Women in Dairy

Holly LaPlant Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Door County 100 cows

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Tell us about your farm and family. Our farm is certainly a family operation. Day-to-day operations and duties are handled by my father, Brian, my uncle, Brad, and myself. My mom, Ann, works off the farm as a manager of a yacht club as well as being our resident calf care specialist. My younger sister, Mary, works full time but is only a phone call away when needed. We are also fortunate to have my significant other, Mike, who is handy and is always willing to jump in any piece of equipment, help with cattle and haul grain all fall. Our dairy farm was established in 1947. We milk 100 cows and farm around 1,500 acres. We raise our animals on-farm, including the bull calves that get raised to market weight. We try to do our own work on the farm as well, only hiring out fertilizing and some spraying.

What is a typical day like for you on the dairy? Mornings start early at 5:30. We clean the barn and feed cows before we start milking. It takes around 2.5 hours to milk all the cows in our tiestall barn with 10 units. I milk twice a day, every day. After morning chores, I take care of my chickens and then the normal everyday cleaning, feeding and more cleaning commence for the rest of the animals on our farm. The days are considerably longer for spring, summer and fall where everyone pitches in to get the work done. There are only two jobs that I do not do on the farm: drive the combine and haul semi-truck.

What decision have you made in the last year that has benefited your farm? Last year, I convinced my parents to build a new calf barn. It was time to make caring for our calves a little easier on the people as well as improving the quality of life for the calves. We ditched the calf hutches and built a barn with individual pens. Being able to perfectly regulate the temperature and eliminating the extreme elements that calves in hutches would have to face has made a world of difference. Also, not having to shovel snow out of hutches is a plus.

Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. One of the most memorable moments on our dairy farm occurred when I was around 12 years old. We had a set of Holstein triplets born. I was tasked with being their caretaker. As they were my responsibility, I got to name them. It just so happened that before they were born, the movie “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” came out, so you better believe that I named those three babies Yoko, Egbert and Shelly after the three T-Rex babies. They were the cutest little things. I will never forget being able to scoop one up under each arm and carry them around. They were spoiled and kept on milk until almost 4 months old. All three made it and have always been some of my favorite animals I raised.

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? I love that I was able to pick a college that specializes in the education of the agriculture industry. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course for two years. After school, I returned home to my family’s dairy to help run it full time. I am truly honored to keep a legacy going as the fourth generation on our farm. Being able to work with family and pursue my passion for working with animals is what truly makes the dairy industry special.

What is your biggest accomplishment in your dairy career? My biggest accomplishment for our farm isn’t centered around dairy. Three years ago, I decided to open my own farm-direct beef store. Next Door Beef was my way of getting the name of my family’s farm out into the community and market my small Hereford herd. We have raised high-quality, grain-fed animals for over 35 years. I supply beef to two restaurants and have an amazing local clientele. Many people who visit Door County have made it their routine to stop and pick up beef before they head home. I am happy with the success my small business has had. I recently reached 1,000 followers on Facebook. My goal is to add a few more restaurants and of course reach more local consumers to help show them the benefits and quality of buying from local farmers.

What are things you do to promote your farm or the dairy industry? I enjoy educating others and promoting the agriculture industry. I am the president of the Door County Dairy Promotion Committee. We are involved in local events, such as Door County Beer Festival and Door County Wine Fest. This year at Wine Fest, we are increasing our involvement by promoting more cheese companies from Wisconsin by pairing their cheeses with wines from local wineries. My goal is to show the public that dairy farmers’ milk has many homes. We put together an Ask-A-Farmer booth at these events as well as at our local dairy breakfast. We try to have fun activities for people at the breakfast and our county fair. Our farm has also hosted Calf Care Days and many farm tours. In addition, I sit on the board of the Door County Farm Bureau and serve as the Young Farmer and Agriculturist chair. We had our second annual Door County YFA cornhole tournament, which serves as a fun event for the public and people in the agriculture industry as well, as a fundraiser for a rural safety day. This will be held in May for elementary students. We are also excited to host the Alice in Dairyland finals in May. I serve on our Promotion and Education Committee where we are in our third year of radio ads that serve as educational content for consumers and promote local agriculture businesses for every commodity that Door County produces. Educating others, debunking myths and telling my agriculture story has always been important to me. Increasing consumer confidence and giving the proper information for healthy choices is what the dairy industry is all about.

What advice would you give another woman in the dairy industry? Be open to learning. Don’t be afraid to take your seat at the table. Do not shy away from getting involved, because you do belong here. Be the first to tell your story.

When you get a spare moment, what do you do? If a spare moment isn’t taken up with farming or farming extracurriculars, I love being able to read or take my rough coat collie, Lex, for walks. My newest hobby is bow fishing. However, you must be willing to sacrifice some sleep because you go bow fishing between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. It can make for some very long next days, but it is surely worth it.

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