Decades of modernization help Baudhuins thrive
Family combines housing, feed storage in latest expanson
The Baudhuin family – (from left) Amy holding Chloe, 2 months, Dustin, Lisa, Galen, and Brooke holding Brynlee, 19 months – milks 240 cows and farms about 600 acres near Brussels, Wisconsin. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
BRUSSELS, Wis. – When Galen Baudhuin took over his parents’ farm in 2002, it marked the beginning of a series of changes and updates to the dairy near Brussels. From its breeding philosophy to cattle housing, Baudhuin and his wife, Lisa, transformed the farm into an operation that would work best for their family. Barns were expanded and remodeled, a milking parlor was built, cow numbers were increased, new buildings were constructed, and manure systems were put in place.
The Baudhuins farm with their two children – Brooke and Dustin – who are the sixth generation on the farm that has been in the family since 1899. The family milks 240 cows and farms about 600 acres. All labor is supplied by the family. Baudhuin and Brooke milk cows, Dustin feeds, and Lisa manages calves.
In 2019, the family built a 3-row freestall barn with 100 stalls and added 75 cows to the herd. Cows moved into the new barn Jan. 1, 2020. Measuring 66 feet by 248 feet, the barn also includes two large pens for steers and three commodity bins. Steers are housed on manure packs in pens measuring 40-by-40 with about 30 steers per pen. The Baudhuins sell 80 Angus-Holstein crossbred steers each year for extra income.
“Everything is tied into one big building,” Baudhuin said. “We could’ve built a separate commodity shed, but that would’ve been more expensive. It was easier and cheaper to do it this way, and it makes feeding faster and simpler. We also went from using a stationary mixer to using a trailer mixer when we built the new barn.”
Two bins are used for feed and one is used for sawdust. The barn also features roof coops, manual curtains and alley scrapers. The six center coops operate on a thermostat to maintain ideal temperatures.
“The coops suck hot air out and suck in cool air from the curtains,” Baudhuin said. “We also hung five big fans in the new barn for additional ventilation.”
Roof strength was important to Baudhuin, who saw a lot of barns go down in 2018 because of snow, and he wanted to ensure his new barn would not meet a similar fate.
“I’ve never seen a truss system so strong,” Baudhuin said. “This barn is built solid. The cross pieces placed between trusses give the roof a lot of strength.”
The new barn is connected to two older freestall barns allowing cows from all three barns to intermingle and move between buildings. The oldest barn is bedded with sand, while the other barns feature mattresses bedded with sawdust. Fresh cows and dry cows are housed on a bedded pack, and cows stay on the pack for about two weeks after freshening. The Baudhuins strive for longevity and have several cows over 10 years old, including a 14-year-old who calved with twin heifers 3 months ago and is now milking 140 pounds per day.
Their diverse herd includes Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins, Lineback-Holstein crosses, Jersey-Holstein crosses and Fleckvieh crosses. For more than 60 years, Baudhuin’s parents had a registered Holstein herd and utilized embryo transfer. But Baudhuin took a different approach.
“I had a grand champion cow I couldn’t get bred back in 2002,” Baudhuin said. “I tried breeding her 10 times. I finally settled her to a Jersey bull. That’s how crossbreeding began here for us, but my father was not a fan. Also, the better components we get with crossbreeds helps fatten our milk check.”
Cows are milked twice a day in a swing-10 parlor built in 2014. This spring, the Baudhuins are putting in Boumatic high-lift rapid exit stalls.
“Since we have different sized animals and breeds, these stalls will hold the cows better,” Baudhuin said. “We used to add an 11th cow to help with that, so this will save time. We’re also adding butt pans which will keep things cleaner.”
To ensure a smooth flow through the parlor, the Baudhuins use their tiestall barn to house and milk 50 cows, such as large producers that tend to milk slower and cows that find it difficult to get around. In 2019, the family converted 30 of the 84 stalls into calf housing – a setup that moved calves closer and made feeding easier for Lisa. Stalls measuring 4-by-6 now serve as individual pens. In summer, the family also houses calves in an open-faced building featuring eight stalls with curtains on the front and back.
Also in 2019, the Baudhuins put in a 1.2 million gallon Slurrystore to complement the 750,000 gallon square concrete manure pit they built in 2002 when Baudhuin took over.
Baudhuin has been a volunteer firefighter for the Brussels Union Gardner fire department for 35 years and also does custom planting, chopping, round baling and wrapping, and combining. Brooke’s husband, Ben Kinjerski, and Baudhuin’s brother, Joe, help with fieldwork.
“We bought a wrapper because we do a lot of baleage, and we bought a tanker so we can haul our own manure,” Baudhuin said.
Free time is scarce for the Baudhuins, but this family of avid deer hunters carves time out of their busy schedules to spend in the woods. Setting up cameras to track deer is one of Dustin’s favorite hobbies. The Baudhuins also transformed two calf huts into a hunting cabin where they can spend time off the farm.
Providing a comprehensive solution for cattle housing and feed storage, the Baudhuins are enjoying their new barn which fits the family’s needs perfectly. Efficiency is enhanced, and there is more space for cows to spread out.
“The barn was the last big update I plan on making here,” Baudhuin said. “Any future renovations or additions will be up to my son and daughter. For now, I’m happy with where things are at.”