The Mark and Johna Fellwock family keeps the dairy tradition alive at their Monett, Mo., farm

June is National Dairy Month, time to enjoy all the great products and also, time to appreciate America’s hard-working dairy farmers, the backbone of the nation.

Fellwock Dairy is owned and operated by Mark and Johna Fellwock. The dairy is located in rural Monett, Mo. Mark is the fourth Fellwock to take the reigns of the Century Farm and the third to operate a dairy. The high school sweethearts inherited the farm in their 20s after Mark’s father passed away.

“We started dating in high school and were married shortly after graduation,” Mark explained. “I was helping my parents’ milk 50 cows and building houses for a living. When Johna and I got married, I told her ‘I’ll never be a dairy farmer’ and I’ve had to eat those words ever since,” he said with a smile.

The couple officially took over the dairy when they purchased it from Mark’s mother in 2006.

Currently, they milk more than 300 cows and recently added an impressive, new double 12-rapid exit milking parlour that will allow for growth in the years to come.

Their herd is primarily Holstein based, crossed with some Jersey. The bull calves are sold at birth and replacement heifers are kept. The cows are fed TMR (total mixed ration) consisting of alfalfa, corn and rye. Feeding TMR is an effective, efficient and profitable way to feed dairy cows. The high-moisture, wrapped hay ensures the cows receive adequate nutrients for good health, milk production and reproduction.

The couple’s daughter, 19-year-old daughter Bailey, does all the AI on the farm.

“I went to the Select Sire Program at Joplin Regional Stockyard,” Bailey said. “I started learning how to AI when I was 15.”

“When Bailey graduated from high school, we brought her into the farm fulltime,” Mark explained. “Her job consists of doing all the AI work and raising calves from birth through breeding.”

Johna was raised on her family’s small hobby farm in Billings, Mo., so she knew a little about farming.

“It’s a lot different than dairy farming though,” she admitted.

Johna homeschools children Hayden (14) and Riley (13), and they also have their 3-year-old son Hudson. The couple’s daughter, Chloe, received her angel wings in 2013 when she heartbreakingly passed away at age 4 from a brain tumor.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work here,” Johna stated. “I do everything my husband does and all our kids have their own chores. Riley helps her sister with the calves, Hayden rakes hay, does field work and gets the baby calves in.”

“Hayden’s my right-hand man,” Mark said. “He’s beside me all the time and does whatever I need him to do, and all our kids milk. I have two hired hands but if my kids weren’t helping, I’d need two additional employees just to cover all the work they do. They’re a tremendous help around here.”

The reason they expanded was so they could continue to farm with their kids, working beside them so they could have good character and a great work ethic.

The Fellwock’s raise their own silage. This year they put out 240 acres of corn, along with alfalfa, wheat, rye and oats. All the forages go to the cows; only a small portion is sold.

They calve year-round, with the heaviest calving beginning in July through the fall. They calve in larger groups to generate higher milk production through the fall and winter months, which allows for less milking in the summer heat. They prefer the smaller-framed cows that are easier to handle. Their biggest cow is 1,350 pounds.

A popular misconception in the public today is that milk-alternatives, such as rice and almond milk, are healthier than regular milk.

“Milk is God’s super food,” Johna explained. “It’s packed with protein and calcium. Milk is clean, safe and nutritious. We are highly regulated here at our dairy. If a cow is sick and treated, not a drop of that milk ever goes into the stream. There can’t be a mistake here.”

“We sample at the farm and it is also sampled multiple times at the plant,” Mark added. “The bottom line is, milk is safe. We teach and educate the public on that daily. Today, people are so removed from the farm, they don’t know milk comes from a cow, they just think it comes from a store.”

Fellwock Dairy’s milk is sold to their milk coop, Dairy Farmers of America, who then market it to Hiland Dairy in Springfield. Mo., where it is made into ice cream, cheese, butter and processed milk.

Mark admits “there’s a lot more than milking on a dairy farm, there’s feeding, calf raising, heifer management and all those things have to work together to be successful.”

The Fellwock’s are very involved in their milk coop, Midwest Dairy promotions and Farm Bureau.

Mark is the district chairman for DFA and is involved in the Young Cooperative and Emerging Leaders programs through DFA. Mark makes trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators and lobby for dairy farmers.

“We learn how USDA works for us and we also attend functions. They speak with their congressmen from their perspective areas. We want to stay connected and know what’s going on,” Mark said. “The days of milking cows and not being informed are over; you can’t survive like that anymore. It is crucial to be involved and know what your coop is doing, and know what markets there are and what programs are currently going on.”


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