Scott VanZyverden and his daughter Harper are a part of the three-generation VanZyverden Dairy Farms operation near Ninagua, Mo.
Scott VanZyverden and his daughter Harper are a part of the three-generation VanZyverden Dairy Farms operation near Ninagua, Mo. Photo by Amanda Bradley.

VanZyverden Dairy Farms in Niangua, Mo., is three-generations strong

NIANGUA, MO. – “It’s going to be all mine someday,” 9-year-old Harper VanZyverden proudly declared, setting her sights on the emerald pasture of her family’s dairy farm. Scott VanZyverden, Harper’s dad, gave her a fatherly look and told her she could do just that, but only after she went to college. 

With a heavy sigh, Harper agreed. The Marshfield Elementary student said she plans to run the VanZyverden Dairy Farms in Niangua, Mo., when she’s older. 

Dairy farming has become a tradition in the VanZyverden family. Scott followed in his parent’s footsteps, partnering with them on their 160-acre dairy farm in 2016. His parents, Julia and Nelson VanZyverden, have owned the farm since 1999. 

Scott and his wife Rachel recently purchased land near the VanZyverden Dairy Farm, a plot of land also in Niangua, Mo. They plan to build a house on it for their family, which includes their three children, Harper, Hadley and Hoyt. 

Attaining this goal will put the family nearer to Nelson and Julie’s home, and the dairy farm Scott operates with the help of his father and a hired-hand, Ellie Melander. 

At one time, Nelson, ran the dairy farm. As the years passed, positions shifted, and each person in the VanZyverden family has a new part to play. Julia has retired and mostly keeps up the house and yard, and Nelson works away from home and is on the road a lot, but he still manages to help out with the farm when he can. Scott’s wife Rachel works at Mercy Hospital. Harper is proudly Scott’s apprentice and dairy farmer-in-training.

Running the dairy operation and raising a family keeps Scott busy. He is also a board member for Midwest Dairy, a Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) district chairman and delegate, and he also serves on the DFA Young Cooperatives Steering Committee. The VanZyverden family has with DFA since 2017.

With 120 Jerseys currently milking, Scott said their rolling herd average is around 18,000 pounds. They chose Jerseys because of their exceptional milk production habits. 

Scott said there are a couple of acres of pasture that the cows are allowed to just “lay around in,” but their diet mainly consists of silage and cut rye from a neighboring field. 

Along with their diet and access to pasture, vaccinations keep the herd healthy and producing quality milk. Although Scott admits the financial gains of the current dairy market are slim, he said money isn’t the only reason to run a dairy farm.

The breeding program at VanZyverden Dairy Farm consists of AI. They sell most of their bulls, but do keep a handful of them for the farm. The majority of the heifers are retained for future production.

The family also has a few head of beef cattle.

Harper VanZyverden with show heifer Honey Boo Boo.
Photo by Amanda Bradley

Scott said the kids love the farm life and love to show cows. Harper is very familiar and comfortable with the farm and animals, and eagerly showed off “Honey Boo Boo,” one of her show heifers.

Becoming a dairy farmer and maintaining the farm life is hard work and long hours, yet these facts don’t discourage Scott from continuing the job.

“You got to love it to do it,” he said.


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