June 14, 2022 at 3:02 p.m.
“I enjoy opening up the farm and having visitors,” Levetzow said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
Breakfast was served to 2,117 guests this year. While there was a light rain throughout the day, Levetzow said there was still a good crowd.
Model Dairy Farms has previously hosted a steak feed for the Iowa County Cattlemen’s Association, various events for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and those passing through the area.
“Because of our location, we get people stopping on a random Sunday sometimes,” Levetzow said. “It’s kind of a touristy area on the way to the (Wisconsin) Dells.”
Levetzow milks 330 cows near Dodgeville. The farm milks three times a day in a 16-stall rotary parlor with the help of their 10 employees.
“I take a lot of pride in watching employees do well,” Levetzow said. “Watching people succeed is always as satisfying as the cows milking well.”
Levetzow crop farms around 2,000 acres. He credits high-quality feed for the health of the cows and milk production. The highest milking group of cows average 140 pounds of milk per day.
“Our high-quality feed is the No. 1 thing for getting milk,” Levetzow said. “It helps get our dry matter intake in them.”
Levetzow also believes cow comfort plays a role in his success thus far. By keeping cows comfortable and using high genomic type bulls, the farm is able to market between 80-100 fresh heifers every year for the last five years. The fresh heifers are selected based on the results of genomic testing.
Levetzow has managed Model Dairy Farms since he bought the farm from his parents, Marvin and Sue, in 2006. Prior to that, Levetzow had left the family farm to milk on his own for four years. After surviving the volatile markets of the 1980s and a barn fire in the 1990s, Levetzow’s father was ready to hand over the reins. Levetzow wanted to keep the name Model Dairy Farms alive, because the farm had been in the family for over 100 years.
In the last 16 years, Levetzow has focused on growing the dairy to remain sustainable.
“Our crop acres have consistently gone up every year with new rented land,” Levetzow said. “I’m sure we will continue to grow in order to survive; that seems to be the name of the game.”
For the sake of growth and sustainability, Levetzow hopes to shift the farm to automation.
“I think robotics is the perfect solution for milking cows,” Levetzow said. “If our dairy is going to continue being a dairy in the future, I think that’s what we’ll be doing.”
However, with the way the economy has been in the last couple of years with building costs rising, Levetzow said the plans have been tabled for now.
Another change Levetzow is considering is feed storage. With all the plastic that bags use, he is considering a more sustainable avenue such as piles or bunkers. He also believes he may be able to decrease some operating costs by harvesting quicker and not relying on a bagger.
This year’s Iowa County breakfast was a first since 2018. The event was previously canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and lack of volunteers to put on such a large event.
Levetzow believes farms are the fabric of a community and it is important to host on-farm events like the dairy breakfast.
“The dairy breakfast is important because people need to be exposed to this,” Levetzow said. “I don’t think people grasp what ‘every day’ means unless you live or grew up on a dairy farm.”
Levetzow believes it is important to use the event like breakfast to help educate consumers about the business side of running a modern dairy farm. Model Dairy Farms focuses on efficiency and quality which Levetzow said requires a lot of investment and sophistication.
“I would like to put more numbers out there,” Levetzow said. “Like the reason we milk 350 cows is because one tractor can cost $350,000. And, we need four of them to be efficient.”
Levetzow hopes the breakfast showed consumers how important farming is to their economy.
“Farming, in general, and all small businesses are important to our communities,” Levetzow said. “It’s not just dairy farms, but crop farms and other small businesses in town that we try to support.”
Ultimately, Levetzow is simply happy to see the breakfast return to the farm. Iowa County had hosted the breakfast at the fairgrounds previously and has considered hosting the event at an equipment dealer.
“To me, a dairy breakfast should be on the farm,” Levetzow said. “I realize people might not want to come here every single year, but it should be on a farm.”
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