Consumers like to know where their food is coming from, and Holstein Association USA is happy to oblige.
The Hildebrandt family in Hustisford is the first family in the country to take part in this program, selling the home-raised beef from their registered Holstein herd to Holstein USA and making it available to customers of Glenn’s Market in nearby Watertown.
The Farm-to-Fork program is a new and growing concept and has been in the planning stages at Holstein USA for many years.
It starts with purebred black and white Holsteins that are raised solely for beef. Each animal is hand selected on the farm where family members are involved in the day-today care of the animals.
The animal’s lineage can be traced back for generations. The beef has superior tenderness and natural juiciness as a result of the carefully managed breeding and feeding programs.
Roger Hildebrandt, a past Wisconsin Holstein Association state president, said the concept has been developed after years of planning. He first discussed the possibility with Holstein USA officials when they toured the Hildebrandt farm and others in southeastern Wisconsin looking at how the families cared for their animals.
On that tour, the officials noticed that the Hildebrandt family had built a special progressive shelter where they raised beef.
Bull calves that would not be raised for breeding purposes were started along with the heifer calves in individual hutches and then moved into the shelter where they moved from pen to pen until they reached the finishing stage.
The family finishes out about 70 steers a year. The facility assures that the animals are fed properly for the stage in their life, and they also stay clean. They have shelter in the back during cold or wet weather and are free to roam in the sunshine in the front of the pen where the feed is located.
The family milks their registered Holstein dairy cows in a stall barn, and animals enjoy a lush green exercise lot where they can move around freely and get plenty of sunshine, something consumers driving past the farm like to see.
As Holstein USA expands this program throughout the country, they will work with other families who have a reputation for taking good care of their animals and as excellent members of the farming community.
The program is designed to work with local farmers, meat markets and distribution channels near where the beef is raised. This ensures a fresh meat supply for consumers and also supports other local businesses.
Sustainability is a way of life for the farms participating in this program. Holstein USA selects farms where the best practices for the animals and land are employed, knowing it is essential for the environment and necessary for the future success of the next generation of farmers.
Many farm families raising registered dairy cattle concentrate only on the milking herd. Because of limited labor and facilities on the farms, many of them sell their bull calves soon after birth.
The Hildebrandt family is multi-generation and has enough help on the farm to manage the dairy herd and the beef animals.
The Hildebrandt family developed their registered Milgene registered Holstein herd in 1960 and is now in the third generation. The farm was started by parents Gene and Millie Hildebrandt and is co-owned by brothers Alvin, Roger and their families.
Alvin’s son, Jared, is a full-time part of the business, as are Roger’s sons, Ty and Brett.
The family also grows over 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, winter wheat and oats.
“Farming is an exciting lifestyle," Roger said. "Busy days with long hours of commitment but a very rewarding experience. Remember it is not a sprint but a marathon … if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
In addition to their farm responsibilities, the family makes the time to support their local community and have fun. The Hildebrandts serve on numerous boards and committees; support youth programs such as 4-H and FFA; coach sports; and are active in their church.
Program kicks off
They recently took part in the kickoff of the program at Glenn’s Market in Watertown, visiting with customers about their farming practices and the farm-to-fork program.
According to Holstein USA, 20 percent of the U.S. beef production is derived from Holstein cattle. Roughly 30 percent of all USDA Prime is comprised of Holstein cattle.
Holstein beef is leaner than most beef, yielding 25 to 30 percent less trimmable fat than other breeds, which is important to consumers interested in a low-fat diet.
Studies have shown that beef from the Holstein breed quality grades higher than other beef breeds.