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Matt and Polly Timmer, along with their sons, Jacob, 13, and Aiden, 7, are the 2018 Nobles County Farm Family of the Year. The rural Ellsworth family operates Mat-Ar-Dor Holsteins. They are shown here with one of their prized cows, Kory, a 10-year-old ranked 94-3E, meaning she's had nine years of excellent rankings for conformation. Her lifetime milk output is 200,000 pounds. (Julie Buntjer / Forum News Service)

Timmers named Nobles County Farm Family of the Year

ELLSWORTH, Minn. — Along a quiet gravel road east of Ellsworth, the Timmer farmstead is filled with cows chewing their cud and calves basking in the afternoon sunshine. It’s break time between morning and evening milkings, but for Matt and Polly Timmer and their two sons, 13-year-old Jacob and 7-year-old Aiden, there’s always work to be done.

Especially now, with fair season and dairy shows. Both boys, members of the Grand Prairie Rockets 4-H Club, will show dairy at the Nobles County Fair next week. Add in Matt’s role on the fair board, and Polly’s involvement on the 4-H Advisory Board, and this is one busy family on — and off — the farm.

The Timmers, Nobles County’s 2018 Farm Family of the Year, will be recognized Aug. 1 at the fair in Worthington, Minn., as well as at Farmfest a week later. The family owns a 100-cow dairy with roots dating back to 1982, when Matt’s parents, Arnold and Doris, purchased their first cows and started milking.

“We started with a handful and grew to about 50 or 60,” shared Matt. Back then, they also farrowed sows and raised sheep.

When Matt graduated from Ellsworth High School in 1998, he purchased his own cows and rented his own place. Three years later, he and his parents combined their herds and built an addition onto the barn at the home place to house approximately 80 cows. Another addition was completed in 2005 to accommodate their herd trend toward larger cows.

“We’ve learned that more space equals more milk,” Matt said.

Matt and Polly farmed in partnership with his parents until March 2016, when the younger couple took over 100 percent of the operation.

The Timmers milk twice a day in a double-eight herringbone parlor, marketing their milk to Associated Milk Producers Inc. They raise all of their calves in addition to operating a small boarding business, housing some commercial and higher-end registered stock for other people.

Since 2008, the farm has had all purebred stock, which are registered under the herd name Mat-Ar-Dor Holsteins. The herd is classified through the Holstein USA Association’s Holstein Complete program, which scores cows based on conformation.

The Timmers, who use artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and flushing in their herd to improve genetics, recently purchased semen from a red and white Holstein in Germany.

“That’s the first out-of-country semen we’ve purchased,” Matt said, noting the bull’s grandfather came from the United States. “To find a red and white bull that’s an outcross — and to be a true red bull — is sometimes hard to find.”

While A.I. and flushing is done on the farm, the Timmers have their IVF work done at Trans-Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa. There, they can access gender-selected semen to guarantee female calves.

As the Timmers continue to improve their herd, they are also active in local and state dairy organizations. Matt is chairman of the show committee and co-chairman of the sale committee for the Minnesota Holstein Association, and serves as president of the Southwest District Holstein Club and treasurer of the Minnesota Red & White Association. In addition, he’s a certified dairy show judge and hosts the Luverne-Adrian FFA dairy judging team members for judging practice on the farm each spring.

The Timmers show their cattle in the state and district shows in Minnesota, as well as in the open class division during the Minnesota State Fair. This year, Jacob is eligible to show in the 4-H dairy show at the state fair if he earns a trip.

The boys also show at a few other county fairs and youth shows.

“Both boys have been showing since they were 3,” said Polly, adding that Aiden showed for the first time by himself at the Minnesota state show this year.

Jacob and Aiden are following in their father’s footsteps in the 4-H show arena, although Matt hopes they will have a better outcome in the show arena. He said his dairy animals often placed last in the show ring, which inspired him to build a herd of registered cows, focusing on genetics and cow conformation.

In addition to the genetic work they do in their herd, the Timmers use technology to their advantage in other ways. Each cow is fitted with a tag and sensor that tracks what she’s doing throughout the day, whether she’s eating, drinking, resting or active and chewing her cud. Matt has used the program for three years, and said it’s an invaluable tool in monitoring the health of his animals.

“If a cow lays down for two hours and doesn’t chew her cud, it shows up on my computer that she’s a suspicious cow,” Matt said. “Twenty percent of the time that cow has an issue — a sore foot or mastitis or just doesn't feel good. The computer is on top of it before I can be on top of it.

“I don’t know if I could milk cows without it,” he added, noting that he even has an app on his phone so he can get alerts when he’s away from the barn. “We’ve also installed cameras in the barn so we can watch for calving.”

The Timmers don’t farm any land, instead purchasing all of the feed for their herd. This allows them to concentrate on the dairy and other activities.

Polly and Doris have off-farm jobs cleaning houses and building sites, and the family is also active in the Tabernacle Baptist Church in George, Iowa, where Jacob and Aiden are involved in the Awana program.