Quantum Dairy focuses on innovation, education

Dan Hansen

WEYAUWEGA – Quantum Dairy is among central Wisconsin’s largest dairies, with more than 2,500 milk cows and 40 full-time employees.

Along with utilizing cutting-edge technology to produce high-quality milk, the focus is on providing employees with the educational tools they need to work at peak efficiency. Founding owner Richard Wagner also stresses keeping the public informed about the dairy’s operation and the importance of Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

Quantum Dairy regularly hosts a variety of educational tours and informational meetings to help keep consumers and other farmers aware of the latest innovations in dairying.

Fox Valley Technical College toured Quantum Dairy in 2009 as part of its 59th Annual Farm Tour, and the tour was back at the farm this spring to learn about the changes that have taken place during the intervening 10 years.

Farm history

Quantum Dairy was established in 2002 with the purchase of a 500-cow farm on the current site.

“A portion of the land was scheduled to become a housing development at the time,” said Wagner. “My wife, Kathy, and I made the investment to save this farm and the land from future development, while keeping it a part of the local economy.”

Quantum Dairy founder, Richard Wagner (left), answers questions from farm tour attendees.

By 2005, the dairy had expanded to 950 cows, and at that time, Kurt and Anna Duxbury became co-owners with Anna’s parents, Richard and Kathy.

The farm has continued to expand and modernize by adopting new technology and farming practices, and through transitioning ownership and management responsibility to future generations of family members and key employees.

Current owners include Brandon and Josey Schmolt in addition to Kurt and Anna Duxbury and Richard and Kathy Wagner.

Ten-year difference

Over the past decade, Quantum Dairy has increased the number of full-time employees from 34 to 40, with employee housing provided on site. The milking herd has grown from 1,750 to 2,420 animals, and 350 more heifers have been added.

The herd average has increase from 29,200 to 34,000 pounds of milk. Butter fat has improved from 3.5 to 3.8 percent, with protein increasing from 3.02 to 3.12 percent. The somatic cell count has dropped from 245,000 to 150,000.

The milking parlor has expanded from a double-32 herringbone to a double-45 Delaval system. “We milk three (3) times per day and continuously for 24 hours,” Wagner related. “We have a back-up generator that has paid for itself many times, because if we had to stop due to a power outage it would cost us $30,000.

Sand bedding has replaced recycled manure solids. “We had a fire in our digester building, and used the insurance money to purchase a sand-separation system,” Wagner explained.

The Double-45 Delaval parallel parlor at Quantum Dairy is in operation 24 hours every day.

Farm acreage has increased from 720 to 1,575 with 1,100 tillable; rental acres have increased from 1,400 to 2,400.

Animal care

Milking cows are housed in five barns with 10 pens. Heifer calves are raised for their first 180 days at Deer Creek Feeding in Dalhart, Texas, where they’re housed in calf hutches and pens.

Heifers from 180 to 680 days (6 weeks before freshening) are raised by Oshkosh Heifer Development in Oshkosh, Neb., in open lots and receiving barns. Quantum Dairy is a partner with five other Wisconsin dairies in the heifer-raising operation.

“We raise heifers there because of the healthy dry climate,” said Wagner. “It’s also less costly because we don’t need to keep them on concrete under a roof.”

Pre-fresh heifers are housed at a remote farm near Quantum Dairy so they can more easily transition into freestall housing.

Cows are fed from a double-auger TMR. Forages are grown on the farm and mixed rations are purchased from vendors. Bunker silos are used to store 40,000 tons of corn silage and 5,500 tons of haylage. “With new equipment, we’re able to reduce hay harvest time by nearly 50 percent,” Wagner reported.

Cropping, manure management

Quantum Dairy grows corn silage on 1,750 acres, alfalfa on 1,000 acres and soybeans on 750 acres. The farm purchases some corn from neighbors as needed.

The farm does tillage and planting, and also works with Dairyland Chopping for planting and all harvesting. For 2019, all corn silage will be BMR hybrids.

Barn alleys are scraped to a flu system, which flows to a sand separation system. Manure then flows to a 9.7-million-gallon concrete-lined pit (built in 2018), with a weir to the existing 22-million-gallon poly-lined pit.

Plans are to again utilize a manure digester, with a purified compressed natural gas recovery system, possibly yet this year.

Increasing efficiency 

Responding to low milk prices and other factors hindering the current farm economy, Quantum Dairy has implemented several measures to increase efficiency and maintain profitability.

According to Wagner, these include: consolidating with a neighboring dairy; increasing cow numbers by 10%; outsourcing calf raising; delaying a barn project; changing the nutrient management service; bundling crop consulting services with feed purchases; bringing some manure-spreading activities in-house; selling land farthest from the dairy; improving parlor management; reducing employees; planning to produce pipeline gas and reduce propane costs; growing more forage on farm and stopping the use of BST growth hormone with almost no drop in milk production.

Passion for Dairying

The owners, management team and employees have demonstrated a passion for dairying.

“We take pride in value, and promote the development of our middle-management employees,” Wagner emphasized. “We believe in strong families and a strong local community, and value being a part of it. These strong values include continuing the heritage of farming by keeping and preserving the agriculture landscape.”