for dairy products.  

Circle N Dairy opened an onsite store in 2009 to supplement their income, in addition to traditional revenue from the co-op. Michelle said she wanted their product to go directly to their customers.  

A once private dairy only visited by the cooperative milk truck is now a hot spot for local goods. While there are benefits to providing an outlet for customers to experience agriculture up close, the hardships of owning a small dairy do not go away.  

“It was easier when the milk truck came,” Michelle said. “I won’t lie about that, but the store is more rewarding because you meet the customers that actually use our product.” 

Raw milk was the first product available to customers directly from the dairy; however, Michelle said she wanted to bring in a more well-rounded supply of local goods. 

“This is a place that customers want to come to because they don’t have access to something like this.”

Michelle Neu

“We opened our little bitty store and were excited to start bringing in other things,” Michelle said. “We had neighbors bring eggs and someone else made baked goods. It has only grown from there.”  

In addition to completing the expected daily tasks of owning a dairy, Michelle coordinates with local vendors, restocks the store throughout the day, and markets the dairy to customers.   

“Dairy farmers are often recognized as some of the hardest workers in the agricultural industry,” Michelle said. She remembered waking up around 2 a.m. one Christmas Eve for the morning milk, trudging through waist deep snow to get to the milking barn.  “Those are the moments where you decide if you truly want this life,” Michelle said. 

“This is a seven days-a-week, every week of the year job,” Michelle said, “and I don’t want any sympathy for that.” 

Michelle said she understands consumer’s growing interest in knowing their food comes from wholesome operations. Circle N Dairy has been offering private tours since before the opening of the Country Store. Interest in the tour amongst customers has grown as the popularity of the dairy increases. The tour shows people what dairy farmers do every day, teaches consumers about agriculture, and generates revenue.  

“This is a place that customers want to come to because they don’t have access to something like this,” Michelle said. “We want them to experience the country life and enjoy it the same way we do.” 

 With investment and family tradition driving the day-to-day operations, Michelle said she could not imagine losing the dairy.  

“People will come to our store and thank us for what we are doing,” she said. “They appreciate what we do and when we are feeling down, they kind of give us momentum to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to keep going and get up again tomorrow.’” 

The Balance of Farm and Life

  • The alarm goes off. Annette swings her feet off the bed and places them into her work shoes. She walks into her kitchen and makes a pot of coffee for her husband Mike. Annette calls for her trusted dog, Jackie, and walks down to her barn. She hears a faint cry in the distance and smiles in relief. As the barn door opens, a new kid goat is spotted laying in the hay.
T

he alarm goes off. Annette swings her feet off the bed and places them into her work shoes. She walks into her kitchen and makes a pot of coffee for her husband Mike. Annette calls for her trusted dog, Jackie, and walks down to her barn. She hears a faint cry in the distance and smiles in relief. As the barn door opens, a new kid goat is spotted laying in the hay.

Annette Coursey and her husband, Mike, have hit kidding season. Every morning when she awakes, she comes upon a new member of their herd. 

The Courseys run a dairy goat operation on the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, called Coursey Family Farm. Originally from Millsap, Texas they have ran their operation since 2009.

The couple became interested in raising Nubian goats after they both retired. 

“I was a vice president in a banking situation,” Annette said. “I couldn’t physically deal with the stress anymore, so I needed something that still felt purposeful, but not stressful.”

The Courseys interest in raising dairy goats sparked after viewing a video project over a diary operation made by Annette’s niece. 

Bottle Baby
Annette Coursey bottle feeds a kid goat while her spouse, Mike, milks the mothers.

 “She had done a documentary on a little family farm up in Ohio where they raised dairy goats,” Mike said. “We just kind of looked at each other, and said ‘Hey, we could do that!’”

“We really felt like it was something that God was directing us into.”

Since learning about the dairy goat industry, the couple has faced several challenges as they began their operation. The farm is now home to 10 does and numerous kids. 

“We would anticipate having one to four out of each doe,” Annette said. 

The farm produces raw milk, and Annette also produces her own line of soaps that funds the purchase of feed for the livestock. All of their operations follow health department standards. 

The beginning goal the Courseys strived to achieve was to produce a sustainable farm. They achieve this goal by exchanging products between different farming industries. 

Mike milking
Mike Coursey takes the responsibilty of hand milking all the females. Before they begin milking they clean all the udders to make sure the milk does not get contaminated with any bacteria.

Through the years of following their dream, the Courseys have developed an understanding of how to balance their life and their livestock. Although the well-being of the livestock is No. 1 the couple still strives to have a life outside of the farm. 

“On Sundays, we do our chores, what has to be done, but we don’t do extra stuff,” Annette said. “We take time, go to church and spend time with family, and just rest and watch the Hallmark Channel.”

Annette said they received some advice that was really beneficial from a man who was still involved in his church and had a successful dairy.

 “He said, ‘You have to remember that you own the animals and they don’t own you, you have to have balance,” Annette said. 

 “It’s a big responsibility to make sure that they’re happy and healthy,” Annette said.

The Courseys have created a farm that has incorporated their health and the happiness of the livestock they herd. 

Close up shot of goat
The females​ being milked by Mike Coursey come up to the stand voluntary​ and enjoy alfalfa during the experience.

Mike said that being flexible with their schedules and being aware of what is good for them and the animals has benefited their operation. 

The goats each have a name and come to the milking stand voluntary, which has become Mike’s favorite thing about his small operation. 

“What I really enjoy is we teach them their names early on, but when you call their name, they come in and they just go do whatever like,” Mike said. 

With balance becoming the No. 1 component of Coursey Family Farm, Mike and Annette have found a new hobby and happiness. 

“I still believe we’re where God wants us to be, and so I’m excited to see what our future is,” Annette said. 

Coursey Couple
Mike and Annette Coursey are the owners of Coursey Family Farms. They live in New Deal, Texas where they care for their Nubian​ dairy goats.

Family Tradition Turns Success

Brand and Barb Bouma with their two sons and their families.

Being in the dairy industry is all Brad Bouma has ever known. Brad, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, grew up in southern California on a dairy farm with his parents and two siblings. In 1981 at the age of 25, Brad moved to El Paso, Texas, to start on his own dairy. Little did he know, he would soon play a major role in what is now one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country.

“I was born into it,” said Brad. “My grandfather, my great grandfather, and my father were all dairy farmers in California.”

Brad has lived in West Texas ever since he left southern California in 1981. Brad and his wife, Barb, have been married for almost 40 years, and are now enjoying their retirement living on the waters of Ransom Canyon, near Lubbock.

Like Brad, Barb was also born into the dairy industry. She too comes from a background of many generations of dairy farmers, going all the way back to the early 1900s in the Netherlands. Her father immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands and raised his family on a dairy farm in California. Barb still has a cousin living and operating a dairy farm in the Netherlands.

“It’s pretty much genetic,” said Brad. “We both come from a background in the dairy industry.”

With so much family history in the dairy industry, it was no surprise the Boumas decided to raise their children on a dairy farm and continue the farming legacy. Although they live in residential Ransom Canyon, Brad and Barb still own dairy operations in Abernathy and Plainview, Texas. They also have partnerships with dairy farms in Northwest Ohio and Northwest Indiana at Fair Oaks Farms. Their two sons, Brent and Brandon Bouma, completely operate and manage the dairies, feed yard and other farming operations in Plainview and Abernathy.

“Dairy farming has been passed down from generation to generation in our family,” said Brent.

The Boumas established Legacy Farms 13 years ago in Plainview. Legacy Farms is an open, dry lot dairy farm, which currently has 150 full-time employees with one on-site veterinarian. The farm occupies about 16,000 cows and calves, with around 30 new calves being born each day. Legacy Farms can milk 160 cows at a time, and each cow gets milked twice a day. The farm produces about 60,000 gallons of milk per day, which is all sent to Gandy’s in Lubbock.

Both Brent and Brandon, currently live on their father’s 4,000-acre dairy farm, Legacy Farms, with their wives and children. Brent is the general manager and oversees all dairy operations at Legacy Farms. Brandon operates the feed yard just a few miles down the road in Abernathy and oversees all other farming operations.

It’s just in my blood. It’s just what we do.Brent Bouma

Brad still travels to his dairy farms multiple times a week to make sure everything is running smoothly like it should be. His wife, who the grandchildren call “Ya-Ya,” likes to come along to spend time with her boys and the six grandchildren who live on Legacy Farms.

“I love being able to work hand-in-hand with my kids and my grandkids,” said Brad.

While Brad’s passion and love for the dairy industry has always been strong, it has recently led him and his family to business success. About 15 years ago when the Boumas still lived in El Paso, Brad and a couple of his dairy farmer friends founded Select Milk Producers, a small group of family dairy farmers who believed in the same pursuit of perfect milk. Select invented a process where the dairy farmer used a filtration system to remove water from milk so dairies could transport milk further distances without having to haul the water. During this process, they started to play around with the idea of creating drinks out of filtrated milk.

Six years later, Select Milk Producers had developed and was selling a drink called Core Power, a high protein milk shake for athletes, and was in the process of launching Fairlife, an ultra-filtered milk. Fairlife, compared to regular milk, has less sugar, more protein and calcium, no lactose, and an extended shelf life of 90 days, according the Brad. Fairlife milk comes in reduced fat, chocolate, fat-free and whole.

“Fairlife and Core Power are 100 percent milk,” said Brad. “There are no additives. If you look at the label on the bottle, there’s just milk and then whatever sweetener or flavor we decide to put in it. There are not big words that you and I can’t pronounce.”

Select Milk Producers sold Core Power and Fairlife online and through word-of-mouth for a few years, but they soon decided they needed to get their products into grocery stores. At the same time, The Coca-Cola Company was looking for a partner in their health and wellness platform. Select Milk Producers entered into a distribution partnership with Coca-Cola in 2012 to form Fairlife, LLC. Currently, Coca-Cola distributes all of the products Fairlife creates, markets and sells. Now, Fairlife is available nation-wide in many retail stores such as Target, Kroger and Wal-Mart.

“We were able to broaden our market tremendously and get coast to coast over the course of our first year of our partnership with Coca-Cola,” said Brad.

Fairlife is projected to complete close to $350 million in sales this year alone. The Fairlife fluid milk business has grown exceptionally fast, much faster than any other business Coca-Cola has been involved with in the past few years, according to Brad.

“We believe and Coca-Cola believes that Fairlife is a billion dollar brand,” said Brad.

Select Milk Producers owns half of Fairlife, while Coca-Cola owns the other half. Brad is currently one of three members of Fairlife’s board of directors and was one of the first five founding members of Select Milk Producers. He currently serves as the chairman of their board of directors.

Select Milk Producers is currently the fifth largest milk marketing cooperative in the U.S., made up of over 90 members, two-thirds of which own and operate their own dairy farm in West Texas. Collectively, they own Fair Oaks Farms, Fairlife’s flagship farm.

Fairlife milk products are sold in every venue and store on the Texas Tech campus. Fairlife also sells and delivers truck loads of Core Power shakes to the Texas Tech Athletic Department about every other month at wholesale cost. Tech’s athletic nutritionist uses Fairlife and Core Power products for the athletes’ high protein shakes and smoothies. Texas Tech is only one of four universities in the country who has a wholesale contract with Fairlife.

“Texas Tech has been a great market place for us and a great advocate for us,” said Brad.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Fairlife’s massive success is that dairy farm families built and own the company, and each dairy farmer still milks the cows that produce the milk used in Fairlife products, Brad explained. Each dairy farmer raises his own cattle, grows his own feed, and creates his own electricity by methane digestion. The Fairlife dairy farmers are in control of the entire production system.

“We at Fairlife say that we can take you from grass to glass, and very few people can do that,” said Brad.

Although Brad wears many hats in the dairy industry and plays a major role in one of the quickest growing milk companies in the country, he says he is a, “family farmer first,” and that is where his heart has always been.

 

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