July 25, 2022 at 3:18 p.m.
“It was kind of a surprise because it was my first time applying for that award,” Sprecher said. “I was really happy with how I did in the end.”
Sprecher was awarded the Wisconsin Star in Agricultural Placement during the Wisconsin State FFA Convention June 16 in Madison. The honor recognized Sprecher and his work on the Enges’ dairy farm.
The dairy milks 145 cows near Sauk City.
Sprecher’s responsibilities started small and grew as time allowed.
“I started off just milking cows and feeding calves; pretty easy tasks,” Sprecher said. “Kevin would be right next to me helping me learn.”
Sprecher milked cows every other weekend through his first winter on the farm, and when spring came, he was asked to plant corn. Sprecher had experience driving tractors at his home farm but was excited at the prospect of such an important task.
“I was in seventh grade, so I thought that was a big deal,” Sprecher said. “I planted all the corn with a John Deere 6-row planter.”
Progression continued. Once summer arrived, Sprecher then gained experience cutting and raking hay and later hauling silage wagons.
When another hired member of the farm passed away unexpectedly, Sprecher stepped up to help fill his shoes. One of the tasks that needed to be taken over was spraying the fields with fertilizer and herbicides to maintain healthy crops, so Sprecher obtained an applicator’s license.
“At 16 years old, I was the youngest one there,” Sprecher said. “I had never run a sprayer before so it was pretty much trial and error and asking neighbors for advice.”
Sprecher also learned how to pack bunker silos that year.
“It was a giant learning curve,” Sprecher said. “But, we were able to carry on since I gained those skills right away.”
When Enge had health issues of his own in 2021, Sprecher and his brother, Logan, ran the farm along with two employees. The brothers saw an opportunity when cull cow prices were high to improve the genetics of the herd with Enge’s blessing.
The brothers culled a portion of the herd and replaced them with cows of better genetics over the course of almost two years.
“We are now milking less cows and shipping more pounds per day,” Sprecher said. “We also took the average cell count from 250,000 to around 70,000.”
With improved genetics in the herd, breeding philosophies have started to shift as well. For the last eight years, Enge bred with an Angus bull and bought replacements. Since the herd was rebuilt, the farm has switched to a Holstein bull. This has proved worthwhile as some heifers are starting to join the milking herd.
“It’s pretty neat to watch them go from a hut all the way up to a cow when they walk through that parlor,” Sprecher said.
The goal is to use A.I. with sexed semen to produce replacement heifers. The rest of the cows will continue to be bred to beef to increase the selling price of the calves. The team hopes to renovate a section of the freestall barn this fall to add more headlocks and make breeding easier.
The farm is home to around 700 acres where they grow approximately 70 acres of soybean, 25 acres of wheat for straw, around 200 acres of alfalfa hay and corn in the remaining ground. The crew makes enough corn silage and high moisture corn to feed the cows and sells the rest to a nearby elevator.
Sprecher graduated high school in June and is employed full time at the Enges’ farm. He would also like to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course.
Along with working full time at the dairy, Sprecher helps with his beef and crop farm at home. His parents and two brothers all work off the home farm and raise around 70 feeder calves per year and crop 120 acres. The Sprechers buy dairy bull calves from nearby farms and sell them as steers. Sprecher would like to grow the operation at home as well as continue to dairy with the Enges. “I enjoy working here,” Sprecher said. “I like getting to do a variety of just about everything; cows, crops and equipment and the different challenges they all bring.”
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