Don and Samantha F
When it comes time to build a new barn, or modify our milking facility, we can’t afford to make mistakes. We’ve made significant improvements while growing Morning Dew Dairy, our 100-head, certified organic farm in Argyle, but even small financial missteps can be incredibly detrimental to niche farms like ours. We recognize the importance of large-scale farming decisions, and that’s part of why we work with the University of Wisconsin-Extension to gather the best possible information.
When our farm grew from 34 to 80 cows a few years ago, the uptick in numbers also meant an increase in labor. In response, we decided it might be time to change their conventional milking set-up to a free-stall parlor. Parlors allow farmers to stand at a lower elevation, with cows on either side of them and the animals’ udders at eye level. The goal is to decrease labor, milking times and physical stress from farmers bending over to put on the milking machines.
We didn’t know if we wanted to use some of our old facilities or if we wanted to put the parlor in the barn. If we wanted to put the parlor elsewhere, then we had to decide where we wanted to put the free-stall barn, so Mark Mayer and Dave Kammel of UW-Extension came out and weighed our options.”
They threw out an idea to take down a silo and building but we didn’t really want to take them down. This whole process took us 3-4 years, but we came back to the original idea and took the silo and building down, put up a new building for our parlor, used our old barn for holding and built a free-stall barn.
Being able to access UW-Extension’s knowledge has been valuable for us, and we believe Mayer and Kammel’s expertise will keep growing, as each new farm visit might produce another good idea we could apply to our own farm. They’ve done multiple visits to dairies with tons of different situations, so we tend to think Mark and Dave could help us get the best of the best.
We also participate in the ag plastic recycling program that Mayer helped institute in southern Wisconsin. The program is still fairly small, but it solves a common issue for farmers like us across the state. With plastic, you pay to get it and you pay to get rid of it, so at least this removes the cost of one of those. Plus the product gets to be used one more time.
Whether it’s providing building advice or an efficient recycling program, we appreciate having UW-Extension experts nearby. We even had Mayer come out this month to start thinking about another major project. We think UW-Extension is extremely beneficial to our ag industry.