For The Love of The Jerseys

Published on Mon, 01/19/2015 - 1:27pm

For over 90 years and three generations, dairy farming has been the cornerstone of the Lyon family farm located near Toledo, Iowa, approximately 60 miles northeast of Des Moines, Iowa. Originally, brothers Bob and Earl Lyon formed a partnership in 1921, and in 1924, Earl’s sons, Joe and Howard started in 4-H showing registered Jerseys, which led to a full-time dairy enterprise.
Today, Lyon Jerseys is a partnership of Joe and his son Eric and nephew, Stuart (Howard’s son). The pride that the Lyon family has for the Jersey breed is showcased by a full-size bronze Jersey sculpture (cow/calf) designed in the early 1990s by Joe’s wife, Norma “Duffy” Lyons, located at a main intersection in Toledo. She was widely known for sculpting the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair for 46 years.
Eric says, “Mom also designed the ‘Jersey Jewel,’ a full-size, 1600-pound replica of a Jersey cow that is permanently displayed at the entrance of the Iowa State University’s milking facility.” Although Norma passed away in 2011 at age 81, she was famous across the United States and will always be remembered as The Butter Cow Lady.
Today, at age 85, Joe continues to be part of the daily operation and over his career has become renowned in the dairy industry for his leadership as a Jersey breeder, his entrepreneurial vision as a pioneer in developing how dairy farmers are paid for milk based partially on the milk’s protein content and the World Dairy Expo Man of the Year. Eric oversees the 1000 head of Jersey cattle of which 320 are part of the milking process, and Stuart supervises the 1100 acres of cropland. At the same time, Lyon Jerseys employs 10-12 full and part-time help.
Lyon Jerseys sells its milk to Swiss Valley Farms, a leader in the retail market development and the first cooperative in the Midwest to offer a protein premium. “It is a producer owned co-op and one of the first to introduce the multiple component pricing plan which has now become an industry standard,” Eric says.

Lyon Jerseys Success: All About the Cattle
Joe, Eric and Stuart believe in one thing: their cattle. Success only comes when the Jersey herd is well cared for. The foundation for this comes through developing an efficient Jersey cow, the use of top-end JPI bulls for breeding with a focus on high components and outstanding type. Working closely with their local veterinarian, the goal is to maximize productivity and herd health.
The Lyon Jersey herd is nationally recognized for exceptional genetics and excellent milk production. The Lyons have bred a number of production and show winners, sent bulls to A.I., and over the past 10 years sold 1175 cattle (including 900 bulls) across the country, both privately and through high-visibility consignment sales such as the All American Jersey Sale and the National Heifer Sale. Lyon Jerseys is proud to have consigned the high-seller of the 2010 Pot O’Gold Sale, Lyon Impuls Eternity, who sold for $10,750 to Sidney Avila, Dalhart, TX. Avila placed fourth in the 2013 Pot O’Gold Production Contest with “Eternity.”
According to Eric, this success truly does come down to the Jersey breed itself. “Jerseys produce the highest quality milk in the industry, and with consumers looking for not only milk quality but also more choices in quality cheese, we believe that what our cattle produce best fits the market.”
Because of their leadership role, Lyon Jerseys were part of the virtual tour during the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Housing of Lyon Jerseys
There is little doubt that part of superior cattle performance comes through their living environment. Lyon Jersey cattle are housed in free-stall barns bedded with sand to improve the comfort and cleanliness of the cattle.
Over the years, the Lyon Jersey owners have continued to update their barn systems. In the past 10 years, they have added three BRITESPAN (fabric covered) buildings: two 40' x 96' Atlas series buildings used for raising heifers and one 50' x 112' Atlas building for hay and equipment storage.
These fabric-covered buildings are made up of pre-engineered steel trusses with an extremely durable polyethylene cover that typically lasts 25+ years.
“As we researched building options, we looked at several key components,” says Eric:
•Amount of indoor light
“We found that the cover allows for excellent natural lighting even on cloudy days. Plus there is very little condensation with the fabric cover.”
•Ventilation in summer and winter
“Ventilation is excellent. Plus, the building provides shade during the summer months and is easy to heat in the winter.”
“This is always a major concern. Only once have we had any issues with the cover on one of our buildings, and that came with a storm with 134 mph winds. Our local distributor took care of the damage extremely quickly.”
“During our research, we found that the BRITESPAN building estimate was extremely cost effective and less than what other buildings would have cost.”
That’s a lot to ask of a building, but after research and the subsequent construction, BRITESPAN structures have worked out well for Lyon Jerseys.
One of the unique features that Joe, Eric and Stuart really like is the roll-up doors on each end: “kind of like a normal garage door!”
BRITESPAN has distributors located across the United States and Canada. According to Eric, “We went with Friedman Distributing, Inc., out of Belle Plain. Bob Radeke worked extremely hard in making sure everything went smoothly from the design, to getting the materials and the building of the buildings. They go up fast and the company takes care of its product. When we had the high winds that damaged the top of one of the buildings, we had great support and the roof was quickly repaired.”

Lyon Jerseys are The Bottom Line
As with so many dairy farms across the United States, Lyon Jerseys is about the cattle. As Joe, Eric and Stuart continue their journey, every decision they make will be about their registered Jersey cattle, and Norma’s bronze sculptures will be a daily reminder of just how important the Jersey cattle are to the Lyon family!