September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Wall-Stone owners Kevin Walleser and his wife, veterinarian Anne Marie Elwing, and their twin sons, Emil and William, welcomed approximately 300 guests to their 415-cow farm that includes 1,400 acres owned and 200 rented.
Links to the turn of the 20th Century were visible during the twilight meeting in the form of some of the formed concrete block buildings that were constructed under the ownership of the doctor from Norway. According to a brief history provided by Wall-Stone Holsteins, Dr. Christensen fancied himself a gentleman farmer and bought the farm near West Prairie for more than $100,000.
He then pumped dollar after dollar into the farm, according to the history. Christensen reportedly used the most progressive farming techniques of his time.
The doctor imported cattle from the Guernsey Islands. He designated a separate building just for calves. In addition, the farm was home to a large number of relatives who were supported by Dr. Christensen.
His attempts at farming and spending large amounts of money prompted people to poke fun at him. One suggestion to make a quick $5,000 was to sell the farm.
Christensen died in 1917 and the farm was sold during the Depression, for roughly $23,000. Until 1961, the farmstead had many tenants but no improvements," according to the historical account. The farm became extremely run down.
Then, in 1961, Stanley and Velma Walleser purchased the place. That family farmed the West Prairie operation and several others until 1993.
At that time, Kevin Walleser bought the 750-acre farm from his parents. Since then, 300 more acres have been added.
While some of the original Christensen-era buildings are still used, the farm also had a decidedly more-modern look. There's a freestall barn and milking parlor for nearly 400 milking cows, along with a barn for dry cows and another for those that have recently freshened. Bunker silos and manure storage have been built, too.
The Wallesers hosted the twilight meeting 13 years earlier. One project that took place since then was getting rid of stray voltage.
"To break the electrical current, we revamped some electrical wiring, removed the heaters from our waterers, and cut out every concrete stall base in the barn," Walleser said. "That meant removing 100 percent of the mattresses and changing the barn to a sand barn."
In May of 2010, the project was finished. Changes were noticeable in less than two weeks.
"Cows that could not ambulate were able to move around. Hock lesions that were very prevalent now seemed to disappear. Cull rates had reached a peak of 54 percent, but now were dramatically reduced," Walleser said.
To handle the sand, a separating system was installed. It's in one corner of the freestall barn.
Other changes at the farm have included renovating the upper hog barn for weaned heifer calves and steer calves. There's also a 165-stall heifer building at another location.
Walleser and Elwing have more changes planned. They're going to enlarge the calving area into what once was a horse barn. Possible additions include teat scrubbers in the milking parlor, a total mixed ration tracker, and maybe another freestall barn for more milking cows.
By the end of this year, the farm will be milking almost 400 cows. The rolling herd average is at 29,428 pounds of milk, 1,113 pounds of fat, and 889 pounds of protein. The somatic cell count ranges between 220,000 and 230,000.
Elwing and Walleser employ eight people full-time and five part-time. The couple said they appreciate their long-term employees who continue to hang in there with us through many changes.
Walleser said, "Although we have made many changes throughout the past 13 years and have increased our assets on the dairy, we are most excited about and for our twin sons, William and Emil, who have shown great interest in the dairy, beef and crop operations. The boys will be seniors at Aquinas High School, with their sights set for UW-Madison in the fall of 2014. They will be studying dairy science, with an emphasis on pre-veterinary medicine."