Vanna Leichtfuss
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Manitowoc County
220 cows
Family: My husband, Mark, and I have four children – Emerson, 5, Everett, 3, Loretta, 2, Excalibur, 8 months.

Tell us about your farm. Mark and I started farming in Green Bay in 2010 and moved to our current location in June 2019. We milk 190 registered Holsteins in a swing-8 parallel parlor. We grow the majority of our crops on rented land, and they are custom harvested. Mark handles all of the feeding, breeding, bookkeeping and maintenance on the farm. I do majority of the milking, along with feeding calves and heifers. Heifers are raised here until just before breeding. They are then sent to a heifer raiser and return home a few weeks before calving. I milk by myself in the mornings. Mark brings the pens of cows to the holding area between mixing batches of feed for the cows. We have three part-time employees. One or two of them help milk in the evenings.

What is the busiest time of day for you? Definitely mornings. The day starts at 2:45 a.m. Excalibur comes out to the barn with me so he doesn’t wake up the other kids. I check for fresh cows before setting up for milking. I try to get milking done before taking Emerson to school. Then the other kids are awake. We have a quick breakfast before going back out to the barn for feeding calves, scraping barns, vaccinating, taking care of newborn calves, catching up on paperwork, etc. I milk some evenings (while trying to keep the kids occupied too) with one of our employees, and the other evenings we have two milkers so I stay busy with other chores and feeding calves.  

When you get a spare moment what do you do? I love to bake. Most of the time it’s cookies, cakes and cupcakes. I’m always up for trying new recipes. I enjoy being with the kids and having them help on the farm. I have a passion for showing cows and try to go to two or more shows each year. I enjoy attending cattle sales and love searching for farming antiques in old barns.

Tell us your most memorable experience working on the farm. I’ve been working on farms my whole life so I have many great experiences, but seeing our children grow up on the farm is like reliving all of the wonderful times I remember as a child. Also, when we are classifying cows and have cows score Excellent, those days are pretty cool.  

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming? Watching our children grow up on the farm is truly awesome. We also love working with good cow families.

How do you stay connected with others in the industry? The majority of our friends are dairy farmers or are in the dairy industry, so it’s not hard to stay connected with them, as we see or at least talk to many of them on a regular basis. Many are often involved in the same organizations Mark and I are involved in. I currently serve as secretary for our county Holstein Association, and it’s great to be with others who are so passionate about registered Holsteins and showing cows.

Who is someone in the industry who has inspired you? My oldest brother, who was managing my parents’ farm back in the day, fueled my passion for cattle at a young age. I always tagged along as he did chores, and it was then that I realized at a young age I wanted to have a farm of my own one day. But none of what we have today would be possible without the help of my husband. It’s all a team effort. Every single day, it’s about working toward our goals.  

If you could give a tour to a prominent woman in today’s society, who would it be? I’d rather take a tour of a successfully ran dairy, regardless if it is operated by a man or a woman. We have given tours to the local technical college’s dairy herd management class, and I do enjoy talking to people who are just getting started farming and are optimistic about the industry, because we started from scratch.

What is the best vacation you have ever taken? We don’t get away too often, but we do love to go to weddings that are a bit too far away to drive home late at night. We find a babysitter and ask our employees to cover the next morning shift. We stay at a hotel and sleep in. It’s a chance to reset. Going to cattle shows, although it’s a very busy time, is also time away from the daily chores. The past two years Mark and I have attended the Wisconsin Holstein Association Adult Convention. It’s always a great time away from the farm, and we get to see many great cow people.

What are some words you like to live by? “Children do not grow up too fast. If you truly enjoy it, you will find they grow up at just the right speed.” “Find your passion and fuel it.” “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” “The frosting-to-cake ratio should always be 1:1.”