Robert Benisch
Hillsboro, Wisconsin
Vernon County
50 cows

How did you get into farming? I was born here. The farm has been in my family since 1887. I did other jobs like carpentry, hauling milk and cattle while farming, but farming comes first.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I hope things get better with crops as far as inputs and everything. The milk price sounds like it will be better than it has been.

What is a recent change you made on your farm and the reason for it? My son has started rotationally grazing on some of the steep hills. For the last two years, we have been using fenced paddocks. It has been working well with increased production and healthier cows. It was pasture for years, and after attending some grazing conferences, he decided to manage it with paddocks.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I am a decent mechanic and am also good with carpentry. That saves a lot of cost.

What is the best decision you have made on your farm? We used to put up 10,000 small square bales of hay in the barn. We changed to large round bales that we wrap for baleage when the help was no longer available. We wrap 700-800 large round bales per year now. We still do 3,000 small squares for the calves and youngstock.
What are three things on the farm that you cannot live without? My large bale grinder because we use it to chop bedding and grind baleage. My tractors with loaders and blades because they work good for scraping the yard, plowing the driveway and moving bales. I also could not live without my wife, Joan, who supports what is going on and always pitches in.

What strategies do you use to withstand the volatile milk prices? We check with the local cooperative to see if we can do the ration differently but keep production the same. We are our own mechanics so that helps keep costs down. We run older equipment which is easier for me to work on.

How do you maintain family relationships while also working together? Keep the communication lines open and keep talking.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I am my own boss and can kind of make our own hours. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. There is nobody looking over my back all the time although the regulations are getting more strict.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Talk to other farmers to get ideas. You don’t always have to try them but if you have problems, talk to people. It also helps to read magazines.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? I am at the point in my life where I am phasing out. My wife and I own the land, and my son, Kevin, and his wife, Kristen, own the cows and machinery. There are no expansions or anything in my future.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We like to visit our daughter, Kimberly, in Madison, Wisconsin. Sometimes Joan and I go for a drive to someplace we have never been before. We also like to go to the DeSoto area in the fall. I also enjoy hunting deer and sometimes squirrels.