The TePoel family includes, from left, Gretchen (Mike’s wife) holding Liam; Mike TePoel, Jon & Tracy’s son; and Tracy and Jon TePoel.
Photo By Kendra Knutson
Chequamegon Dairy Day held at TePoel's organic dairy farm
Over 800 visitors attended the annual Chequamegon Dairy Day held at the organic dairy farm of Jon and Tracy TePoel on Saturday, June 30, in Maple.
The Chequamegon Dairy Association, which is comprised of members from Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties, plans the yearly event.
A picnic lunch catered by the Sanborn United Methodist Church was served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Schwann's of Marshall served root beer floats.
After lunch, attendees were free to roam the farm, viewing the TePoels' cattle and facilities. The Douglas County 4-H and FFA had a petting zoo on hand.
In addition to animals, there was also a lot of tractors and machinery to see. The TePoels enjoy using Oliver equipment (currently having 10 tractors), which has been a tradition since 1936 when they purchased their first Oliver Hart-Parr.
The TePoels milk 92 cows twice a day in a double-four parallel parlor. The cows are currently averaging around 45 pounds of milk per day on a grazing diet.
The herd is pastured on 500 owned acres from the middle of May until mid-October.
In addition to pastureland, the TePoels own 400 tillable acres which are harvested for the herd's winter diet. Of the tillable acreage, they plant 20 acres of oats, 20 acres of barley, and the rest is a combination of alfalfa and clover for forage.
Because antibiotics are prohibited, vitamins and whey products are used instead. If a cow develops mastitis, Crystal Creek Dairy Liniment is used. This topically applied liniment contains natural sources of wintergreen and menthol, which is supposed to stimulate blood flow and decrease swelling.
The farm ownership dates back to 1919 when Jon's grandparents moved from Wahoo, NE. Jon's parents Leo and Bev bought the original farm in 1960, which is two miles from the current operation.
In 1982, herd health was suffering so the family began converting to organic farming practices. They gradually eliminated use of antibiotics and began letting cows out to pasture.
Jon bought the current operation in 1989 and two years later he married Tracy. Besides helping with chores around the farm, Tracy also works during the school year doing office work at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
They have four grown children (two sons, two daughters) and two grandchildren.
In 2005, the farm was officially certified organic and the family began shipping their milk to Organic Valley Cooperative.
Organic Valley is based out of La Farge, WI, and consists of 1,723 farm families. Being a cooperative means that each family owns a share of Organic Valley.
In order to be certified organic, the USDA regulations are as follows: Farms must follow board set standards regarding which substances may be used in production and processing; the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic production is prohibited; antibiotic and synthetic hormone use in organic meat and poultry is prohibited; and 100 percent organic feed is to be used for organic livestock.
In addition to these standards, cropland must be free of fertilizer and pesticides for three years in order to be certifiable. Only organic fertilizers and manure can be used.
Jon has enjoyed working with the cooperative. "They are a top notch company," he said.
The TePoels were the co-op's only pickup in the area in 2005. However, the following year, six more area farms were added to the route.
According to Jon TePoel, the main advantages of organic farming are herd health and better overall health of the land.
"It was the best thing we ever did," he stated about becoming an organic dairy farm.