Gentry, Ark., producer spent nearly a year constructing a new dairy facility Any construction on a farm is cause for serious consideration. Bill and Delia Haak of Gentry, Ark., recently decided to undertake building a new double-sided, 11-stall parabone milker, rapid exit dairy barn to complete their 1,000 owned and rented acreage in Decatur, Ark., as well as Gentry.
“Only the Lord could have designed and put all this together, and we are very thankful,” Bill said.
The couple started dairy farming in 1979 with a six-stall flat barn. In 1990, an opportunity to buy 90 acres half a mile away and possessing an 11-stall, herringbone milk barn arose.
“I thought that was where I was going to retire, but it had a creek in the middle that the cattle had to cross, not an ideal situation,” Bill recalled.
In 2012, land prices were depressed and situations presented themselves where Bill was able to take advantage of the situation. The process required creative and detailed planning, which included trading land for land and selling the vast majority of his 240-head herd to build the new barn and to buy additional dairy heifers. Bill maintained his original dairy herd and had an arrangement with the new owner of dairy barn he sold that allowed him to continue milking there until he got his new barn built.
Nearly a year to the day later, Bill finally started milking at his new facility.
The new Haak property was flat with no rocks and no creek. Bill dug a well and successfully negotiated for gas and electric lines. He told his wife he wanted to build the new dairy barn, which she fully supported as long as they did not go deeper in debt because they are approaching retirement age.
Although Bill designed the new facility, he used advice from a variety of people and was his own general contractor. Bill considered not having a pit until his dairyman friend, Don Mayer, explained that Bill was only going to build one barn and having no steps, especially considering his age, was more than worth the money.
In addition, Bill drove to Louisville, Ky., to see a quick-exit barn using a feeder with a hydraulic lift that allows cows a quick and easy exit. Bill made modifications to the design and had Jim Koiman of Marshfield, Mo., fabricate the device.
The exact building site, in the middle of the 240-acre site, was also important to provide shorter and easier access for the cattle, even though an access road had to be built for milk trucks. While he has only four fenced pastures at the moment, Bill is planning on expanding that to 13 to be supported by nine waterers and 6,000 feet of water lines he recently installed. All of Bill’s planning seems to be working because in mid-April his cows were producing 70 pounds of milk per day, per cow.
Cows receive grain only in the barn. The Haak dairy is a pasture-based operation, using no till wheat and rye for fall, winter and spring grazing, with Sudangrass and Bermuda providing summer grazing. The land is soil tested and broadcast sprayed with a commercial fertilizer. The Haaks harvest 3,000 round bales of hay per year, some of which they sell.
Bill is currently milking 80 Holstein and Holstein/Jersey cross cows, with the goal of reaching 200 by September. He purchased 32 first-calf Holstein/Jersey bred heifers that have calved and another 47 that will calve from May to September from from Charles Coblentz in Oklahoma. Bill also has 50 of his own heifers to add to the growing herd.
He keeps all his dairy heifers as replacements and steers are sold at 800 pounds.
The Haaks also have a 40-head Angus/Holstein cross commercial herd with purpose to provide cash flow for larger annual expenses, such as fertilizer.
Two full-time and two part-time employees support the operation.
“We start our day by getting together where I get the latest information on herd health, including cows that are about to calve. Then we plan our day,” Bill explained.
Bill and Delia, who is the executive director of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, met in high school in Phoenix, Ariz., when they were 14 years old.
Their first date was the 1972 Fiesta Bowl and where they had their first kiss.
“My wife and I have always been a team and without her none of this would’ve been possible,” Bill said.
The couple has two sons, Luke and Jake.
When their sons were ready to go to college, Bill made them a deal: if they graduated college and stayed out of trouble, they could pick any 5 acres to build a home on his family land. Youngest son Jake quickly demanded, “define trouble,” Bill recalled.  
Both have new homes on family land where Bill and Delia are enjoying their seven grandchildren.


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