Deb Reinhart
New Holstein, Wisconsin
Calumet County
500 cows

How did you get into farming? My husband, David, and I bought the farm from his parents, Victor and Hildegard Geiser, in 1975. Our dairy became a century farm in 2012, and we are very proud of that legacy.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? While milk prices are better, dairy is embarking on a new norm with pay prices in the $20 range. To operate in this new arena, farms have to know their costs and figure out how to dairy within those prices. I’m a numbers person and like to know our costs pertaining to cows, crops and inputs. For example, how much does it cost to raise a calf? Should we raise her on our farm or have her raised somewhere else? What is our return on investment on the land we rent? There’s not enough margin to do things just for the sake of doing them.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? We have honed our business skills, developing our dairy team members, and focusing on quality feed and agronomy. We have discussed investing in feeding software, a scale and transponders for the cows. Those investments will be determined by knowing our costs – where is the biggest bang for our buck? We’re focused on team building and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our dairy team so we can put them in places where they can be successful on the dairy.

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We have grown our feed and agronomy team and are working closer with our agronomist with an intention to harvest high quality feed. Our goal this past year was to harvest excellent haylage and corn silage, and we reached that goal. Communicating more effectively with growers and custom operators has helped us to reach a goal of increasing milk per cow. We’re also transitioning the next generation into management roles. We want to be sure we’re all on the same page with goals and objectives. Despite the last two years, we’ve done some great work on our dairy thanks to great people. We focus on the things we can change and improve instead of letting outside forces control us.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? We’re working at being more efficient, better training our employees and harvesting quality crops and feed. We have become mindful of costs associated with all the facets of our business. We continue to provide excellent care of our cows, land and people.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? We work side by side with our employees, helping them grow through training and personal development, including English classes. We encourage them to take the next steps in their role and have four team members that have moved to mid-level management. Our herd manager had too much to do, so we empowered the people working with him to take on more tasks. We believe in workforce development – it’s better to have a skilled long-term workforce instead of always training and recruiting new people. We pay competitive wages, have parties for employees and their families, and work to make them feel like part of the community. We treat everyone like family.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. Nothing is easy, but we try to focus on our strengths. I did not grow up on a dairy. My background is business. I have experience with accounting, finance and marketing which has helped us be successful. It’s critically important to know your dairy business, and I’m lucky I can provide that expertise to the dairy.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? Our family being on the land for over 100 years, the dairy farming family, our employees and our growers. I like the animals and being our own boss. I also like the challenge and the opportunity to have a huge influence on the people we work with. We like helping people be their best self. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of fabulous women in agriculture which is probably the most rewarding thing. The opportunities I’ve had in the ag community have been amazing.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Focus on how you do things, examine every practice and know your costs. Many times, farmers do things a certain way because that’s how they’ve always done it. Guiding principles have to be to provide excellent care for our animals, manage our land responsibly and care for our people. Be on a path of continuous improvement. Everything you do has to be done properly and efficiently or you won’t be able to stay in business. Have confidence and believe in yourself. Tell your story about how you are passionate about your land, people and animals.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? Milk taxi/pasteurizer for our calves. We have phenomenal calves that grow well, breed on time and come into the milking string beautifully. We feed calves three times a day and have found the consistency and quality of the product from the pasteurizer to be extraordinary. Working with our son, Joshua Geiser, our partner, Manuel Valenzuela, and our dairy team has been very rewarding.  

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? We’ve been in business for 45 years, and the farm has been in the family for 108 years. My husband, David Geiser, won the Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award in 2018, and I was Dairy Woman of the Year at World Dairy Expo in 2007. Our dairy consistently produces high quality milk and was recognized by Land O’Lakes.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? Get financially sound, build on what we have and transition the farm to the next generation. We have kids on both coasts, and we want to have more time off the dairy.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We like to relax away from the dairy. We love the beach and being next to the water, walking, traveling, seeing and experiencing other cultures, gardening, woodworking and doing activities with the grandchildren while sharing our time and lifestyle with them.