"The Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association strives to increase knowledge and provide opportunities to youth by involvement through the Registered Holstein Project. The Association also recognizes their achievements and accomplishments in the industry at the annual Wisconsin Junior Holstein Convention."
Those two sentences are the heart of the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association mission statement that is under the direction of an eight member elected Junior Activities Committee (JAC). The JAC is responsible for coordinating and overseeing all junior events within the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association.
Over 500 Junior Holstein members, chaperones, and volunteers attended the 2014 convention recently held in Wisconsin Dells and hosted by the Fond du Lac County juniors.
The three-day event offers a host of contests and competitions and the presentation of awards – the most prestigious being the Outstanding Holstein Boy and Girl honors that were first given in 1946.
This year's Outstanding Boy and Girl were Brett Hildebrandt of Dodge County and Breinne Hendrickson of Green County. Both grew up on Registered Holstein farms, were active in the show ring from an early age and participated in a host of activities on the local and state level.
Hildebrandt and Hendrickson were among the 19 selected Distinguished Members honored this past fall by the association, and will compete for national honors at the National Holstein Convention in Iowa this June.
Breinne is the daughter of Jeff and Kate Hendrickson, Belleville, and is a senior at the UW-Madison majoring in Dairy Science and Communication. (Her story will appear on these pages next week.)
Brett, the son of Roger and Fay Hildebrandt, Hustistford, is a two-year graduate of the Wisconsin Farm & Industry Short Course and is now a part of the Hildebrandt Family Farm, LLC. The farm includes 85 milk cows and 1100 acres of cropland (400 owned) located in south central Dodge County.
The farm became part of the Hildebrandt family in 1962 when Gene and Mildred Hildebrandt purchased it and named it Milgene Holsteins.
Sons Roger and Alvin were much involved in 4-H and Holstein activities, attended the UW-Madison Farm & Industry Short Course and returned to the family farm. In 1991, the brothers purchased the farm and operated it as a partnership with their wives (Roger and Fay, Alvin and Karen), raised children and grew the operation.
Jared, Alvin and Karen's son, joined the family farm after high school. Roger and Fay's sons, Ty and Brett, both attended the UW-Madison: Ty received a degree in Dairy Science; Brett, a Farm Short Course degree.
In May, 2013, the family formed an LLC, thus bringing all the family members into ownership positions. Although sons Ty and Brett are still in their early 20s, Roger says that he also came into farm ownership at age 21 when his dad sold him one-quarter interest in the dairy business. Roger and Alvin still own the land which will be transferred at a later date.
The family shares responsibility in most farming activities — Roger and Brett work with the cows, Ty oversees feeding and manure, Alvin taking care of the calves and Jared works with the steers, heifers and maintenance. All work in the cropping program.
Feeding about 80 steers a year is another enterprise on this rather diversified dairy farm. All the bull calves are kept and fed out except for a half dozen or so that are sold as breeding bulls. The Hildebrandts also consign females to local and state sales.
The farm and its registered Holstein prefix of Milgene Holsteins is well-known in show and sale circles with the crowning achievement coming in 2012 when Brett's homebred Red & White Milgene Advn Jezabel was named Red & White Junior Cow of the Year and Reserve Grand Champion at the International Red & White Junior Show at World Dairy Expo.
Hildebrandt Farms sports a new 60x160-foot calf/heifer facility. It has 30 individual hutches for young calves and seven pens for older animals. "It holds about 100 animals," Ty says. "It was built because my Uncle Alvin who feeds the calves was tired of freezing while feeding the calves in the winter."
The idea for the design of the calf/heifer barn pretty much came from conversations Brett had with a classmate at Farm Short Course. "We did a lot of talking," he says. "We talked it over in detail went ahead and built and it is working out very well."
Sire selection, from a number of A.I. companies, has pretty much centered on type, Brett explains, and the rolling herd average is at 24,500, the BAA at 106.4 and the regularly classified herd is home to a dozen or more Excellent cows.
"We've also gotten somewhat involved in genomics," Roger says. "It's getting a lot of publicity and is gaining in popularity."
Brett, who has been showing cattle for many years, says he is undecided about this year. "I haven't really looked at what might be ready or competitive in 2014, he says. "It's too early, but maybe."
What's involved in becoming the "Outstanding Holstein Boy?"
Note: Ty also achieved that honor several years ago and helped provide an explanation.
"Involvement in the Junior activities of the Wisconsin Holstein Association over the years is important," Brett says. I was on a number of committees and showed cattle for many years.
Then there is a lengthy written application and hopefully selection to the group of "Distinguished Junior Members" – there were 19 this year, he continues. Of that group some are selected to be interviewed by a panel of five dairy experts (on Friday of convention). The announcement is made at the Saturday night banquet.
The Hildebrandt brothers chose different paths to higher education: Ty to long course and a degree in dairy science, Brett to Farm Short Course and a two-year degree.
Ty suggests that Brett's education contained more practical farming information while his long course a more general agricultural overview.
Both agree that in each case the networking — who you met and learned from — was most important. "It gets you outside the local scene and opens your eyes to new things," Brett says.
What about the future of Hildebrandt Farm LLC?
For the short term, they are emphasizing working together under the new LLC format: For the long term, time will tell with the challenges of Ty and Brett, both now single, eventually having families of their own.
No fear, the family has grown and achieved success for the past 50-plus years and will continue to do so in coming years. Bet on it!
John F. Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications, a Madison-based agricultural information and consulting company. He can be reached at 608-222-0624 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.