Nevin Lemos – a Breath of Fresh Air

Joel Hastings

This young dairyman strikes out on his own

Nevin Lemos

Earlier this spring, I opened an email that was from Maureen Lemos, a person whom I hadn’t met.  She told me about her son, saying…

“Last June (2017), at 20 years old, Nevin launched Lemos Jerseys, just in time for June Dairy Month. This was part of a life-long dream that started when Nevin was just a little boy, spending every moment he could with his dad on the family dairy, learning all about it. He was working and running equipment by the age of 8. He ran his own sweet corn business at age 13, which included all the farming, marketing, and conducting his own business deals with markets and grocery stores. He continued working on our third-generation farm in Waterford and started his studies at Modesto Junior College while still in high school. He then pursued an internship at a dairy in New Zealand.

“We all know the dairy business is tough, especially in California. That’s why I’m excited to share such a positive story. Not only is Nevin optimistic about the dairy business, but at his young age, he is bringing a level head and modern approach to how he runs his business… something we’re learning from and bringing back to our family farm.

“From the days when he first expressed a love for the cows and a desire to go into the dairy business, Nevin has been steadfast in his pursuit of this dream. Today, he’s purchasing cattle through Turlock Livestock Auction Yard, milking 400 Jerseys and negotiating with vendors and employees who are often many years his senior, in an effective way. He’s also taken on a role of advocating for the industry, participating in media interviews and even did a review (and live interview) on IGN of the 1-2 Switch cow milking game from Nintendo.

 

“As we come upon the first anniversary for Lemos Jerseys, I’d like to see if you are interested in featuring Nevin in an upcoming issue.”

From my point of view, I not only saw a proud Mom in this message but an accomplished communicator.  I don’t receive such compelling story pitches very often from professional agencies!

The invitation was too good to pass up so we went to see Nevin, now a 4th– generation dairyman, who showed us his operation and introduced us to his parents, Maureen and Darin who milk 500 Holsteins nearby.  Just as his Mom had written, Nevin was determined to set up his own dairy.  He had found an empty facility to rent a few miles from his folks’ home farm, worked out the lease, arranged financing to purchase some 425 Jerseys, hired four employees, negotiated a contract with his milk buyer and got his business up and running.

He’s getting good production from his young herd averaging 13.48% cheese yield and earning recognition from Hilmar Cheese as high-quality shipper. He’s getting 55 lbs. a day from his mostly first-calf animals who are now mid-lactation or later putting them through the double-six Boumatic herringbone parlor.  The 400-cow free-stall barn is a six-row L-shaped facility.

He buys forage from his landlord who fills the ag bags, works with the nutritionist who does his dad’s work and sends his calves out to be raised commercially.  With no calves, he sells his colostrum to LaBelle for products for human consumption.  Paying attention to the details, he figures it costs him $85 a month in additional labor to collect it but he brings in $400 in  revenue. His sister, Joya, is a GMS Specialist for ABS Global but does the matings for her brother’s her.  He maintains the registration papers on all the females.

 

Speaking with all three members of the Lemos family, it is evident they are a close-knit family.  Nevin wants the experience of being on his own, and is, but his folks co-signed the loans and his mother writes the checks to pay the bills, but from Nevin’s account.  Nevin does his own payroll and taxes while also doing some work at his dad’s place. Nevin says he’s had plenty of good advice from neighbors and friends, too.  It’s agreed Nevin will farm with his dad eventually, but this approach is a way to fund expansion and to give Nevin experience few father-son teams have.

Nevin’s unassuming manner, his obvious hard work and his abundant enthusiasm for dairying make a visit to Lemos Jerseys a real pleasure.  To hear from Nevin himself, check out our video interview: