Steve and Sharon, Justin and Anna, and Alaina Patterson
Neosho, Wisconsin
Dodge County
150 cows

How did you get into farming? As a youth, I (Steve) baled small bales for many farmers in the Fox Lake area. As a high schooler, I worked full time at a dairy herd in Fox Lake. My love for registered Holsteins made me pursue a farming career. Around 1977, the year I graduated from high school, I remembered a quote from a magazine saying farmers will never grow enough food for the growing world population, and also the next Ice Age was coming, so I wanted to do what the world needed – become a food producer. After all, that sounded like job security to me. From 1978 to 1982, I worked for a farm by Juneau. In the spring of 1982, I moved to the farm I’m at now near Neosho, which we rented from my future wife’s parents, Palmer and Jane Schutz, who farmed down the road from us. We later purchased the farm from them.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? Low milk prices and bad press. Also something that may play out since the elections is the Green New Deal, which could paralyze animal agriculture and lead to much higher fuel and electrical rates and many more regulations on our farming enterprise.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? In 2012, we put up a freestall barn for 116 cows with 36-inch fans and cross ventilation for cow comfort.

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We tweaked the cattle ration during Thanksgiving weekend, and the last two months, we gained 14 pounds of milk per cow.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? We purchase only what we need as far as equipment. For 4.5 years of depressed milk prices, it was simply trying to survive. My son, Justin, and I do the majority of the work ourselves. Both Sharon and Anna have jobs off the farm. The only employee we have mixes feed for two hours Monday through Saturday.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? As a relatively small farm, my son and his wife, Anna, along with my wife and I are really close-knit. We have one part-time employee, and we all talk to each other often and laugh about stuff we have in common.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. Justin and I love breeding registered cattle where 75% are Red or Red carriers. Red and Whites will always have a little bit higher sale value, especially if they are of show quality.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? Working with my family, watching crops grow during the summer and freshening out heifers that could be the next great one.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? I don’t have to tell you that you have to have a passion for farming – whether you have to pull a calf at 1 a.m. when it is 10 degrees below zero or get up every morning at 3:45 a.m. for months on end even when you’re sick – but also focus on the stuff that will motivate you.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? The TMR, freestall barn, the Slinger spreader where manure application is evenly spread and using manure to cut fertilizer purchases.

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? Getting to do what I always wanted to do – dairy farming, along with raising a family, meeting many other people with shared interests and enjoying the camaraderie with small town USA and country folk.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? Our top priority is to put up a double-8 parallel parlor in early spring.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We like going to county fairs and firemen’s picnics. We also like celebrating the holidays with our grandkids and all the family. Sharon loves to cook, and we have everyone over. Our whole family also enjoys watching Wisconsin sports teams.