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A passion that comes full circle

Jordan Manning for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 November 2020

For Sieto Mellema of Dalhart, Texas, naming his dairy Full Circle Jerseys was an idea that came to him in the middle of the night. After thinking about his family’s process of growing the crops to feed their cows, which produce the milk to make the cheese at a plant, which ends up providing recycled water for their farm to irrigate crops – he drew a shape in the air with his finger and realized it all comes to a full circle.

The journey to that moment began in 1979 when Sieto’s parents moved from the Netherlands to Dalhart for a fresh start in an area with more opportunity for progressive farming. According to Sieto, his father Tam always had sights on the future.

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“My dad took us from horse-drawn plows to GPS technology,” Sieto said.

The family held some of the first dairy permits in the area when Hilmar Cheese set sights on building a plant in the area. Coincidentally, the Mellema family always knew they wanted to milk Jersey cows because of their ideal milk components for cheesemaking. So, it was quite the match when Sieto, alongside his parents, wife (Misty) and their three sons, opened Full Circle Jerseys in 2007, just a few months after the new cheese plant started accepting milk. The 72-head rotary now ships around 300,000 pounds of milk to Hilmar Cheese each day.

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Now the Mellemas run the dairy, as well as crop and cow-calf operations that all serve a unique purpose in the overall business. Corn, wheat, milo and hay are grown for feed. And, as one of the few dairies in the area that raises all their calves, Full Circle also uses sexed semen for Angus crossbred bull calves that are sent to local feedlots, where the Mellemas retain ownership throughout the entire process.

But, the Mellema’s water conservation efforts are what have helped them create an integrated and self-sustaining farming system.

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“We’ve known that water has been going down for years,” Sieto said. “So, the way we farm is different than years ago.”

Manure from Full Circle Jerseys is separated, then solids are composted for bedding and liquids are used to irrigate the fields. But, the recycling took a step further when the Mellemas and Hilmar Cheese started working together to ensure water is collected and used in the most efficient way possible. Water separated from cheese made at the plant is piped back to the Mellema’s farm across the highway to water crops.

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According to Misty Mellema, the diversification and water conservation efforts allow them to be more sustainable for future generations, like her sons Tammo, Matt and Mitchell, who are all involved in the family business.

“There are a lot of things through science and technology that help us protect the planet,” Misty said. “We do it because we have kids. We’re not going to do anything that harms this environment because we raise our kids here. We’re as concerned as everyone else.”

The Mellema’s passion for their animals and the environment also stretches to the local community. The family hosts tours of Full Circle Jerseys with area schools to share their story and help people understand all that goes into getting food from farm to table.

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“If you go to the grocery store and expect milk and other foods, you have to recognize the people responsible for getting it there,” Sieto said. “The passion, the late nights, early mornings – I don’t think people realize what it takes.”

When Sieto and Misty reflect on what they have built, they never forget where the legacy started.

“Full Circle Jerseys is Sieto’s passion and his love,” Misty said. “It is his dream and was his dad’s dream when he was alive.”  end mark

This article is brought to you courtesy of Dairy MAX. Jordan Manning is the manager of farmer communications at Dairy MAX.

PHOTO 1: Misty and Sieto Mellema. Photo courtesy of Dairy MAX.

PHOTO 2: Jersey cows enjoy their ration at Full Circle Jerseys. Photo courtesy of Dairy MAX.

PHOTO 3: Sieto Mellema checks a pivot. Photo by Austin Voyles.

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