November 25, 2022 at 6:40 p.m.
Family: My husband, Todd, and I have been married for 34 years. We have one son, Jake, who is 29. He is a horticultural assistant and native plant specialist at RES Great Lakes/Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries in Brodhead, Wisconsin. We also have a daughter, Paige, who is 26. She is a registered behavior technician at Arizona Autism United in Phoenix, Arizona.
Tell us about your farm. We milk 68 registered Holsteins in a New York tiestall barn. The cows are fed a total mixed ration. They’re on pasture in the summer and fall as long as weather permits. They are fed at an H-bunk in the pasture in the summer and fall. In the winter, they’re out for exercise for a couple of hours with feed available at a J-bunk. We have only 27 acres of tillable ground, so we make all our corn silage and purchase all the hay, shell corn and commodities. Our focus has always been on working with the cows, building strong pedigrees with great longevity. Our herd BAA is currently 111.4%, putting us in the top 200 in the country for BAA for the last 20-some years. Currently, we are ninth in the country for our herd size. Merchandising animals from the families we’ve been building has always been a key to our success. We consign animals to many sales and have sold animals across the country as well as exported around the world. When our kids were younger, we were very active in the show ring as well – showing at 4-H shows, district and state Holstein shows, and World Dairy Expo. Now that they are grown and off the farm, I wonder how in the world we had time to do it all. Our workforce consists of mostly Todd and myself. Jake helps with chores on weekends and evenings when he’s not traveling for work. Paige likes to get home to visit as often as she can and enjoys helping as much as possible. My father-in-law, EJ, comes every morning and helps mix the TMR.
What is a typical day like for you on the dairy? The first thing I do is help get milking underway. We always have a few cows to switch in and out, so I help until we’re past that point. Then, I feed the weaned heifers and baby calves. My weaned heifers (3 months to 10 months) get fed 4 pounds/head of 16% grower twice per day. The baby calves get a half-gallon milk replacer and 4 pounds of 18% starter twice per day. I usually have between 10 and 20 babies and 30 or so heifers up to breeding age. After 2 months of age, all the heifers have free choice grass/alfalfa hay available. Once I’m finished with calf chores, I help with the rest of the barn chores (cleaning, bedding, etc.). After I’m done in the barn, I’m able to take care of the household tasks – advertising, grocery shopping, lawn mowing, bookkeeping, calf registration, meal preparation, laundry, etc. House cleaning is last on my list of things to do.
What decision have you made in the last year that has benefited your farm? Thirty years ago, I gave up my job as an art director at an advertising agency in Madison to be a stay-at-home mom. I started my freelance graphic design business, Spring Creek Design. I built my clientele into almost exclusively dairy and ag-related clients. It was perfect to have this business where I could be at home with my kids and still be available for farm work. Within the last couple years, I’ve really pared down my graphic design, narrowing my clients down to just one, who I especially enjoy working with. This decision allowed me to transition into a more full-time role with the day-to-day work. As our kids grew and started their own careers off the farm, it was really important to me that I could work more on the farm. As all farmers know, every day is a ton of work, and for my husband to be doing most of it alone was tough. I feel good that I can be of more help.
Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. I would say most of the really memorable experiences revolve around classification. Working all night washing and clipping to get ready for the classifier, and then taking the few hours, absolutely dead on my feet while he or she scored the herd, is a feeling I’m sure I’ll never forget.
What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? There are a couple of things I’ve truly enjoyed. First, all the showing we’ve done together as a family. When our kids were younger and involved with 4-H and Junior Holsteins, the show season was very busy. They had a lot of great success – each one of them being able to show a Junior All-American nominee or two. Everyone had their role, whether it was being home to get things done or taking care of the string at each show. The second favorite thing has been meeting many people from all over the place. Over the years, we’ve been honored to host many tour groups to our farm. I’ve enjoyed meeting other breeders from all across the country as well as many international guests. We hosted one of the official WDE tours a few years ago when bus loads still came right to the farm. That year was especially fun; we met groups from Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
What is your biggest accomplishment in your dairy career? I’m most proud of how I have learned this life. I didn’t grow up anywhere near the dairy industry. The first time I was ever on any farm was when I visited my husband’s family farm when we first started dating. It was a totally foreign environment. So, I’m pretty amazed at how much I learned about this life, the partner I became and how together we built our herd into what it is today. I’m also proud of my overall involvement in the industry. I served 12 years as the Green County Junior Holstein advisor. I was also the 4-H dairy leader the whole time my kids showed in 4-H. Putting together educational dairy displays and helping kids with their showing was rewarding. This year, I was chosen as the Green County Senior Agri-Business Woman of the Year, which was a huge honor.
What are things you do to promote your farm or the dairy industry? We promote our herd through advertising in the Cattle Connection. We’ve been advertising in that publication since its inception. It’s a great way to connect with breeders from around the globe. We’ve also been utilizing social media as it has grown into such a huge industry. I try and post current photos of individuals and pedigree information as well as any news that is affecting our farm. Having not grown up on a farm, I have many friends and family who are completely unfamiliar with the dairy industry and animal ag in general. I make myself available to them to answer questions, dispel misinformation and make them more aware of how our industry affects their daily lives.
What advice would you give another woman in the dairy industry? Women can do anything in this industry. In the 35 years we’ve been farming together, there are women in so many roles that were traditionally for men. Farm managers, veterinarians, feed specialists and A.I. technicians; there’s not much a woman cannot do in this industry.
When you get a spare moment, what do you do? Having gone to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I enjoy following all the Badger sports. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my herd of barn cats. If there’s a batch of kittens around, and I have a spare minute, you can usually find me messing around with them. I’ve also been a flute player since the fifth grade. I enjoy playing at my church or in the local community band.
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