From a field of seven applicants, Todd Augustian, age 36, of Kewaunee was named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Young Farmer for 2014. Augustian and the six other nominees were honored during the state’s 61st Outstanding Young Farmer Awards Weekend, Jan. 24-25. The announcement was made during night’s banquet at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay.
In 2000, when his parents talked about selling the dairy herd, Augustian asked if they would consider selling or renting it to him. After working with a consultant for six months, a plan was developed that enabled him to purchase the cattle and lease the equipment and land and to eventually purchase the entire farm. On January 1, 2001, at the age of 23, he began operating the home farm which consisted of a 60-stanchion barn with 60 cows and young stock.
Over the next few years Augustian faced some significant challenges. In 2004, he started working with a broker buying puts for milk price protection. However, an upswing in the market caused him to lose money when he had to pay margin calls. Today a team approach utilizes hedge accounts.
His next major challenge came in the early morning hours of March 10, 2005, when he lost his barn and entire herd in a fire. Augustian soon made plans to rebuild. A vacant barn in the neighborhood would be his new location, and after an agreement with the owner was negotiated and repairs made, he moved 33 cows in on Dec.18, 2005.
Growth and new technology
The heard grew to 150 cows, and when his brother became a partner in 2007 another 100 cows were added. Planning to build a new facility on the home farm began in 2008 with construction of a new cross-ventilated barn and parlor started in 2009. In October of that year the cows were moved into the new facility. Today the farm consists of 400 cows and 850 operated acres.
New technology and management practices include the planting of BMR corn silage. Soil and plant testing are done during the growing season to maximize yield and quality.
The brothers fabricated their own sand leveler and fluffer for daily free stall grooming. It has worked well helping them achieve somatic cell counts under 150,000 and mastitis cases under 3.5%. Sexed semen is used. The UW-Extension Repro Money Program was used in 2011 which improved breeding and helped increase milk production to a daily average of 83 pounds per cow.
With assistance from the Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department, waterways have been reshaped, buffers maintained and a wildlife conservation plan has been incorporated with planting of native grasses and clovers to encourage bee habitat. Cover crops also are planted to prevent erosion and a design to catch run off from their feed storage pad was implemented.
Augustian also has served his community for 16 years as a member of the local volunteer fire department, and has served as assistant chief for three years. He is a member of the FFA Alumni, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and an Accelerated Genetics delegate. He is proud to represent the dairy industry and have an opportunity to be a spokesman for agriculture.
Jim and Shelly Grosenick of Watertown were awarded first runner-up honors. A fourth generation farm family, the couple own and operate Crimson Ridge Dairy. Jim grew up on the farm, helping with fieldwork and dairy operations. When he was a junior in high school, his father suffered a massive heart attack that left him responsible for most of the work and decision making on the farm.
Shelly grew up on her family’s farm four miles down the road. She would return home after graduating from college and marry “the boy down the road” and fulfill her dream of being a dairy farmer.
Along with health issues that plagued both his parents, the couple struggled with flooding in 2008 and drought in 2012 that resulted in feed shortages, and low milk prices in 2009.
On July 15, 2013, Crimson Ridge Dairy suffered a tragic farm fire that consumed the old dairy barn and 65 heifers, and then spread to the nearby machine shop destroying feed, equipment, and a combine.
Rebuilding the machine shop has begun and will include a wash bay, increased feed storage, and a commodity shed. A self-propelled chopper replaced the combine which now offers custom harvesting opportunities. The lost cattle are being replaced by investing in high genomic cow families. A new calf barn also will be built.
The couple are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, the Farm Bureau.and the Watertown Agri-Business Club and hosted the Watertown Dairy Breakfast in 2012. Jim is a volunteer firefighter and Shelly is a 4-H Leader and coach. They are also the proud parents of daughter Madalynn who is one year old.
The Grosenicks also won the Speak Up For Agriculture Award.
Davis second runner-up
Christopher Davis, 31, of Wisconsin Dells, was named OYF second runner-up. He started showing cattle at the county fair when he was 9 years old. While in the seventh grade he purchased his first registered calf and continued to increase his herd. After graduating from UW-Platteville with a degree in dairy science, he returned home to work on the farm.
His father’s heart problems, forced Davis to assume more farm management responsibilities. He also struggled with crop losses due to drought and early frost, and battled Johne’s disease in the dairy herd.
He has experimented with planting drought resistant corn on the farm’s sandy soils, and In 2013 a high capacity irrigation system was installed on 120 acres. Davis serves as District 5 chairperson of the Columbia County Holstein Breeders, and currently is county D.H.I.A. president.
Aaron Wachholz, 28, of Montello, also earned runner-up honors in the Speak Up For Agriculture competition.
The award’s program is sponsored annually by the Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer Awards Committee.