Gary and Crystal Dell and Family thrive on challenge and progress
|Gary and Crystal Dell have farming in their blood and wouldn’t want any other lifestyle other than on the farm. They are pictured with two of their four children, Grant and Gregory. Photo by Dieter Krieg|
By DIETER KRIEG
WESTMINSTER, Md. -- All that hard work, bruising and “we’re never done” feeling isn’t about money. Rather, it’s about making a living. A satisfying living.
For Gary and Crystal Dell, as with countless other young families, the value of farm life isn’t measured in dollars. What counts is the quality of life. And with the family all around, friends nearby and a source of pride in the barn, life can be pretty good.
Gary and Crystal value it all highly. “I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else; I love it here, said Crystal, who in Gary’s words “does about 90 percent of the work in the barn.” His own time is taken up mostly by the Dell Family’s grain operation which begins with taking care of some 2700 acres of land.
Still, the couple is a team, sharing a passion for family, friends, farming and dairy cattle.
Never without motivation, their enthusiasm got fired up a bit in July of 2010 when they purchased the dairy herd from Gary’s parents. “The whole family was making a transition,” noted Gary, who is part of the fourth generation to operate the Carroll County property. “Crystal and I are the only ones left working with the cows.”
“The kids love it,” Crystal pointed out. In order, they are: Gregory, 18; twins Grant and Annie, 16; and Gabe, 7. “There’s no better place to raise your kids if you want them to know what life is all about,” observed Gary.
While family ranks first on the list of what they appreciate about farm life, friends are just a shade behind. “All of us here in Carroll County have a really good friendship going. And we’re really proud to be involved with them. We enjoy being around them. If you have issues, it’s good to be able to talk to someone who understands. I can’t help but wonder sometimes how lucky we are and how the social situation could be quite different in some other areas.”
Considering their recent transition and dairy farming in general, the couple knows that maintaining their enthusiasm is critical for success. And that’s the advice they would give to anyone who chooses dairy farming as a career.
“You’ve got to have the enthusiasm if you want to make it work,” affirmed Gary.
“Stick to your business plan,” added Crystal. Simply put, their business plan is to limit their debts and reduce those debts as quickly as possible before moving on with additional costly items. “Keeping costs of production down and common sense are key,” Gary pointed out.
“And don’t be afraid to get advice from other successful dairymen or farmers,” Gary continued. “Just hearing what they have to say can make a difference in your decisions -- even if you don’t take their advice.”
“And we also believe that you don’t have to milk 800 cows to make a living,” the couple agreed.
For sure, their plan has never been to just milk cows. That’s just where it starts. “All these years I wanted to be a dairy farmer with Registered cows,” Gary acknowledged. “But the first thing anyone told me was that you have to make your money with milk first. Then you can go to Registered cattle. That’s the bonus.”
A top priority in the development of their herd has been longevity, which they try to enhance through cow comfort, top quality hay and forages and cleanliness. “Keep’em content,” said Crystal. The herd is housed in a free-stall barn but is left out to pasture as much as possible. A bedded pack barn is home to their favored cows. Milking takes place in a double-8 herringbone parlor.
Another high priority in their program is getting the cows bred back on time. “That’s really key,” assured Gary. The 90-cow herd averages around 21,000 pounds of milk with tests of 4.2% and 3.3% for butterfat and protein, respectively. “Our Holstein herd includes a few Jerseys,” Gary grinned.
The herd includes 15 Excellents and many of them please not only the Dells, but visitors as well. The star of the herd is Cranberry Md S Abilene-ET, an EX-90 Shottle daughter with a 92-point mammary system.
“We’re not in the numbers game. We try to breed for longevity along with some style so that maybe we’ll have the opportunity for a show winner,” said Gary.
“Milk and good feet and legs are important,” added Crystal.
“We try to get as much out of the Adeen family as we can,” is how Gary described the breeding program. For added attraction and success, they also have some Red & Whites and polled animals, including a polled Shamrock son and a polled Lawnboy daughter.
There’s a lot that Doug and Crystal like about the business that they’re in. Highlights include having bred the reserve intermediate champion at the World Dairy Exposition in 2005, Md. Delight Durham Atlee-ET. And it was also pretty thrilling for them when Harvue Roy Frosty earned her supreme champion titles two years in a row. Crystal’s sister, Deb, is married to David Hardesty, breeder of Frosty. Other highlights include winning the Maryland Holstein Futurity in 2000 with Kingstead Stardust Victory hosting the state Holstein picnic that same year.
Speaking of goals, Gary and Crystal instantly mentioned family. “We always try to work with the kids in mind so that if they want to come back here, they’ll have the opportunity. To keep everyone involved, if that’s their choice, they may want to get into direct marketing, Gary proposed. “Our ultimate goal is to have a sustainable business that has the ability to move on to the next generation,” he concluded.