Visitors got their first look at this year's Farm Technology Days host farm and met host farmer Steve Snudden and his family on June 2 — Media Day for this year's show. Farm reporters had the chance to tour the farm, meet the hosts and all the volunteer organizers who have been working on the event, near the village of Zenda in Walworth County, for the last three years.
Snudden's farming operation encompasses 3,000 acres of farmland within 10 miles of the dairy barns with an additional 1,000 acres that is custom farmed.
The farm was begun by Steve's grandfather in the 1920s and continued through the 1960s by his parents until Steve took it over in high school in the 1970s.
His operation is one of 74 dairy farms in Walworth County — an area which is sometimes better known for its tourism and historic homes around Lake Geneva. The county's famous water feature will be played up during the July 19-21 Farm Technology Days with a miniature version of the lake in Innovation Square.
Innovation Square, which began last year with the Dane County show, is designed to highlight some important new technologies and give each show an opportunity to put its own stamp on the event.
Tent City will straddle Zenda Road, which connects Snudden's calf and heifer operation, built in 2014, with the dairy operation, which is down the road from his house.
Tours of the farm will include a trip to the 1,500-head heifer barn and the nearby calf barns. Eight calves per day, on average, are born at the farm and they are housed in four units that can hold 64 calves each. All animals are artificially inseminated, with heifers getting sexed semen.
The farm also includes 140,000 bushels of on-farm grain storage, near the Snudden home and grain dryer, which will sit squarely in Tent City during the three-day farm show. Tours to the nearby Farm City Elevator, the bins of which are visible from the farm, will also be offered to visitors during the show.
Nick Baker, Rock County Extension agent, who gave tours to reporters during Media Day, said that the farm operation has 29 full-time employees who use newer technology to stay in touch all day long. 'They all communicate will blue tooth technology to keep things going,' he said.
The farm tour will also show visitors the seven bunker silos, which cover nearly two acres and have their own leachate handling system, as well as the manure handling area, sand separation system — which was one of Steve's high priorities — and the freestall barns and newly renovated milking parlor.
The double-32 milking parlor can handle 256 cows per hour coming in from the 300-cow cross-ventilated holding area. The all-Holstein herd of 1,700 cows has a rolling herd average of 28,000 pounds. Each cow milks about 81 pounds per day on 2X milking.
Milk is direct-loaded into three semi bays and goes to either Grande Cheese or Dean Foods' Huntley, IL plant.
The newest of the six freestall barns is still only half filled with animals and there's still room for expansion, which will happen as the farm's own heifers mature and freshen. Side curtains on the barns are controlled by thermostats. There is cross-ventilation as well and cows quench their thirst on plate-cooler water that is piped into their waterers.
Sand, which has been run through the farm's new separation system — installed just last year to take away manure and other impurities — is re-used for bedding the barns.
The farm is served by two 250- foot high-capacity wells and manure is stored in two lagoons after being collected in a central manure reception area. During Media Day, work was being done on a system of drain tiles downhill from the dairy operation to handle clean water runoff from the barn's many roofs and solid surfaces.
During the Media Day program, Steve Snudden, his fiancée Yvonne Korbel, and the Snudden children — Austin, Abby and Carly — welcomed visitors to the farm along with Steve's mother Marilyn.
Jim Stowall, Walworth County's FTD executive chair, said his county had never hosted Farm Technology Days (or its predecessor Farm Progress Days) and was pleased to do so this year. 'It has never been this far south either. We are one mile from the Illinois state line,' he said.
Matt Glewen, general manager of FTD, Inc., the statewide organization that oversees the show's move from county to county each year, said that his board still believes in the model that helps build leadership skills in each county. 'That's something that is true in every county that hosts this show,' he said. 'And I'm sure it will be true in Walworth County.'
The role of the state board and general manager is to keep the continuity of the show from year to year, 'but all the work of hosting is done by the host county,' he added.
Kewaunee County will host the show next year and Wood County will host the following year. Glewen said the board has not yet selected a host county for 2019 in light of the changes that are being proposed in the UW-Extension system and Extension's traditional role in hosting the show.
The board will name the next host county within the next month or two, he said.
Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel said that each year Farm Technology Days offers the chance to educate people on where their food comes from and this year's show will include educating an audience from Illinois.
'Then they'll tell their neighbors what they saw and where their food comes from,' he added.