Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

One of the things I’m passionate about, aside from farming, is being involved with committees and organizations related to agriculture. Being involved gives me the opportunity to network with not only other farmers, but other agriculture industry professionals. We share ideas, things that have worked for us and things that haven’t.

I have been involved with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (formerly known as the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board) for nine years. I am on the board of directors and have served as the vice president of the board for five years. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin helps promote Wisconsin dairy products including butter, milk and, of course, the cheese that wins. Wisconsin cheesemakers win more awards than anyone else.

The organization also helps educate consumers about dairy farming and where their favorite dairy foods come from. There are so many misconceptions about dairy farming, from how we treat our cows and the environment to the things that are added to milk. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin works with farmers to teach all of us how to talk to consumers to help them understand that animal care is one of our top priorities on the farm, and we have rigorous testing practices in place during the entire farm-to-table journey of milk to make sure it is high quality and safe for everyone to drink.

It isn’t always easy taking time away from the farm, but it’s always worth it when I’m able to work with other dairy farmers and organizations to help consumers understand what we do and why we love to do it.

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Fall Farm Tours

During the week of World Dairy Expo — the first week of October — we tend to have a lot of tour groups come to the farm. Many people are in Wisconsin for World Dairy Expo in Madison, so it is easy for them to make the two-hour drive to our farm.

This year, one of the tours we had was a small group of Dutch, Italian and Danish farmers who came with Lely, the company we purchased our robotic milkers from. These farmers travel a long way, and they come prepared with questions. The Lely group actually wasn’t even in Wisconsin for World Dairy Expo, they just wanted to see robotic milkers. They spent their time touring different farms to see how the robotic milkers worked in different settings and on different farms.

We also had a tour come through with ProCross, the company we do our genetics work with. I’ve become good friends with one of their representatives from France, who brought a group of farmers from Mexico and France. They wanted to see how our cows are milking, what they look like and their overall performance and health.

I enjoy small tour groups because when the groups are really small, we’re able to have more of a conversation. With larger groups, there are usually a lot of questions asked in a short amount of time. I like sharing my knowledge of farming with these large groups, and I always encourage questions, but one of my favorite parts of farm tours is having those small-group conversations where we are able to discuss new and innovating ideas and farming methods.

Our guests from the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy visiting with Lely.


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Fall Harvest 2018

We’re starting to wind down harvest 2018. We’ve had more rain this fall than we’d like, but it seems that overall, we’ll come out okay. The corn silage harvest went well, and we were happy to see our yields above average. With these high yields, we will have plenty of corn silage to feed our cows and get us through to next year’s harvest.

We started harvesting soybeans about ten days later than we originally anticipated. The cloudy rainy weather for the first two weeks of October really threw us off mentally, because while we didn’t actually start soybean harvest that late, it felt much later than usual. The other issue was that during those first two weeks of October, the weather felt like early November.

Because of this rainy and colder-than-usual October weather, the winter wheat was planted about two weeks late. Ideally, we like to plant it at the end of September, but the ground was too wet, and the field conditions were less than ideal. We are hoping the winter wheat fields turn out okay. It’s all up to Mother Nature now!

We planted cover crops again this fall, but this year’s crop isn’t a great one. We love the idea and science behind using cover crops, but on this side of the state, it’s really a toss-up. We have heavy clay ground with rich soil, so timing is extremely crucial for planting the cover crops. With the cloudy, overcast weather, we didn’t get the height and growth we have had for the last two years. Growth is important because cover crops not only absorb nutrients, they protect the soil from erosion.

It’s a trade-off. You don’t want too much growth because too much mass slows down spring planting. However, you want just enough to protect the topsoil for years to come. I guess when you are working with Mother Nature, everything is a trade-off.soybeans harvest fall 2018

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Damage After the Storm

At the end of summer, we had a string of bad weather come through the farm. As farmers who work outside, we’re always keeping an eye on the weather, but we didn’t know these storms were going to get as bad as they did! When the storms came through, the wind was so strong that it the roof came off of our milk room barn.

The storms came through on a Tuesday afternoon, and by Tuesday night our builder was out on the farm taking a look at the damage that was done. Before he was even at the farm, he looked at the blueprint of our barn, so he had a very good idea of what had to be fixed. It was amazing how quickly we could get going on the repairs. We also worked with our electrician and the plumbing company right away to get things going.

The next day we started with the cleanup. We tore down the damaged parts and by the end of the day the builders were already putting the roof back on. The rest of the work is cosmetic – getting the trim put back up and things like that. We are incredibly lucky that the damage was as minimal as it was. We could have lost everything, but it was just the milk room that was damaged.

Damage to the roof

When the storm hit, the farm’s parlor went out; we were running on generator power for about 18 hours. The cows were in the holding area. When the milkers noticed the walls of the milking parlor pushing in, the cows were moved back to their stalls in the barn and the milkers went down to the basement. At that point they didn’t know what was going to happen. Everyone’s safety is our number one priority. Our employees were smart and didn’t try to wait out the storm in the parlor when they noticed the walls pushing in, and we’re very thankful for that. No one was hurt when the milk room’s roof blew off.

As farmers, we have to keep a close eye on the weather. As always with Mother Nature, we can’t predict how bad a storm will be when it hits. This storm got worse quicker than anyone thought it would. We didn’t anticipate it to be as bad as it was. We had very little damage to the rest of the farm. Thank you to everyone who helped us get “back to normal” so quickly!

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Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center

Today, most people are several generations removed from farming. Less than two percent of the population produces food for the other 98 percent. Many Americans don’t know where their food actually comes from or how it is produced.

Wisconsin is one of the most important states in the agriculture industry. To help people learn about where their food comes from, how it is produced and who is producing it, Wisconsin built a state-of-the-art interactive education center – the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center.

When we heard about the idea for this center a number of years ago, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. And now, what started as a vision has come to life! When I walked into the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center a few weeks ago, it was a surreal experience. What we had talked about for years was there before our eyes, and it was better than I had imagined.

At the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, there are a number of interactive exhibits that show how Wisconsin farming has advanced over the years. From a horse pulling the plow to automatic tractors, at the Discovery Center it is obvious what leaps agriculture has taken in technology. There is even a combine simulator that allows you to take that combine for a spin and harvest crops!

One of the most exciting parts of the Discovery Center is the birthing barn, where people will have the opportunity to see cows from a nearby farm have a calf. It will be an amazing, unforgettable experience.

The number of hours and resources people and businesses in Wisconsin have donated to the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center is astonishing. Majestic Crossing Dairy is proud to be one of the “Believers” (the original supporters of the efforts to create the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center) of the project. It has been an amazing experience to be on the board of directors and help this project come to life.

Majestic Crossing Dairy is listed about halfway down the list.

This weekend is the grand opening of the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, and we encourage you to go visit! The Discovery Center is located in Manitowoc County right along Highway 43. You can’t miss it if you’re driving between Sheboygan and Manitowoc!

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Zooming Out to See the Big Picture

This spring, I went to a meeting in Arizona where former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke. He is currently the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). USDEC represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy farmers, processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders.

Listening to former Secretary Vilsack speak was incredibly motivating. He is so connected with agriculture, so pro agriculture and dairy. We are really lucky to have such a passionate person in his position to make an impact on global agriculture.

One of the things that former Secretary Vilsack said that still resonates with me months later was when he talked about the American farmer. He said, “We are less than two percent of the U.S. population.” Less than two percent. He went on to say that in the U.S., 28 percent of the workforce is in agriculture and food production. That is over 25 percent of the population that is connected to agriculture in some way. That number is huge!

Often times, we get so caught up in what is directly impacting us — the small radius that surrounds us. Listening to former secretary Vilsack speak really made me “zoom out” and think about the big picture of agriculture and the impact dairy farmers have on the population. It doesn’t matter the farm size, every farmer is employing people (whether it’s directly on the farm or working with a consultant) and making milk that is made into delicious dairy foods, from cheese to ice cream to even powdered milk!

We get so caught up in the small things, especially when so many farmers are struggling. It was a great message to hear former Secretary Vilsack talking about how important U.S. dairy farmers are, not only in our local communities, but around the world. In hard times, it’s important to hear that we matter. We need to continue “zooming out” and seeing the big picture and the impact we have on the world.

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