Keith Dixon and his daughter Katie are partners in their dairy operation

In 2002, the dairy farm Keith Dixon was renting in Maryland was sold and he had to find a new place to farm or get out of the business.

“I started milking in 1977 so we prayed about it, turned it over to God and this is where we landed,” he said as he explained his move from the East Coast to rural Laclede County, outside Phillipsburg, Mo. “My son, Brett and daughter, Katie, and I brought 70 head with us from Maryland and started here. A few years later, Katie returned to Maryland and Brett married his wife, Jessie, who had dairy cattle as well. At one point, between hers and ours, we had over 300 head here and were milking over 150. That was just too many, so Brett and Jessie started their own operation near Morgan (Mo.).”

Dairy farming definitely runs in the family. In 2012, Katie and her now 14-year-old daughter, Whitney moved back to Missouri, and Keith and Katie are now dairy farming partners, as well as father and daughter. Whitney enjoys showing cattle at county fairs, the Missouri State Fair, as well as attending national conventions.

Currently, Dix-Lee Guernseys has 130 cows on 177 acres. Over his 40 years in the industry, Keith Dixon said he has seen a lot of ups and downs.

“Dairy farmers are the only ones who pay the freight both ways,” he said with a grin. “We pay to have the milk hauled from the farm and then pay to have milk hauled in by the co-ops to balance out the prices. The big cooperative programs have changed over the years. They are no longer run by the farmers like they once were but rather like so many other businesses, the money goes to management and the CEOs and not to the farmers, so their first interest is to be self-sustaining. It’s the only business where you have to take the price they decide to give you and that’s it.

“Still,You have to think about, why do we do what we do. When things change, new markets have to be found. One or two years out of 10, you get a good milk price and you try to catch up. For two years, we had 73 percent and 77 percent bull calves born here so that hurt. Still, I try not to complain too much. It’s a choice and this is what we choose to do.

“The last couple of years we’ve had a lot of heifer calves, zero death rates and we had enough to sell some young heifers so that helps,” Katie added. “We really enjoy the cows, but not so much the equipment so we grow our own hay and have somebody else custom hay the round bales for us.”

The Dixon family is well known in the Guernsey breed and take exceptional pride in their cattle. Keith has been inducted into the Missouri Dairy Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder, along with other awards, and Katie was the 2014 National Outstanding Young Guernsey Farmer. Her brother Brett won the same award in 2017.

Their animals are also well recognized in the show and sale rings. Over the years, Dix-Lee bred and owned cows have been in the winner’s circle of state and national shows, and have produced sale-topping animals.

“One of those we sold went to a dairy farmer in Texas and he wrote back on the internet recently and said, ‘This is the greatest Guernsey I have ever seen,”’ Keith said. “Now that makes you feel like it’s all worth it.”

Keith’s had other great Guernseys on his farm and still does. One of the cows he brought with him from Maryland calved that first year they arrived in Missouri.

Della is now 18 years old and just had her 15th calf in December 2017. Last year, she also won the Living Lifetime Production Award for Butterfat and Protein for the entire nation from the American Guernsey Association.

Keith, Katie and Whitney have their attention firmly focused on the future as Whitney traveled to national shows last year in Madison Wis., and Louisville Ky.. and will be in Bentonville Ark., soon as well. As a freshman at Conway High School, she hopes to stay in dairy farming or possibly even study to be a veterinarian.

In addition to showing cattle herself, Katie is also on the national show committee.

“It makes for a small world when you get involved in the industry on a national level, meeting others at shows, at conventions and of course, on Facebook. Whitney learns about Guernseys all around the world, like in New Zealand and South Africa. When my brother, Brett, broke down with cattle on the road a while back, he called and said ‘who do you know in Pennsylvania?’ A few phone calls later, we found someone we knew just 10 miles away from where he was who helped to take care of the animals for the night and find him a place to stay.”

Meanwhile, Keith is also interested in new studies in New Zealand and Australia.

“They show that 90 to 95 percent of Guernseys produce milk with A2/A2 beta casein, making it comparable to goat’s milk and even human milk. Most commercial milk is high in A1 beta casein. A2/A2 milk is more easily digested by humans, making it much more digestible for those with dairy allergies and sensitivities,” Keith added. “There is still so much to be done in all of this to educate the public.”

The Dixons admit that life on a dairy farm isn’t always easy, but there is no place the family would rather be.

“Katie and I have both worked jobs in town but this is what we love – the cows, enjoying nature, just appreciating the sunrise and the sunset,” Keith said. “It is so peaceful and quiet out here. This is the real blessing.” L. ValentiMissouri NeighborsNeighborsDairy,Dairy Farm,Dixon,Katie Dixon,Keith Dixon,Missouri,PhillipsburgKeith Dixon and his daughter Katie are partners in their dairy operation In 2002, the dairy farm Keith Dixon was renting in Maryland was sold and he had to find a new place to farm or get out of the business. “I started milking in 1977 so we prayed about...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma