Farmer Focus

The Voelker Family

Hometown: Perryville, Missouri

Chad Voelker is a farmer-member of Prairie Farms, and member of the 2020 YC Advisory Council. Together with his brothers and mother, he operates Voelker Swiss Farm LLC in Perryville, Missouri. The farm currently milks 190 registered Brown Swiss and farms 450 acres.

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

The thing I like most about working on a dairy farm is just being around the cattle and watching them grow. There is no greater feeling than watching a heifer calf grow into a cow from a mating you chose years before that. Since we push our Brown Swiss genetics, getting animals to that All-American level or having the highest genomic heifer or bull and seeing your hard work and countless hours of hard work pay off is a great feeling.

Most people will say what they like least is the volatility of the milk market, but for me it’s sick animals. Dairy farming isn’t an easy job to begin with, but to see a sick calf or cow makes the days and nights even longer. It’s tough when you work so hard to take care of your animals and a virus or bacteria comes in and can destroy it overnight. In dairy farming, death is inevitable, but it doesn’t get any easier to deal with. These animals become a part of you and your family.

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

On our farm, I am in charge of all the feeds and field work. I also help out with cow and calf care. My brother Grant is hands-on with the cows, doing most of the milking and handling the calves. My brother Dayne works off-farm, but helps out when he’s available and handles all of the matings. My mom, Nancy, also works off the farm, but handles all of the bookkeeping.

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

We are always looking to become more efficient. We added some technology this year, and it will be interesting to see all the new technologies that will come out to help dairy farmers reach their goals. I would also like to get more of our genetics overseas and become a household name in the Swiss breed across the world.

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

Things that help me are looking at pictures of our son on my phone. Just seeing the joy of his smile and thinking of the future that one day, this could all be his. I also like to think of my dad and listen to his voicemails he left me before he passed away– he was always upbeat and had a positive outlook in life. Remembering the things he taught me and knowing he is watching over us helps get me through the day.

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

If I weren’t a dairy farmer, I think I’d still be doing something ag-related. I have always been fascinated with big row crop operations


What is your favorite breed of dairy cattle? Brown Swiss

What is your favorite dairy product? Ice cream

What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farmer? Being able to work alongside my brothers and continuing the family farm and hoping to leave it to the next generation

What is your favorite dairy-related memory? Selling the number one genomic heifer in the breed

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