Neuser farm family shares dairy vision at county breakfast

Ray Mueller
Marilyn, Jerry, Joe, and Michelle Neuser gather at the memorial to Christopher Neuser at United Vision Dairy near Mishicot.  They consider it to be a solemn spot, which is dedicated to Christopher, who died of a heart attack at age 33 in 2010.

MISHICOT – Forty years of growth on a dairy farm in northeast Manitowoc County will be on display to the public on the morning of Sunday, June 10, for the county's 2018 Breakfast on the Farm. Sponsors of the annual event are the county's dairy promotion committee and Farm Bureau chapter in cooperation with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

The host site is the Neuser family's United Vision Dairy. Formed and named in 2000, the facility's buildings and associated structures cover more than 30 acres at the corner of Tannery and Benzinger roads. About 950 dairy cows, mostly Holsteins, are housed and milked there.

Family farm history

Gerald (Jerry) Neuser and his wife Marilyn moved onto an existing 160-acre farm in May of 1979. He had begun farming 1967 on land rented from his mother in the town of Manitowoc Rapids near the city of Manitowoc.

The construction of the I-43 highway, which intersected that farm, prompted a search of many locations before the current site was chosen. At the time, the Neusers, who married in 1976, had a herd of 38 milking cows.

While raising their two sons and two daughters, the Neusers also considered their options at growing the dairy farm. The big change occurred in 2000, when their sons Christopher and Joe, both of whom had American Farmer degrees through the FFA, decided to become active partners on the farm.

Decade of 2010s

During that decade, the milking herd increased to 400 cows, 60 and 122-foot additions were made to the dairy housing facilities, and a calf barn was built. The family suffered a huge blow in 2010 when Christopher, who was the dairy herd manager, died from a heart attack at age 33.

This led Joe, who was specializing in crop production, to take on a greater role with the support of a current crew of 15 full time employees and others during the busy crop harvesting periods. Among the key employees are feeding manager Tim Jadin and herd manager Oved Rivera.

Alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and winter wheat are grown on 2,200 acres of farmland. Four cuts of alfalfa per summer provide about 9,000 tons of haylage stored in bunkers and about 13,000 tons of corn silage (24 tons per acre in 2017) are produced every year.

United Vision Dairy obtains professional services from the Tisch Mills Farm Center (Chris Kohnle), Badgerland Nutrition (Todd LeNoble), the Reedsville Veterinary Clinic, North Star Select Sires (artificial breeding), and J. Hall (young calf raising) in neighboring Kewaunee County. A relatively new practice is sending the heifers to a custom grower in Kansas.

Practices at United Vision Dairy are also governed in part by Wisconsin's Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit, which has been in effect for about seven years. Another environmentally friendly practice on the farm is the recycling of plastic wastes, which are commercially converted into garbage bags.

Very different free-stall barns

After a new equipment shed and shop, along with a meeting room and office, were added in 2013, the original barn was discarded. A second large free-stall barn, running for 440 feet with housing for about 450 cows, was built in 2014.

Illustrating how technology has changed rapidly in the dairy sector, Joe Neuser points out how the two large free-stall “are very opposite, very different.” The older six-row barn has a construction frame of wood while the newer four-row has a steel base.

Despite the fans and misting apparatus to keep cows comfortable, the newer barn is about 15 degrees cooler during the hottest days of summer and 20 degrees warmer during the coldest days of winter, Joe Neuser indicates.

Catering to those differences, the Neusers put their mature (higher producing) cows in the newer free-stall and the first lactation cows in the older facility. Especially during hot and humid periods, this reduces the loss in milk production by the mature cows.

With an average of 85 pounds per cow per day on three times milking in a Bou-Matic double 12 parlor, the milk from United Vision Dairy is stored and cooled in two 6,000-gallon bulk tanks (nearly 50,000 pounds each) before being shipped to make cheese at Agropur's plant (formerly Krohn's Dairy) at Stangelville in Kewaunee County.

Breakfast morning features

On the morning of the breakfast, attendees will be able to ride through the barns and get a view of the various facilities from tractor-driven wagons. Music will be provided by the Jerry Krueger band while children can have fun in the cow bounce house and have a photo taken with a calf. The county's new Miss Farm Bureau and dairy princess will be crowned at 9:30 a.m.

Parking will be in a field on the farm with Mishicot High School serving as a backup in case of wet conditions. Breakfast prices are $7 for adults and $4 for ages 5 to 10.

Dairy promotion committee chair Becky Salm, who indicates every breakfast host in the county has hosted only once, explains that the message of the day is that cow care is proper, that environmental protection is practiced, and that dairy products are safe.

The persons who attend “better know that when they leave,” Salm remarks. Roger Manke of the promotion committee predicts a turnout of 5,000 for the event.