Joe Statz
Joe Statz
SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - Cows, and plenty of them, can be seen at 2015 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days (FTD). The annual event takes place Aug. 25-27 at Statz Brothers, Inc. near Sun Prairie, Wis.
The Dane County operation milks close to 4,000 on its two dairies. The newer dairy became operational this past March and milks 2,500 cows. The older dairy, which they call the home farm, milks 1,500 cows, said Joe Statz, manager of the older dairy.
People attending the event will get to see parts of the new dairy by way of buses. Statz said tours will be offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all three days.
Tours will include drive-by looks at the new dairy's manure digester building and the 20-million-gallon manure lagoon, along with a view inside one of the three new freestall barns.
Show-goers will exit the buses to step into the observation room of the double-50 parallel WestfaliaSurge milking parlor. The observation room has an upstairs viewing room, letting guests look down on the activity. Statz said the milking parlor is not accessible from the observation room.
"We built it so people can come and go," he said. "They're welcome to go upstairs and watch the cows being milked, but they cannot talk to the people or bother the cows."
Visitors to FTD will also be able to see the new dairy's three bunker silos being filled with corn silage. Last year, the farm made 50,000 tons of corn silage, a task that took 28 days of chopping, Statz said.
Statz Brothers, Inc., got its start in the 1950s, when Joe's father and uncle moved to the area. In 1966, they bought their first farm.
Now, a dozen family members own and manage the 6,000-acre operation that grows corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans. It also includes custom harvesting and trucking businesses.
Six family members are responsible for the management and some of the labor on the two dairies. Joe and his wife, Lisa, are involved at the older dairy. Their son, Zach, manages the new dairy. Another son, Austin, is the manure manager and operates the chopper. His sister, Tia, attends the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and helps when she can. Troy Statz, Joe's cousin, assists with manure management.
Of course, the farm also has plenty of employees. Statz pegged the number at almost 100 full-time, with 25 at the new dairy and 17 at the older one.
Along with two herds and two milking parlors, the Statz operation has two manure digesters. The first one dates to 2009. The methane gas produced by that one powers an engine that generates electricity. It produces twice as much as the older dairy uses, so half is sold to Alliant Energy.
As of early August, the second digester at the new dairy was close to coming on line, Statz said. Like the first digester, it's a plug flow system with a tank underground. Electricity from the newer system will not be sold. Statz said he expected every bit of it to be used right on the dairy.
An extra benefit of using manure digesters is that the leftover solids are separated, dried and used as bedding in the freestall barns. Statz said installing that first manure digester was one of the best decisions the family has made regarding the dairies.
"I'm very pleased with our digester," Statz said. "We struggled for years with bedding."
For a time, the farm used sawdust and rice hulls, but that was "just a mess," the dairyman said. Later, sand provided the ultimate in cow comfort but was tough on equipment.
"Since we've gone to the digesters, our bedding is awesome," Statz said. "Our somatic cell counts are very good; our mastitis situation is good; and pumping manure is so much easier."
Sun Prairie, with a population of approximately 30,000, is close to the farm. But, Statz said the proximity has not been a problem.
"We're only a mile from Sun Prairie. But, the manure does not smell when we're pumping," Statz said.
With the new dairy operational, the Statz family was able to consolidate milking and cow chores at two sites, from three earlier. The new dairy lies about 1.5 miles from the older one.
The Holsteins and a few Jerseys at both places are milked three times a day. Neither dairy uses bovine somatotropin (BST), Statz said.
Each herd is averaging close to 80 pounds of milk per cow, per day. The fat test is almost four percent, while the protein test is 3.2 percent. Milk from the new dairy averages 130,000 SCC, while that from the older one averages 175,000.
Statz Brothers, Inc., sells its milk to Dairy Farmers of America, which sells it to Dean Foods. Statz said the milk goes to Illinois, where it's bottled.
The two dairies are filling six tankers a day, at 50,000 pounds each. At the home farm, a tanker is filled every 10 hours; at the new dairy, one is filed every six hours.
Cows at the older dairy are milked in a double-20 Germania parlor. It can handle 200 cows an hour, with three people milking and one moving cows. In the new parlor, five people milk and one person brings up cows.
"If everything is rolling along, we should be able to milk 400 cows an hour," Statz said.
The new parlor brought technology that was new to the Statz farm. Cows are identified electronically in the parlor. Information gathered includes the time each animal is milked, the stall and group she is in and the amount of milk she produced.
With 4,000 cows milking, Statz Brothers is by no means a typical Wisconsin dairy farm.
"We're probably one of the biggest," Statz said. "I don't know if we're in the top 10."
More growth is in the works. Statz said the new dairy will probably be milking 500 more cows by the end of the year, since there's unused capacity and lots of cows due to calve.
The road to 4,000 cows was 23 years long. In 1992, the herd at the home farm increased from 300 cows to 800. After that, nearby farms were purchased and cows added.
Today, the Statz herd is 32 times the size of the average Wisconsin dairy farm, according to 2014 statistics.
Nevertheless, Joe Statz said, "We're a big dairy but we're still a family farm."