October 27, 2022 at 6:52 p.m.

Women in Dairy: Jessica Pralle-Trimner



Jessica Pralle-Trimner
Athens, Wisconsin
Marathon County
3,000 cows

Family: I grew up on Selz-Pralle Dairy in Humbird, Wisconsin, where my parents, Scott and Pam Selz-Pralle, milk 400 registered Holsteins. My brother, Ryan, is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and my sister, Nicole, is a calf specialist for Purina Land O’Lakes. Two years ago, I married my husband, David Trimner, and now farm alongside his family at Miltrim Farms in Athens.
 
Tell us about your farm. Miltrim Farms was founded in 1988 by David’s grandparents, Martin and Elaine Mueller, his uncle, Tom Mueller and wife Lorene, and his parents, the late Scott Trimner and Kathy Trimner Roth. In 1988, the farm consisted of only 140 cows and 260 acres and has now grown to 3,000 cows, 2,000 youngstock and 5,200 acres. Miltrim Farms is the largest automated milking facility in Wisconsin, milking 1,800 cows with 30 robots. The remainder of the cows are milked in the original double-24 herringbone parlor. Our farm goals focus on sustainability of land, livestock, water and our community. To reach these goals, we focus on cow comfort, cover cropping, minimal tillage or no till, and educational opportunities in our new event space known as the Milk Haus.

What is a typical day like for you on the dairy? I wear many hats, but my main title is herd manager. Typically, I spend as much time as possible in the barn working with our cow-side teams during their morning chores. Morning chores for me can include fetching, working fresh cows, vaccinating, ultrasounding, walking cow pens and feeding calves. Once I’ve met with most of my team members in the barn, I typically spend the rest of the day working on protocols, analyzing data and finishing up scheduling for employees and consultant meetings.

What decision have you made in the last year that has benefited your farm? Heifer replacements fall into one of top three largest expenses on all dairies. As our dairy has expanded, we have needed to raise heifers off site from birth to 5 months before bringing them home. Knowing the cost to raise our heifers, and using my prior industry experiences, I’ve dedicated time in the past year to creating the right number of heifers and raising only the best ones through use of genetic and phenotypic data from both the calves and their dams. Through this process, we’ve sold several heifers to expanding dairies and increased the amount of beef semen we use throughout the dairy. We have partnered with the TD Beef program to ensure we are creating a desirable and higher quality black calf for the growers, packers and consumers.

Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. From growing up on my family’s dairy to working on a large dairy and everything in between, there is a list a mile long of memorable experiences and life lessons that shaped me into the person and manager I am today. However, as I go throughout my days, I find myself hearing my parents’ voices. When I’m cow-side, it’s my dad telling me, “Slow down, read the cows, let them tell you what they need.” I share those same words and trained senses that my dad taught me as I work with new and existing employees. Even with the robots and having data at our fingertips, it still takes keen cow people. When I’m preparing for employee meetings or reviews, I can recall the conversations my mom had around our kitchen table guiding the conversations that lead to growth and development on our farm and how she gracefully handled all situations through listening. These are the most valuable experiences for me. They aid me when I need to make decisions and handle difficult situations.

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? I love the diversity of dairy farming and the challenges every aspect brings to the table. It’s fun to work through the data and figures to assess how well our teams work together to make the farm more efficient. I realized this passion for analyzing dairies while in college at UW-Madison competing on the dairy challenge team.

What is your biggest accomplishment in your dairy career? This summer, I was honored with the opportunity to judge the Wisconsin State Junior Fair Showmanship contest in West Allis. As a junior exhibitor, I lived for showmanship. As I stood in the ring and watched the participants show off their animals, I saw that same spark through many of the junior exhibitors. It was humbling to see so many juniors I had worked with as beginners in showmanship now in their senior years who have developed into excellent showmen.

What are things you do to promote your farm or the dairy industry? In April of this year, we opened the doors to our event and education center known as the Milk Haus. The Milk Haus features observation windows into our robot facility. Visitors get the chance to not only view cows being milked by the robots, but they also get to take a glimpse at how cows time budget their days from socializing to eating and resting. To incorporate all the facets of our dairy into the education center, we have developed videos that highlight all aspects of the farm, from cows calving to raising heifers, milking in the parlor, and our cropping and manure management practices. We also have a few hands-on features for visitors to help guide and show how some of our practices work. These hands-on features include a farm cropping simulator and a sand topography table to highlight how different topography influences water flowage, and then, we tie it back to our practices at the farm.
 
What advice would you give another woman in the dairy industry? Don’t just visualize your goal, work for it. Working hard is in our blood. However, as the communicators, event planners and care takers of humans and animals, we constantly juggle the work-life balance card until we forget about ourselves. So don’t write your goals on paper and daydream about them; say them out loud. Declare them to the people who matter. Reach out to your idols to hear their journeys. Let them mentor you or have them share other mentors. Go to meetings and learn from industry experts and collect their contact information. From there, you’ve created a circle of people to hold you accountable. When the days get hard and the end goal further in sight, lean on your circle and know it’s OK to be selfish in the pursuit of your dreams.

When you get a spare moment, what do you do? Honestly, I walk cows. There’s simply nothing more relaxing to me than walking pens of cows and seeing the dynamics of the pen, the behaviors of the cows and analyzing their confirmation traits.

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