Jaynes lynn
Emeritus Editor
Lynn Jaynes retired as an editor in 2023.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series looking at how four individuals are turning dreams into reality to become first-generation farmers, ranchers and dairymen. To view Part 1, click here, and to view Part 2, click here. To view Part 4, click here.


Dairying from ground zero
Shenk knew a guy who had operated several dairies but had recently downsized. This gentleman still had dairies available, so Shenk went to visit him. He also visited the FSA office and researched financing opportunities and penciled out cashflow. With his research complete, Shenk gave his boss two weeks notice, and four weeks later he was milking his own cows.

In short, with an FSA beginning farmer loan Shenk rented the available dairy and bought 87 Jersey cows, initially milking about 50 or so. He paid for feed as he went, purchasing all feed except for the grass hay raised on the 15 acres that came with the dairy. He didn’t have money from any other source – no inheritance and no money saved of his own.

“The guy helped me out at the first farm I rented, but it wasn’t necessarily a handout, either,” Shenk says. “He gave me a pretty good deal on renting the farm.”

Then came the economy crash of 2009, which Shenk said he survived due, in part at least, to the fact that he was just staring out and didn’t have a lot of heifers requiring a lot of feed expenses while not yet producing. But Shenk admits times have changed, and he is required to pay for feed upfront now, for which he had to secure additional funding.

Shenk’s dairy has no outside income sources – no secondary job, no secondary wage from a spouse’s income. For labor he has only periodically used a high school student a few days a week and his wife. A few family members have pitched in from time to time, but not regularly.

Shenk has made it work. After five years at the originally rented dairy, he has now moved to renting a dairy that has more capacity to house his growing herd of 80 milking cows. His method of operation hasn’t changed, and he’s still purchasing all feed, but he’s upgraded to a more modern facility in an area with potentially better quality feed. One day he hopes to purchase some land, whether strictly farmland or dairy, and double his milking herd.

Shenk says, “It’s more work and takes more time than what I thought it would. You have to want to do it.”

He advises those wanting to get started to get to know people in the industry, as far as who can help out, “whether it’s helping you find feed or helping you by sharing their experiences.”

“No regrets,” Shenk says. “I enjoy what I do every day.”  FG

Look for another first-generation spotlight in an upcoming newsletter.

Lynn Jaynes

Lynn Jaynes
Progressive Forage Grower

Jacob Shenk started out renting a dairy and milking about 50 cows. Today, almost six years later, he is milking 80 cows and has moved to a more modern facility. Photo courtesy of extension agent Jim Schroering.