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World Dairy Expo Virtual Farm Tours have been bringing the best dairy operations in North America to Madison for more than 15 years.

The eight dairies selected this year feature technology and innovation, outstanding milk production and genetics, strong community ties and first-generation immigrant farmers, top-notch cow and calf care and an expanding dairy.

These tours begin with a half-hour visual presentation of the operation by the owner or herd manager, followed by time for questions and an open discussion. Tours are presented daily, Tuesday through Saturday, in the Mendota 1 of the Exhibition Hall.

October 3

2 p.m. — Fustead Holsteins, Wausau, WI: Milk production & genetics

Fustead Holsteins began in 1905 as a wedding gift to Brian Fust’s great-grandparents. Today, is it operated by Brian, his wife Wendy, two of their children, Jennifer and Tyler, and their spouses, Adam and Shannon, respectively.

With a growing family interest in the dairy, the need to expand and welcome the next generation became apparent. In 2014, a new 400-head freestall barn was built, complete with maternity pens and a double-12 parlor. The current herd consists of 475 cows with a rolling herd average of 31,500 pounds of milk, 3.85% fat and 3.15% protein.

In the last decade, the Fusts have focused on genetics and marketing by increasing E.T. and IVF work on their top animals. For their breeding success, the Fusts were recognized with the Wisconsin Holstein Association Distinguished Breeder Award in 2012.

October 4

Noon — Oregon Dairy Farm, LLC, Lititz, PA: Community partners

Oregon Dairy Farm, LLC is comprised of a herd of 525 dry and milk cows and 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and triticale. Each family member has an active role in the farm’s management.

Since adding a small store to the farm in 1974 to sell milk and produce, the family has embodied the farm-to-fork experience. Now, with a full-service grocery store, ice cream parlor and award-winning restaurant, Oregon Dairy Farm has become a staple in the community for fresh products and great food.

Annually, the dairy welcomes more than 15,000 visitors through various events and school tours. The farm is also committed to being strong stewards of the land with no-till practices, composting waste from the dairy with food waste from the community and operating the longest running anaerobic digester in Pennsylvania.

The farm was presented with the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award in 2015.

2 p.m. — Good-Vue Farms, Goodridge, MN: Utilizing technology

Mike and Linda Hanson and their sons, David, Matthew and Steven, own and manage Good-Vue Farms. Last year, the Hanson's completed construction on their new freestall facility with two Lely A4 automatic milking systems and a Lely Vector automatic feeding system.

The Vector, one of the first in the United States, allows the family to feed each group of lactating cows between 8-12 batches of feed per day depending on their Dry Matter Intakes. The forages used in the PMR are grown on 2,800 acres, along with cash crops of soybeans, spring wheat and malting barley.

The freestall barn features 120 dual chamber waterbed stalls topped with shavings for their 90 Ayrshire and 30 Holstein cows. As the next generation returns to the farm, there are plans to convert the former tie-stall barn into a new calf facility.

October 5

Noon — Piedmont Jerseys, Lincolnton, NC: Jersey genetics

Piedmont Jerseys is one of the oldest Registered Jersey herds in North Carolina, and Corey Lutz and his family are looking forward to continuing the tradition of Jersey genetics and the family farm as the fifth generation joins the business.

In 1997, Corey and his wife Bridgette moved their herd from a conventional dairy facility, where their family had farmed since 1882, to a year-round intensive grazing operation in the neighboring county. Located in a horseshoe bend, the farm is surrounded on three sides by water, which led to the decision to utilize no-till management practices on the farm’s 450 acres.

The herd of 235 cows is milked in a double-eight herringbone parlor and maintains a rolling herd average of 18,438 pounds of milk. Piedmont has bred and developed 273 Excellent cows during its tenure; currently, the farm is home to 46 Excellent and 157 Very Good head.

2 p.m. —  Meier Dairy of Palmer, Inc., Palmer, KS: Innovation

Duane Meier is a third-generation dairy farmer. Together with his wife Ronda, Duane purchased his family’s farm and herd of 80 cows in 1978. A decade later, the Meiers expanded to 650 cows and built their current facilities.

Since the beginning, there has always been a focus on adopting new technology. After the successful installation of two automatic calf feeders in 2010, the Meier family began researching automatic milking systems.

In 2015, their persistence paid off as they retro-fitted their facilities and became the first dairy farm in Kansas to utilize this technology in the form of 12 Lely robots. This decision has allowed four of their five children to return to the farm.

October 6

Noon — VanBedaf Dairy LLP, Carrington, ND: First generation U.S. farm

Conny and Corne van Bedaf have dairy farmed in the Netherlands, Canada and now North Dakota. Moving to the United States after experiencing expansion limitations in both previous locations, the van Bedaf family has built VanBedaf Dairy, LLP from the ground up.

Starting with 800 springing heifers in 2009, the 1,400-cow herd has increased its size and rolling herd average more than 29,000 pounds of milk to more than 28,000 pounds of milk today.

This growth was achieved through breeding cattle to top without compromising wellness. Now with more data available, they utilize genomic testing to continue the herd’s genetic progress.

2 p.m. — Night Hawk Dairy, Stratford, WI: Cow and calf care

Nearly 100 years after the Leick brothers chose to manage separate farms, their grandsons are again farming together.

In 2013, the freestall barn was expanded and converted into a tunnel-ventilated building, a double-12 parlor was built and the herds were combined to form Night Hawk Dairy, LLC. With cow comfort in mind, the holding pen also is tunnel-ventilated to maximize comfort.

The transition cow barn serves as a “vacation destination” with tunnel ventilation, sand-bedded stalls, cobblestone flooring and natural light for all far-off dry cows, pre-fresh dry cows and heifers and post-fresh heifers and cows. The transition barn features maternity pens and a fresh cow parlor.

The calves are cared for in a starter nursery and then moved to one of four classroom-style pens with an automatic feeder. At nine weeks, the calves are moved to group housing with bedding packs for four months. From six to 13 months, the heifers are raised in the grower barn and taught to utilize freestalls with rubber mattresses and wood shavings.

October 7

Noon — Woods Hill Farms, Turin, NY: Expansion

Woods Hill Farms in Turin, N.Y. began with 134 acres and 60 cows when Ted Seaver purchased it in 1947. Three decades later, a barn fire destroyed most of the buildings, resulting in the Seavers constructing a freestall barn and a double-four herringbone parlor.

Since then, steady growth has been a key part of the success at Woods Hill Farms. At the turn of the century, a new freestall barn was built. A few years later, a new double-16 parlor and a second freestall barn were built to accommodate the growing herd.

After numerous land acquisitions, the farm currently consists of 743 lactating cows and 1,540 acres of grass hay, alfalfa and corn. Mike Branagan joined Ted as a partner in 2008 after working on the dairy for nearly twenty years. After seven years of partnership, Ted passed away and Mike’s wife Emily and their son Corey stepped into ownership roles.

Woods Hill regularly opens its doors for local and international tour groups. The farm has also developed a camping area for visitors and conservation land near their duck pond.

 

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