At age 9, Larry Jerome saved his lunch money to buy his first dairy calf.
After all that effort, his dad made sure it was a good one. Since childhood, a passion and instinct for superior genetics has been part of Jerome’s DNA . He even remembers working on pedigrees with his dad, a successful turkey farmer who founded Jerome Foods, now owned by the Jennie-O Turkey Store.
Today, his farm, known as Jerland Farms in Barron, is home to some of the best genetics in the world for Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy cattle, Shorthorn and Maine Angus beef cattle, Belgian and Arabian horses, and German Shepherd dogs with direct ties to Germany.
While the diversity itself is interesting, the breadth of quality is even more impressive. The farm maintains world records and lengthy lists of award-winning animals in all species.
“I was always passionate about genetics, no matter the animal,” Jerome says. “I’ve never believed in cutting corners with genetics.”
Jerome focuses on elite genetics that are highly valued and desired by farmers, breeders and exhibitors. He decided a long time ago that he preferred to sell one heifer for $10,000 rather than 10 for $1,000.
The farm’s reach beyond the United States speaks to its quality and success. Their dogs can be found in every state and 36 countries. Jerland dairy cattle genetics exist around the world through the sales of embryos and bull semen distribution. The farm has sold horses in the United Kingdom, Middle East and South America. And the family owns a world-renowned Arabian stallion, Khadraj.
When it comes down to it, Jerome simply loves animals.
“This place is a 4-H project that got out of hand,” laughs Jerome, a dedicated 4-H member in childhood. “When I was a kid, I used to drag every imaginable animal home.”
He kept Japanese waltzing mice in his basement. He took home puppies his mom would eventually give away. He owned a small dairy herd, horses, chickens and more by age 15. His parents told him, “When you get your own place, you can have anything you want.”
Jerome, who bought his first 160-acre farm at age 18, now says, “I have my own place, so I have everything I want.”
Over the course of 50 years, Jerome, his wife Shelley, seven kids and 25 employees together built world-class herds of horses, dairy and beef cattle, and dogs. And the success started where it remains today, rooted in northwestern Wisconsin.