As he reflects on the major changes that have occurred on the Dallmann family's dairy farm on the eastern border of Calumet County since 1964, Terrell Dallmann wishes that his father would have been able to see what's in place today and to appreciate the efforts of the new generations in the family.
It was in 1964 that Terrell and his wife Darlene purchased 80 acres and started to milk 15 cows in the town of Rantoul at rural Brillion — near the very small community of Wells and about midway between the villages of Collins in neighboring Manitowoc County and Potter in Calumet County. At time, he was a foreman at the former Aluminum Specialty plant in Chilton and worked part-time on another farm.
Today their son Daniel, his wife Shirley, their son Nick, daughter Lindsay Hansen, and her husband Travis oversee a farm with about 4,500 Holstein cows, heifers, and calves along with 1,700 owned acres, 850 rented acres and another 500 acres in the area from which Dallmann East River Dairy LLC purchases feed for the dairy cattle.
When the Dallmanns decided to host Calumet County's 31st 'Sundae on a Dairy Farm,' which is being held on Sunday, June 26, among the reasons they identified include giving the public an opportunity to see how well the cows are fed and cared for on the farm. Daniel hopes that attendees will learn a bit about how technical the diet has become for the dairy herd and how comfort is emphasized in the eight buildings in which cattle are housed on the farm.
To question posed during the media day for promoting the June Dairy Month event which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Darlene Dallmann emphasized that despite its size, the Dallmann operation certainly is a family farm because it is owned, operated, managed and worked on by members of three generations of the family.
Darlene, who grew up on a farm near Valders in Manitowoc County, also had a 15-year career as a credit analyst with the Manitowoc-based Investors Community Bank, which is a major agricultural sector lender in Wisconsin today. She also handled the bookwork for Dallmann Dairy, a task that has been handed to Lindsay since her graduation in 2012 from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Her brother Nick is also a Platteville alumnus. He and his wife Janessa, who teaches 4th and 5th grade at Holy Family Catholic School in Brillion, have two young children — Abigail and Jackson.
The Dallmanns emphasize that having all the family members work directly with their 25 full-time employees is essential to the farm's success. Another common practice is to have family members stay at the farm during holidays throughout the year so the employees can have time off to enjoy those days with their families.
Daniel and Nick oversee the whole operation and are directly involved in herd health practices and fieldwork. Travis Hansen is in charge of all the machinery and equipment maintenance on the farm. Shirley, who is a technician in the emergency care department at St. Elizabeth's hospital in Appleton and a member of the local First Responders unit, helps Lindsay in milking the fresh cows.
It was in 1977 that Terrell began to concentrate fully on the home farm's operation. When Daniel joined the operation in 1981 after graduating from Brillion High School, 70 cows were being milked on the farm, making it one of the larger milking herds in the area at the time.
The Dallmanns continued to add to cow numbers, reaching a point which three switchings were needed to milk them in a stanchion barn with a milk pipeline. This prompted the construction of a herringbone milking parlor in 1989 for the 200 cows then in the milking herd.
During the 1980s, Daniel took advantage of purchasing additional crop acres because of relatively low land prices at the time. He also proceeded on the belief that economic returns would be better from raising crops to feed dairy cows than to sell those crops in the cash market.
As the dairy herd, crop acre, and building expansions continued, the Dallmanns have continued to enjoy very good relations with their neighbors, Daniel indicates. He noted that most of the residences in the area are still occupied by descendants of the families who were living there when Terrell bought land in 1964.
The 4,500 dairy cattle housed at the farmstead today include about 2,000 cows in the milking herd. They are averaging about 85 pounds (10 gallons) of milk each per day when milked three times per day in the double 25 parallel parlor which dates to 2006.
The milk output by the herd is about 160,000 pounds per day. Most of that milk goes to the Foremost Farms cheese plant near Chilton, which earned the top prize for its provolone cheese entry in the 2016 World Cheese Championship. The remainder of the milk goes to Foremost's fluid milk bottling plant at De Pere in neighboring Brown County.
Several free-stall barns were added at the farmstead during the past decade. Due to overcrowding, the Dallmanns plan to another barn later this year to house heifers which have been bred. They will stay in new facility until they are close to calving.
During their first five months, the Dallmann herd heifer calves are custom raised near Brillion by Colleen Vanderloop. They then return to the home farm. Shortly after they are born, bull calves are sold at the Equity Cooperative livestock auction market at nearby Reedsville.
For cow comfort, the barns have tunnel ventilation and misters. Those practices encourage the cows to spend much more time lying in the free-stalls, leading to as much as a tripling of the blood flow that is crucial for producing milk, Daniel Dallmann said.
Sundae on a Dairy Farm attendees will be able to ride through three of the barns on the up to 12 tractor-driven wagons which will be going through the free-stall buildings throughout the day. A stop at the milking parlor is also part of that route.
In addition to the changes pertaining to the dairy cattle, major changes have occurred in cropping in recent decades, the Dallmanns point out. One feature which Nick points out is how the use of GPS technology, guided by satellites and cell towers, allows for corn planting without having a human operator on the tractor — allowing operation 24 hours a day resulting in rows 'straighter than an arrow' and seed row accuracy to within less than a centimeter.
To increase production, corn is grown in 20-inch rows rather than the traditional 30-inch rows. With the accompanying strip tilling in the autumn, the fields are ready to accommodate the entire corn planting task in the spring to be completed in no more than five days, Nick Dallmann said.
So far, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) have not been used to obtain overhead views of any potential problems in growing crops. But a video of life on the farm that's going to be shown during the 'Sundae' event will include scenes taken with a drone operated by Dan Hagenow.
For many years, the Dallmanns have used computer data to track daily changes in milk production by individual cows in order to detect any health problems. They also depend on radio frequency identification (RFID) data to track cow activity that often leads to the timing for artificial insemination.
One of the most recent technological innovations that is working well for the Dallmanns has been the installation of an anaerobic manure biodigester in 2012. That unit is leased to DVO Inc. of nearby Chilton, which has a national and international business of installing biodigesters on dairy farms.
Under a 10-year lease, DVO is responsible for all maintenance of the biodigester and is using it for research, Nick Dallmann indicated. All of the manure from the cattle goes into the digester, which in turn creates biogas that is generated naturally at a 101 degree temperature.
Inside the biodigester storage tank, there are about 14 feet of manure and 2 feet of biogas, Nick said. A large engine converts the biogas into electric power sufficient to supply about 500 homes.
Recycling of nutrients
Although DVO receives the quite modest payments from the utility company for the electric power which is generated, the Dallmanns are enjoying some huge benefits from having the biodigester on site. Because the nutrients in the manure are converted from organic to inorganic during the process, the very different nutrient product can be applied to alfalfa fields without fear of burning the new foliage.
Except for the nitrogen which is applied to corn fields, the byproduct of the biodigesting process is providing all of the nutrients needed to grow alfalfa, oats and corn for silage on the farm. Nick Dallmann estimates that this reduces the purchase of commercial fertilizer by as much as 95 percent.
Much of the liquid manure which flows from the biodigester after about a three-week process is applied to cropland through an irrigation system which runs for up to three miles from the farmstead. An additional project that's in the planning stage is to run a distribution line under a river in order to extend the system to more cropland, Daniel Dallmann said.
When asked to cite any particular threats or challenges to the farm, Daniel quickly mentioned 'the weather. You can never beat it.' At the time, the Dallmanns were seriously considering pushing up their schedule for harvesting the year's first cutting of alfalfa because of rain being predicted for the middle of the week before Memorial Day. That proved to be a good choice — given the periods of rain that began a few days during the last week of May.
In addition to the facilities on the host farm, the standard activities and attractions for Calumet County's 'Sundae' include several booths by organizations affiliated with agriculture and the county government; a children's pedal tractor pull; games; crafts, and face-painting for children; a sand pile play area; a machinery display of antiques and modern units; a calf heartbeat hearing demonstration overseen by the Veterinary Associates clinic; and displays of a cow's daily dairy ration and a cow's four-part plastic stomach.
A special attraction will be the Sheboygan County dairy promotion association's life-size Ayrshire fiberglass cow Addie. Members of the Potter fire department and the First Responders will also be on site.
For 'Sundae' attendees interested in eating, the event offers free milk and samples of cheeses from the area Arla, Baker, BelGioioso, Foremost, Henning and Sartori cheese plants. Available for purchase are brats and hamburgers for $2.50 apiece and ice cream sundaes and cheese sandwiches for $1 each.
Musical entertainment will again be provided throughout the day by the local CaHoots band. Wisconsin Farm Technology Days general manager and former Calumet County Extension Service agriculture agent Matt Glewen will be the master of ceremonies, which include an introduction of the host family at noon and greetings by the county's Fairest of the Fair Jackie McGlin, Junior Fairest of the Fair Allyson Roehrig, and Farm Bureau Princess Hannah Roehrig.
Dallmann East River Dairy is at N6038 East River Road, Brillion. From the west, the most direct route ordinarily would be to take Highway PP east from Highway 32/57 through Potter to JJ east to Fischer Road to the farm. However, it is very likely that a bridge repair project will still be underway on PP east of 32/57. The official detour will be County E (south of PP) to County Y to Potter and then to JJ.
From the south, take County E east off 32/57 or County Y from Chilton through Potter to JJ east. From the north, take PP south of Brillion to JJ at the edge of Potter. From the east, take JJ from Collins (off County W in Manitowoc County) to Fischer Road.