It wasn’t unusual for Mike Seppelt, 27, to hear discouraging comments whenever he said he wanted to dairy farm. For a while, the negative comments kept him from pursuing his dream. That is, until one day his friend, Bob Wimmer, told him to stop messing around and get to it.
“He told me things were about to get interesting,” Seppelt said. “But that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I figured that if he encouraged me to do it, then I would farm.”
Seppelt’s dream to dairy farm goes back to his childhood. For the first seven years of his life, he grew up on a dairy farm and all seemed well. But in 1996, his dad, Paul, decided it was time to quit the dairy farming business.
“The day my dad sold the cows was one of my worst days. It was like the opportunity to farm was gone and for years, I questioned how I could ever start again,” he said.
Seppelt knew how difficult it was for someone who didn’t have a family farm to take over or inherit to get into the business.
While he attended high school, he worked at a floating bog dairy in the Pierz area for about four years and for a couple of other businesses. It gave him experience.
Even though he dreamed of farming, Seppelt graduated from Central Lakes College in Brainerd with an associate’s degree in landscaping.
“When I graduated I realized I would rather farm, but still didn’t know how to get into it,” he said.
Little did he know that life as he knew it would soon change. One day when his mom, Kim, who worked as a hairstylist was giving her client, Deb Millner, a haircut, the two small-talked.
“Mom mentioned that I wanted to farm, but didn’t have the opportunity,” he said.
As it turned out, while Seppelt was trying to get into the dairy business, Deb’s husband, Chuck, was looking to get out. But at the same time he didn’t want to see the barn stand empty, Seppelt said.
The next day, the two met and hit it off right way. In September 2010, Seppelt rented the barn and took over the Millners’ herd of older cows. He had 17 of which five cows were not being milked.
That fall, Seppelt purchased 26 heifers.
Despite the small number of cows, Seppelt said it all worked out well. A nearby farmer was switching over to a robotic milking system and needed some extra space to hold the cows while the building was getting finished.
“He brought over enough cows to fill in the empty spaces. I didn’t have enough cows to fill up the barn until the heifers started calving,” he said.
Today, Seppelt has 40 milking cows and about 70 heifers, calves and dry cows. All but one are Holsteins. One is a cross between Holstein and Jersey he refers to as a “HoJo.”
From the time Seppelt started renting the barn, he and Chuck formed a special bond
“From that day on, we became extremely close friends and spent every day together. He always helped out, whether it was to give advice or put a heifer in the barn,” Seppelt said.
The following year, Chuck fell ill. He was diagnosed with protein amyloidosis — a rare disease that occurs when a starch like protein builds up in a person’s organs.
As a result of the disease, Chuck died, Dec. 28, 2012. It was also Seppelt’s birthday. Chuck’s life remains a loss that is still felt today for many.
“He was a mentor and a father figure to me. It was strange how close we had gotten and how hard it really was to lose him. I know I am not the only one who feels like that about him,” Seppelt said.
After Chuck died, Seppelt purchased the machinery, such as tractors, a hay bine, a hay rake and a gravity box, from Deb.
He also started crop farming the 220 acres with corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Previously Chuck had crop farmed most of it, while Seppelt rented 30 acres.
Even though dairy farming is hard work, Seppelt doesn’t regret his decision to join the industry. Like any other job, it has its ups and downs, he said.
He’s also thankful his wife, Brittney, is very understanding. She grew up on a dairy farm and knows what it’s like. Things happen, sometimes plans get canceled.
About six months ago, the two had a son, Brett. It’s a sweet addition to their farming family.
“She’s a good mom,” he said of Brittney.
It is with a strong faith in God that Seppelt believes that all will work out well in the end. One of the biggest things Chuck taught him during their special friendship, was to never second guess himself.