Monday, June 20, 2016
Sustainability is necessary for any business in this day and age. For the Tucker Family, sustainability is not just something they practice, it's been their way of life for over 90 years. They have always planned for growth and kept their future in mind with every decision they make.
The fifth generation of Tuckers will take over the farm one day, thanks in part to the decisions the family has made when modifying their barns and sustainability practices. But what were these decisions? What steps have they taken to be more sustainable? How does a family farm stay in operation for so long?
Russell Tucker was a cow trader and started Yellow Top Dairy in Englewood, Colorado in the early 1920s. He and his wife Myrtle raised five children. Their three sons continued to milk cows, but Charley made it his life’s work and passion.
Charley left Englewood to serve in WWII. While serving overseas, he met and married his wife of 67 years Erna Lichtenstern. After arriving home in 1947 they started a family, moved to Wellington, Colo. and began building the family business. Iven and Charles were born before they left Englewood. They added their daughter Debbie in 1962. In Wellington, Charley had two jobs, milking cows and working at the Ideal Cement Plant to supplement his income. The stanchion barn he used could only milk three cows at a time but for a herd of 16 cows it worked. Erna raised their kids and took care of the calves born on the dairy.
In 1966, with the construction of I-25 cutting the dairy in half, Charley and his family made the decision to move to Pierce, Colorado. The barn that they operated out of was a single three side open barn and they started with 65 cows. They struggled with the small barn until 1976 when they were able to build a new one. The barn included a double four herringbone parlor, a 2,000 gallon milk tank and a large covered holding pen. It served the family’s needs well until 1986.
In 1986, Tucker Dairy was incorporated. At this time, the parlor was expanded to a double six herringbone to accommodate the expanding herd.
The year of 1992 brought a major expansion with new steel corrals and headlocks. These corrals, headlocks and barn would accommodate over 300 cows. Also planning for future growth, a new commodity facility was constructed.
In 1996, a 6,000 gallon milk tank replaced the old tank for added capacity for milk. Tucker Dairy upgraded record keeping with the installation of a new computerized metering system that measured milk weights. New special needs pens were constructed for management of fresh cows, sick cows, pre-fresh cows and dry cows.
In 2000, the milking stalls were upgraded to a double 10 parallel. The spring of 2002 brought another advancement in sustainability with the installation of the latest computerized milk meter system.
The decision was made in 2005 to construct a veterinary hospital to better serve cow comfort. By 2012, the Tuckers needed to plan for more growth because they had expanded their herd to over 400 cows, so they added a second 6,000-gallon bulk tank to handle milk production. In addition to the milk tank, they also built a fifth milking pen.
When 2014 rolled around, they modified their barn yet again. Like the rest of their remodels, the Tuckers kept sustainability and efficiency in mind, preparing to milk up to 800 cows. Their new parlor is completely modernized with a fully rapid exit parallel barn, new identification system, hot water recovery, all LED lights, cross ventilation, and better insulation.
“I don’t believe in trying to do something just to feel good, we make sure each improvement is sustainable,” said Chuck. “We chose upgrades that increase efficiency.”
Even though the barn has been remodeled many times, a small piece of history remains; there is one room left of the original barn among all the upgrades and modernization.
Tucker Dairy is currently operated by Scott, Iven and Chuck. Iven and his wife Irene have three children: Scott, Jason and Kristi. Jason and Kristi both pursued other careers. Scott, his wife Candi, and their two kids Emily and Andrew are involved with the daily operation of the dairy. Family cooperation has always been and will continue to be a vital part of Tucker Dairy.
Though the Tuckers have been conducting dairy tours since the 1960’s, Candi recently decided to start doing more tours. She realized there was a huge gap in what kids today know about agriculture when the other students in her children’s classes were asking them about farming. So rather than explaining it to them one by one, the Tuckers give the students the opportunity to see how farmers actually interact with their animals.
“Kids these days do not really understand the process it takes to get milk from the farm to the table,” said Candi. “We want to give the kids in our area the opportunity to see how farmers actually interact with their animals.”
Candi hopes that if kids can see what dairy farming is like first-handed, it will help them to love dairy foods even more. It will also help them understand how they get their dairy products.
“It gives kids a connection to the animals and to the industry,” explains Chuck. “Right now, they have no connection.”
Scott and Candi are excited to pass the farm down to their kids. Due to the family’s history of sustainability efforts, the latest Tuckers will have the opportunity to become fifth generation farmers and take their family’s legacy of dairy farming into the future.