“Don't expect to change the world but at least change the world for one person.”
That's the vision which inspires Annaliese Wegner, who has dubbed herself “modern day farm chick,” for her social media blogs in which she tries to counter and correct “the bad and false information” about dairying and agriculture that “consumers eat up.”
Wegner posts on Facebook, Instragram and Twitter and participates in the AgChat Foundation in order to “share our story.” That story is rooted in her experiences at the 550 Holstein cow herd near Ettrick in Trempealeau County, where she and her husband Tom and his parents Jeff and Betty Wegner are the partners in Wegnerlann Dairy LLC. The younger Wegners met when they were students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Addressing the crowd
In what was only her second public speaking appearance ever, Wegner addressed a crowd of more than 300 persons at the Fond du Lac County Holstein Association's twilight meeting at Kamphuis Farms LLC. The occasion was the first twilight meeting that the county association has held in 20 years.
Wegner, whose home family (the Doorninks) operates the 1,500 cow Jon-De Farms near Baldwin, suggested that it takes more than “Dairy Carrie” (another Wisconsin-based blogger with similar interests) to provide the truth to the public. Wegner said that her initial motivation came from misunderstandings that a grandparent was expressing.
After relying on www.wordpress.com to learn how to create a website and to start a blog, Wegner “started typing” and soon drew a following. Augmented by photos, she has addressed such topics as genetically modified organisms (10 benefits from them); sprinklers and fans for the comfort of dairy cows; total mixed rations compared to pastures; the feeding of calves; and recipes with dairy product ingredients.
In her remarks to the crowd at the twilight meeting here, Wegner pointed out that “it's not 1940 any more” in the dairy industry and that obtaining milk directly from one's own farm or a neighbor is no longer feasible in most situations. “Do people drive the same cars as in 1940?” she asked.
But it's important for consumers to know where milk originates and how it is produced, Wegner emphasized. As recently as 1960, the average farm provided enough food for 25.8 people but that number has jumped to 155 today.
Given what's already been posted on social media and the effect it is having, Wegner wondered what's coming in the wake of the effort to ban the docking of tails on dairy cows. Are bans on dehorning of calves, the use of GMOs and the administration of antibiotics to cattle when necessary coming along next as similar requests, she asked.
A face for agriculture
“Put a face to agriculture” by stepping onto one or more of the social media platforms, Wegner challenged her listeners. She advised the elders in the crowd to “ask your kids or grandkids if you don't know how to do it.”
“Be relaxed when you write,” she said. “Be yourself. Stay positive. And don't give up even if you may want to pull your hair out.”
Short of being active on the social media, “talk to your neighbor or your child's coach,” Wegner suggested. “Think of how different it would be if everyone knew at least one farmer.” Start to make that happen by hosting on-farm picnics, giving farm tours and walking in local parades.
Before the evening's formal program and the serving of a complimentary hog roast dinner sponsored mainly by Forest Construction, Spiegelberg Implement, Waupun Veterinary Service, and Malin ET Service, many of the hundreds of attendees toured the new free-stall barn which houses the 300 cows in the all-registered Kampy Holsteins herd.
On twice a day milking in a double 8 parlor, the cows are averaging 85 pounds of milk per day. Major partners in Kamphuis Farms LLC are Steve Kamphuis; his twin sons Darren and Derrick; and his brother Doug Kamphuis.
In the freestall barn, 2- and 3-year-old groups of four Holsteins each were stationed for the judging contest that drew many junior and adult men and women participants. Based on placings by the official judge and Wisconsin Holstein Association board of directors president Kevin Jorgensen, three winners in each category earned prizes from a large selection of donated items. Attendance prize winners also selected from those donations.
Reports by leaders
Jorgensen reported on the recent very successful set of four state shows (Holsteins, Red & White, Jerseys and junior member entries) that drew 527 head to the new Alliant Energy Center facilities in Madison. He noted that a contract has been signed to hold the event there through 2020.
The scholarship fund administered by the WHA has increased by $100,000 from five years ago, Jorgensen said. This new balance enables the awarding of $16,000 in scholarships per year.
WHA princess Kati Kindschuh of Brownsville in Fond du Lac County reviewed her activities with the organization during the past eight months and encouraged all Holstein breeders and other interested persons to attend upcoming Holstein Futurity contests during the fairs in Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Calumet counties.
Rick Bovre of the Great Northern Sales Arena invited support for the Fond du Lac County Classic Sale to be held the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 27. He said a number of top caliber Red & Whites, along with black and white Holsteins that have placed well in recent shows, have been consigned and that other consignments are still welcome.