Women in Dairy: Elizabeth DeLange

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Elizabeth DeLange
Alma Center, Wisconsin
Jackson County
196 cows

Family: My grandpa had a dairy farm until he sold the cows, so I grew up helping raise Holstein steers. My grandpa Jay is the one who taught me to love and care about farming. I got my first job on a dairy farm at age 16.
 
Tell us about your farm. My boss and I have worked together for three years in September. When I first started, he had about 80 cows milking, and since then, the herd has expanded to 196 cows total. It has been a rollercoaster for both of us, but we have always pushed forward with the common interest of the herd in mind. Farming is constantly a learning experience. Aaron, my boss, enjoys more of the fieldwork and feeding while I enjoy raising the calves and managing the dairy herd. I also love to chop hay and be the operator some days.

What is a typical day like for you on the dairy? We milk at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. On Tuesdays, I have herd health and pregnancy checks. Aaron or Chewy take care of feeding the cows and heifers. I feed calves and younger heifers then get back to the parlor to help with fresh and sick cows. Chores always end with feeding fresh milk to the newest calves before cleaning up.

What decision have you made in the last year that has benefited your farm? One of the best changes we have gone through was going from a pack barn to sand-bedded free stalls. Not only are we able to house more cows, but the animals are also much healthier and overall happier. Since then, our herd has expanded, and we have made many changes to our milking and feeding procedures to try and best benefit the herd and future herd.

Tell us about your most memorable experience working on the farm. One of my favorite memories has been raising the next generation of the herd. It is such a rewarding feeling when a calf, that I was either there when she was born or raised on the farm, has a healthy first calving and is able to join the milking herd. Oftentimes, these first lactation heifers are even milking alongside their mothers.

What have you enjoyed most about dairy farming or your tie to the dairy industry? Although dairy farming has many ups and downs, my favorite part of farming is having healthy cows and watching them grow and overcome any issues that may come up. Cows are definitely a lot of work, but I truly do enjoy learning new things daily. There are so many ways to do something, and what works for one cow, may not work for another. I enjoy the challenge of learning what works best for our farm to have healthy cows.

What is your biggest accomplishment in your dairy career? Taking care of fresh cows has been one of our biggest challenges. With the help of our vet and Leedstone team, I have been able to come up with a fresh cow protocol that has been working out rather well in keeping our cows happy and healthy. Becoming herd manager was not something that I had ever gone to school for or even had much training on beforehand. It has been a long and bumpy road to get where I am today, but I have always known there is nothing else I’d rather be doing with my career. It takes a strong team to maintain a strong herd.

What are things you do to promote your farm or the dairy industry? I enjoy answering any questions people ask me about the farm and having people come out to the farm who have never been on a farm before. One of our first calf heifers had a tiny little heifer calf in December. I named this tough little heifer calf after my tough great aunt Anita. Anita is now three months pregnant, and I have
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enjoyed sharing her life events with my aunt who drove three hours to come visit us for her first time ever on a dairy farm.
 
What advice would you give another woman in the dairy industry? Make the best out of any situation; things could always be worse. Life is short. Don’t forget to stop, smile and enjoy a cold beer along the way. Remember that it is as equally as important to care for yourself as it is to take care of the farm. The healthier and happier you are as a person will allow you to better take care of and enjoy your farm.

When you get a spare moment, what do you do? In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking outdoors with my pup, cooking and talking farming with the locals at the local watering hole.

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