The Butler Family

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Will and Lauren Butler are members of the 2018 YC Advisory Council, representing Southeast Milk, Inc. The Butler family has been farming for more than 80 years. Today, their operation is situated in Highlands County, Florida, directly on the Kissimmee River. While Will’s parents own Butler Oaks Farm, he has served as manager alongside older brother Ben for the past 10 years. They manage the 1,100 cow milking herd, which is housed in a free-stall management system. Butler Oaks milks mainly Holstein cows, with a few Brown Swiss and Jersey-Crosses. The farm has undertaken several environmental projects to control the phosphorus and other nutrients. Today, all the water on the farm is collected and treated or reused.

Will and his wife Lauren have been married eight years and have a daughter named Claire, 2. Lauren is the Okeechobee County UF/IFAS Extension Director and Livestock Agent.

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?

Will: What we like the most is working with family, producing food for the world and tackling different challenges every day. The least? See above – just joking!

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family?

We all pitch in and work together, but we each have our strengths. My strength is working with the heifers and forage program. My brother Ben manages the parlor and milking herd. My dad oversees all operations as the CEO. He is also the best equipment operator and cowhand on the farm! My mom is the CFO and manages the accounting.

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?

Our farm needs to account for a changing industry. As more technology becomes accessible, we need a plan that accounts for less labor and more tech. As in any industry, a good business plan includes continuing to look for more efficiencies.

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?

Hard days call for prayers of calmness and patience. Always remember to keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. By keeping that in mind, you are always appreciative of the blessings in your everyday life.

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?

I would never want to be anything different, but if dairy farming wasn’t a possibility as a career, I would probably have a job in beef production.