Modernization tops Calumet Sundae on a Dairy Farm

Ray Mueller
Adam Faust poses with a Red and White Holstein cow which he showed as a heifer at the World Dairy Expo.

CHILTON – Attendees at Calumet County's 32nd annual “Sundae on a Dairy Farm” on Sunday, June 25 can learn how modern dairy production and labor efficient technologies have been fitted into existing older facilities at Faust Farms.

Most of those renovations took place in 2015 as Adam Faust was preparing to take over ownership from his parents Paul and Judy the next year. Compared to the 50-cow milking herd when the elder Fausts purchased the farm in 1979, today's milking herd consists of about 70 head – a number which Adam is planning to stay with.

The results show that “a family farm can be relevant in this century,” Adam Faust points out. “One can modernize without expansion or needing to have a lot of employees.”

In addition, he hopes that Sundae visitors will notice “how things are really done” on farms compared to the rare exceptions that draw wide attention.

In operating the farm, which includes cropping on some rented land as far as 13 miles away, Adam receives lots of help nearly every day from his parents. At busy times, and in preparing for hosting the Sundae event, his sisters Erin and Sara come back to the farm to help.

Cow comfort features

Cow comfort in stalls for a herd of Holsteins with a smattering of other dairy breeds was one factor emphasized in the dairy barn renovation. The cows have responded with a recent rolling herd milk production average of 28,000 pounds (about 5,000 pounds above state and national averages) with butterfat as high as 4.2 percent and protein at 3 percent.

With a wi-fi link, an in-house DelPro software program from the DeLaval company allows the computerized weighing of the milk production by every cow at the twice a day milkings.

Through the Packerland Milk cooperative which is associated with Scenic Central Milk Producers of Boscobel, the milk is shipped to any of up to 10 processing plants – among which the most well known are Agropur, Grande, Saputo, and Galloway. Hauling is provided by Greiner Trucking of Kaukauna.

An array of ventilation fans creates a 12 mile per hour breeze over the cows on hot and humid days and provides a constant air flow during the winter. In their large stalls, cows are bedded with a sand-like texture mix of short paper fibers and a fine lime supplied by Alternative Animal Bedding of Whitelaw.

Except for this use as bedding, those materials would be going to a landfill, Faust points out.

Cows are fed in their stalls on a smooth tile surface and have access to high capacity water buckets. Forages such as alfalfa and corn grown on the 500-acre farm are supplemented with feed mixes from CP Feeds of Valders.

Faust credits the company's nutritionist Stephanie Nagel with “a great job” in providing advice for the dairy herd rations.

Field work is enhanced by the use of the global positioning system (GPS) for steering tractors. Variable rate application technology enables the most efficient use of seed and fertilizer, Faust explains. Crop production is nurtured with regular soil testing and analyzed from yield maps created at harvest.

Faust, who is a local sales representative for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds and also is the president of the Calumet County Forage Council, acts as his own crop agronomist with the help of industry contacts. He also cites his background as a graduate of the agriculture short course program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Milking herd practices

The milking herd has a high percentage of black and white Holsteins along with a few red and white Holsteins, a milking Jersey purchased at the recent Ameri-Milk auction, and three Lineback and Jersey heifers each. Faust has focused on an improvement in genetics for a goal of “better but not more cows.”

Most of those improvements were obtained from the Tom Kestell family's Ever-Green View Dairy in Sheboygan County, which holds the highest milk production average of any dairy herd at close to 44,000 pounds. Faust makes the sire selections from many sources for which the insemination is handled by Don Knaus of Select Sires.

Unlike some other dairy farmers, Faust doesn't use sexed semen for breeding. As a result, he had a fairly high percentage of bull calves a couple of years ago but heifer calves have been more frequent recently. Within a few years, Faust hopes to improve the housing for the dry cows (those between milking lactations) and heifers.

Health challenges

In addition to surviving as a family dairy farm, the Fausts have faced a series of health challenges. Paul lost a finger in a corn picker mishap and the vision in one eye due to cancer.

Adam was born with spina bifida (split spine), leaving him with a permanent limp. But that proved to be much less of a challenge than what he endured and overcame in late 2013.

An apparent minor and not uncommon leg injury from being hit with a gate while moving cattle led to life-threatening complications.

Infection set in, leading to discovery of a previously undiagnosed case of diabetes, an extremely high blood sugar count of 799 (generally considered to be fatal), an emergency ambulance trip to Appleton Medical Center, a left leg amputation, a recovery period that defied medical expertise, the fitting of temporary and permanent prostheses, a return to farming, and a twice daily intake of a long lasting type of insulin.

From that sequence, Faust recalled how the doctor who admitted him in early November of 2013 and whom he met a couple of weeks later while in rehabilitation at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah was amazed to learn that Faust was alive and faring quite well. He also succeeded in completing rehabilitation in seven days compared to the estimate of three weeks that he was given by medical specialists.

Faust was fitted with his first temporary prosthesis on December 26, 2013. It was soon evident that the materials were not durable enough to handle farm work.

In May of 2014, he received a permanent prosthesis which has an estimated three-year lifespan and which is still serving Faust very well. He says it has given him better walking ability and mobility than was true when coping with spina bifida.

“I notice the prosthesis less and less every day,” he said.

AgrAbility affiliation

Those physical challenges have led Faust, who is 37, to affiliate with AgrAbility of Wisconsin, which provides services and helps to procure equipment for farmers with physical disabilities.

Faust knows there are many such instances but he observes there is either a reluctance or a lack of knowledge by farmers to pursue the services or to obtain the equipment such as a cart, designed by a company in Canada. A similar cart is commonly used in industrial plants but much less so on farms although it would be very helpful to many farmers, he suggests.

In addition to the cart which Faust uses to distribute the bedding for the cows, AgrAbility has helped him to obtain a handy electric feed cart, to add steps that make it easier to get onto tractors, to install bins to ease the handling of bags of feed, and to put headlocks on the heifers' portable feed wagon.

To address some of that lack of awareness or participation, a special AgrAbility program display and accompanying demonstrations will be offered for the first at the Sundae on a Dairy Farm event. Faust is available for presentations at meetings on AgrAbility and has also been the subject for several published articles.

Before he volunteered the farm as the host site for the 2017 Sundae event, Faust also enjoyed other modes of attention.

His photo and a testimonial were used by Udder Comfort for ads in several dairy sector publications as an endorsement of the udder treatment product. He was also one of five finalists in the latest Wisconsin's Outstanding Young Farmer contest.

Sundae specials

Among the repeat and customary attractions at the Sundae event will be a children's game and craft area, the youth pedal tractor pull, the fiberglass mooing and milking cow “Addie,” tractor driven wagon rides, butter churning, Uncle Bobby the Clown, booths by local and state organizations, a petting zoo, displays by the Chilton fire department and the Hilbert/Potter First Responders, and a sounding of a calf's heartbeat by the St. Anna Veterinary Clinic.

For the first time in four years, Wisconsin's Alice in Dairyland will be attending the Sundae event in the afternoon. The new Alice, the state's 70th, is Crystal Siemers-Peterman, a native of Manitowoc County.

Appearances will be made by the county's Fairest of the Fair Ashley Pagel, junior fairest Gabrielle Bures, and 2017 Farm Bureau princess Macey Pingel. The guest emcee will be farm news director Pam Jahnke of the Wisconsin Farm Report radio network.

One change this year will be in the live music group. The performers will be the Neil Holub and Jed Tuyls duo of Little Chute.

Cheese samplings from area artisan cheesemakers and chocolate and white milk will again be served at no cost. Grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, and ice cream sundaes will be available for purchase.

Parking is scheduled in an alfalfa field at the farm – W3563 County F about two miles west of Chilton.