I am thankful for the early risers, especially those that are dairy farmers. Recently, Mark and I were able to hop on a Young Farmers & Ranchers tour to Wisconsin that focused on dairy.
Mark has never grown up with livestock, where as, I have, so it was really eye-opening for him. I don’t think we will be starting a dairy herd any time soon though. It was interesting to learn about a side of the agriculture industry we both aren’t too familiar with.
I wanted to share our tour stops with you through some of the photos below!
Our first tour stop was ABS Global in Deforest, Wisconsin. ABS Global deals with genetics and reproductive technologies. Honestly, I never knew that semen collection could be so interesting – haha! The process and science that goes into picking out specific genetics to breed the best beef and dairy in the industry really is fascinating!
The bulls in the first photo are young stock, and depending on genetic markers, may become one of the bulls used for semen collection. The middle photo is of the lab, where each sample goes through rigorous testing. Everything from count to mobility gets tested to ensure that the product is good and will produce offspring with the genetics the purchaser wants. The last photo is of the mounting bulls. These didn’t make the cut in terms of genetics, but because of their size, are used as mounts for the other bulls. You know how the man in your life seems to have a preference for blondes or brunettes? The bulls are the same way. They have a preference for their mount and their handler!
Next we toured Sassy Cow Creamery. Sassy Cow Creamery bottles their own milk, makes cheese and ice cream.
Sassy Cow Creamery has both an organic and conventional dairy operation. They have 450 head in their conventional diary and 250 in their organic. They are also known for their ice cream. Check out those flavors in the photo! They have close to 50 different flavors. Don’t worry, I sampled some. I tried the Maple Walnut and it was delicious!
Our 3rd tour stop was a robotic dairy. Talk about high-tech! Don’t think technology and farming have anything to do with each other, think again!
The ladies basically milk themselves. In essence, when they feel they need to be milked, they make their way into the parlor where a robotic arm with a laser measures where the teats are and then cleans their udders, milks them and then treats them when they are done. When she is done, she just walks on her merry way back to the loafing shed. Each robotic style arm even showed how much milk she was producing and expected to produce, as they have a sensor they wear that registers when they enter the parlor. This also means, a cow can’t get milked twice if she is coming in to try and get a second treat after just having been milked. One tried to get away with that while we were watching. It was quite a site to see! The dairy even had what can be described as a giant Rumba vacuum to clean up in the loafing barn area.
Our last tour was to Rob-n-Cin Dairy in West Bend, Wisconsin. This family farm has so much happening on it, I’m not sure how they have time to themselves!
Rick gave us our tour and talked about all the things they have happening from their calf sheds to their recycled manure bedding! His sister is also starting a new business operation based on ag tourism, and just constructed a building on site to be used for educational purposes for the farm tours. Rick is also finishing up his time on the National YF&R Committee for Farm Bureau. They have rooms to expand their herd to at least 1,000 head in the future in order to support the expanding family. They will be building an additional barn and holding tank in the near future. Their recycled bedding was really interesting. They separate their solid manure from their liquid, and reuse it as bedding. It is literally like a very fine sand that the cows lie on. You can see her in the photo above just hanging out in it. They have been able to cut down on the amount of straw bedding they use, and are able to now sell some of that instead.
I’m really thankful for opportunities like this tour as part of my membership to the Minnesota Farm Bureau. One of my biggest goals in agriculture is to learn as much as I can about every other type of farm operation out there. If we can all share our information and experiences, then we can continue to make agriculture better for those working in it or just entering it. We noticed things like barn set-ups, or office set-ups that we liked and could use on our farm. We asked questions about financials and marketing. There are some great insights we can learn from each other, and these tours help make it happen!