While statistics may warn that the average age of dairy farmers in Wisconsin is 52, these numbers are not an indication that there are not many young people interested in dairying.
In many cases, these young dairy enthusiasts go to college, get degrees in agriculture, or dairying and then either return to their family's farm, start their own dairy operation, or get a job in the dairy industry.
Even when they do not return to full-time work on the dairy farm, many of these people still have a financial and personal interest in their family's dairy farm and give as much time as possible to the farm and the cows while working full-time off the farm.
That's the case with the Winkelman family, who operate Twinkle-Hill Farm at Watertown.
Parents John and Dee own the dairy operation. The family owns 130 acres of land and rents an additional 460 acres to grow forage and grain for the herd.
They utilize the services of some custom operators for harvesting first crop hay and planting corn. John says, "That way we can get our haylage done at a time when it has the most feed value. Cows milk on first crop hay."
This frees John's time for managing the day-to-day operations of the farm. This year, it also meant he had time to prepare corn fields for planting, often several times because rain came before the corn actually got in the ground.
He says, "With spending time trying to get corn in, it would be difficult to get hay done on time."
His wife, Dee takes care of the bookkeeping on the farm.
Their daughter, Jeannie Bishop, who lives nearby, and their other daughter, Laurie, assist with work with the cows during the time away from their full-time jobs in the dairy industry.
Laurie makes mating and genetic recommendations. Bishop handles registrations and genomic testing. She also helps with feeding calves, caring for fresh cows, assisting with vaccinations and milking on a regular basis.
The dynamic duo just received the Young Brown Swiss Breeder Award at the 2013 "Swissconsin" National Convention.
The family started with Holsteins but became interested in raising Brown Swiss and Jeannie and Laurie began showing through 4-H and FFA. As time went on they increased their numbers in the herd.
Showing Brown Swiss cattle has helped to build the enthusiasm of these two young ladies for the dairy industry and cows.
There are four cow families making up a majority of the Twinkle-Hill herd. The "A" family started with a National Convention purchase in 1998 of Meadow Hill Coll Alta-ET EX-90.
"Her offspring includes the first A.I. bull from our farm, Twinkle-Hill Dynasty Alloy," Laurie says. "The Snowstorms have been prolific with 26 of the 128 animals tracing back to two purchases (an Ensign and a Collection). The Mort Matt Tammy family has two branches developed as well with 17 animals having lineage to Tammy."
They milk in a double-six flat-barn parlor that they built inside their former stall barn. They designed the milking area so the farmer stands in the gutter and the cows are raised slightly on a concrete platform. It reduces the stress on backs and knees, brought on from kneeling under the cows every day.
Some stalls are still in place in the barn and cows are housed in an adjoining free-stall barn.
They care for calves in a steel building that is well-ventilated but makes it easier for the calf-care providers to get to the animals in inclement weather and the cold of winter. Within that building calves are in individual hutches.
Both John and Dee were raised on farms in the Watertown area. John started out milking cows on his own on the current farm.
In 1973, John increased the herd from 25 to 40 cows and in 1977 he and Dee were married and bought the farm.
In 1993 they took over his dad's herd and built a free-stall barn to make room for additional cattle. Then in 1997 they acquired his brother's herd.
The herd size has continued to grow and today consists of approximately 150 cows, with about half of the herd comprised of registered Brown Swiss. In total, there are 128 Brown Swiss milking and dry cows and youngstock.