One of the most interesting ways we at Hoard’s Dairyman are able to connect with our readers and the dairy community is when we receive visitors at our farm, which sits just outside of Fort Atkinson a mile and a half from our publishing office. It was purchased by W.D. Hoard in 1899 as a way to practice what we were writing about in the magazine, and it remains a key piece of our business to this day and a fun way to share farming with those that come for a tour.
Last month, we hosted visitors that may earn (or at least tie) the record for furthest distance travelled to our headquarters here in southeastern Wisconsin. A group of young Australian dairy farmers stopped in as part of a year-long professional development program they are completing. Visiting dairy farms and businesses in California and then Wisconsin is one of the group’s highlights as these farmers consider their future in the dairy industry.
“The main focus of this program is succession planning,” described Bec Wyper, regional extension officer for Dairy Australia in the Murray area and the coordinator of the Young Dairy Network. The farmers, aged 25 to 35, also participate in career planning and goal setting instruction. While on their U.S. trip, they learned about how succession is handled at a variety of dairy farms as well as the broader picture of labor on our dairy farms.
While the challenge of attracting and retaining quality help is something American dairy farmers know a good deal about, the Australian group echoed that it is very difficult for them to keep their farms staffed, too. They were interested in knowing the labor setup on our Hoard’s Dairyman Farm and appreciated seeing the automatic milking systems (robots) and automatic calf feeders we use because of similar labor concerns. One member of the group explained that his family is in the process of building a new barn to house 14 robots.
After their visit to our farm and others in the area, the group met up with some local young farmers that evening for a social put on by Wisconsin Farm Bureau with support from Holstein Association USA. It was inspiring to hear how easily the conversation flowed about everyone’s shared passion — agriculture — as the group enjoyed grilled cheese and ice cream at Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus, Wis.
In addition to milking cows and processing milk, Sassy Cow provides farm tours and other educational events on site, and the meal was held in the farm’s viewing room above the rotary parlor that is filled with facts and displays about dairy cows and dairy farming. The Australians also commented that they were impressed with the education efforts they had discovered on farms in the U.S. because that’s not an area of emphasis for many of their farms.
It was a great honor to host this group as they travelled from halfway around the world to learn about dairying, and it is exciting to know that our global industry is getting stronger one person and one farm at a time. Though our accents were different, we shared a love of cows, milk, and dairy products. Farmers like these who take the time to broaden their perspective will help dairy thrive for years to come.
Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.