Tractor-time dream

Roehls host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days


LOYAL, Wis. – For many farmers, time in the tractor is thinking time; the time when plans are born. That is exactly how the 2022 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days landed in Clark County at Roehl Acres in Loyal.

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“I spend too much time in the tractor,” said Dennis Roehl. “Hosting Farm Technology Days is something I have always wanted to do. I have always wanted to be able to influence how the public views agriculture and show them how we produce the food they consume.”
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days will be July 12 to 14 and is co-hosted by Roehl Acres and Rustic Occasions, an event facility operated by Roehl’s cousin, Doug Roehl, and his wife, Kim, on another Roehl family farm located just up the road.
“My family has been very supportive of this dream,” Roehl said. “They have all worked to make this a reality.”
Roehl and his wife, Suzie, and their three children – Devon, Jackson and Kathryn – milk 210 registered Holsteins on their 800-acre farm.  The family retrofitted their existing freestall barn to install four DeLaval robotic milking systems. They began using the robots May 16.
“The startup could not have gone smoother,” Roehl said. “We worked with Joe’s Refrigeration, and they were great. They brought out a team of eight people. They were here 24 hours a day, and they just made it go so well.”
Roehl said the cows transitioned well.
“They have been in the barn throughout all the construction; the crews have pretty much worked around them,” Roehl said. “Not having a routine had almost become their routine. One day they had to go one way, and the next they might have had to go another way. They never really seemed to miss a beat.”
Prior to the introduction of the robots, the Roehls were milking in the farm’s old stanchion barn.
“An upgrade was needed, and installing a parlor just did not make sense,” Roehl said. “Finding good help is always an issue, and putting in robots helped solve some of that issue. After researching the different robots available, I chose the DeLaval robots because I really liked the way they attached. Everything works so quickly, and it is like the cows don’t even realize they are there.”
Activity monitors were incorporated with the robotic system. Automated feed pushers and automatic alley scrapers were also installed.
“The biggest change I have noticed is how much calmer our cows are now that we aren’t pushing them,” Roehl said. “It used to be that you’d walk into the pen, and they would scatter. Now they pay no attention to you.”
The renovation of the freestall barn was planned to allow the Roehls to increase their herd to 280 cows. They plan to slowly work toward that number using internal expansion to complete the growth.
Roehl Acres was purchased by Roehl’s parents, Lowell and Velora, in 1967. They began their dairy farming career milking 33 cows before expanding to 82 cows in 1972. The next expansion came in 1996 when Roehl came home from college. They expanded to 114 cows and milked in two barns, including the barn that is now home to Rustic Occasions. The freestall barn on the home farm was built in 2010, and the herd was consolidated back under one roof.
During WFTD, the Roehls will be opening their barn to the public to view the robotic milking system.
“The farm tour won’t just be a bus tour,” Roehl said. “You’ll be able to get off the bus at the farm, walk through the barn, see the robots, the cows, the milkhouse, everything.”
With Clark County being one of the leading dairy counties in the state, Roehl said it is important to him that the show have a strong dairy focus.
“I really want everything to be dairy-related,” Roehl said. “I want to make sure that people can have their questions answered.”
The WFTD grounds will encompass nearly 500 acres of the Roehls’ farm. Roehl is not concerned about the impact thousands of people walking across his fields for three days will have.
“We got all of our first crop made like normal, and our second crop will really only be down the area where tent city is located,” Roehl said.. “We’ll be able to make the second crop off all the other areas. Our third crop will be compromised some because of the traffic, but if we can get some good rain the week after the show, I think it will be OK. Good weather cures all.”       
Besides the support of his family, Roehl said the community has been a blessing of support in pulling together an event of the magnitude of WFTD.
“Our neighbors have been on-board from the beginning,” Roehl said. “I think everyone is looking forward to showcasing not only agriculture in a positive light, but Clark County and our little town of Loyal as well. We really do live in a great Wisconsin small town.”
Roehl said he has learned something new every day in the show planning process and that his anticipation for a great event continues to grow as the days remaining until the show continue to dwindle.
“I am really excited to showcase our farm for a great show,” he said. “I am looking forward to see how many people attend,” Roehl said. “I have always loved attending Farm Technology Days. I love seeing all the new equipment, technology and ideas. I am looking forward to sharing that and what our family has done here on this farm with everyone.”


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