ST. THOMAS, Pa. — For the past 18 years, Kevin and Beth Myers have worked closely with Kevin’s parents, Kenneth and Martha, to successfully transition the family farm, Myra-Brek Farm. The younger Myerses purchased the dairy herd in 2001 and the farm in 2003. Their next goal is to finish paying off the farm. In the meantime, the family was selected as a Dairy of Distinction farm.

“My dad signed me up. I did not realize he was doing it,” Kevin Myers said of their farm’s nomination process. “Then he realized, ‘I need Kevin’s signature (on the application) and I have to tell him.’” He does not know what drove the decision by his parents, but is very flattered at the thought.

The transition process has been a successful one, Kevin Myers said, as they have phased into farm ownership, first purchasing the herd before making the transition on the farm property. Kevin and Beth had left the farm briefly, milking cows at a neighboring farm, when his brother died suddenly. The pair made the decision to return to the family farm, with Kevin working under his father for five years. After that, they made the transition to where Kevin took on the management role.

The Myerses milk between 95 and 100 cows and farm about 360 acres. They raise all of their own feed with a rotation including corn, alfalfa, grass hay, wheat, barley and some soybeans. The cropping operation’s main focus is to feed the dairy cows. They don’t market much excess feed, instead holding onto a reserve for dry years.

“When you get dry around here, you need that amount of acreage to feed 100 cows,” he said. “When it gets dry we need every acre we can get a hold of.”

Beth and Kevin milk the cows together. Their five children help out on the farm. Ken helps with other barn chores. Their family includes daughters Janelle, 21; Danessa,19; and Breauna, 17; and sons Trenton, 15, and Landon, 11.

“I am basically the one managing everything now,” Kevin said. The dairy herd averages 70-75 pounds per cow and somatic cell count runs below 100,000. Last month, the test was at 66,000. Milk is marketed through Land O’Lakes.

Milk quality drives farm profitability, Kevin said. Their farm has received the quality premium award for 14 out of the last 17 years with the cooperative. “The premium really helps with the milk check,” he said. “It’s really nice to have that.”

His focus is managing the parlor. A veterinarian once told him he believed at one time 75 percent of milk quality came from the freestall and 25 percent from the parlor. That vet has reversed his position, saying 75 percent of milk quality comes from the parlor. Cows are milked in a double-six herringbone parlor.

Kevin Myers said he expects quality milk will always be important in the milk market. Even in a time of milk surplus, quality product still pays.

Kevin and Beth Myers’ future plans include wrapping up the farm purchase in the next couple of years. For other farmers looking to start the transition process, Kevin said their accountant was helpful. They worked with an attorney to write the mortgage. And they spoke with other farmers about their transition experience. The process has worked well for them. One item on Kevin Myers’ wish list after the farm is paid off: update the farm’s 35-year-old parlor.