PLATTEVILLE – The University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneer Farms will host the 42nd Lafayette County Dairy Breakfast, for the second time, on Saturday, June 9 from 6:30-10:30 a.m.
After being dedicated by the state of Wisconsin in 1960, Pioneer Farms is home to a 150-cow registered Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy operation, a 40-cow registered red/black Angus beef herd, cow/calf operation, pigs, and 430 acres, all mixed in with college students wanting to learn about how to improve agriculture in Wisconsin and throughout the world
The university has always had some sort of farm on or around campus since the 1900s. It had a bit of everything from sheep, dairy, pigs, and chickens and was predominately for demonstration. In 1958, 400 acres from two different people were purchased to house what is there today. Then in 2002, Bob Clare of Clare Bank donated 30 acres of land to the university, where in 2004 the new swine facility was built. That land also houses the Criminal Justice House and 27 acres for crop production.
The dairy is the largest enterprise at the farm. They milk 150 dairy cows three times a day made up of Holstein, Brown Swiss and a mixture of some red and white Holsteins as well. They are milked in a double five-herringbone pattern with a boumatic system and the milk is sold to Foremost Farms, based in Lancaster, Wis.
All the cows milked were born on the farm and the university does not purchase any replacement animals. All the crops produced are used for livestock feed.
Students do most of the work on the farm. Cassie Hull, 24 of Janesville, is a graduating senior with a major in Dairy Science and a minor in Biology and has enjoyed working on the farm.
“I wanted to work with the beef. The dairy was hiring and I started liking working with the dairy. I switched my major from Animal Science to Dairy Science when it became available,” Hull explained. Dairy Science is a fairly new major, being offered for the first time in the 2017 fall semester.
The farm averages about 30-50 students over an academic year. Just like Hull, many of the dairy workers did not grow up on dairy farms or farms in general. Her family farm was mostly swine and cash crops. Other students are first generations removed from the farm. Hull commented that the first two years were hectic coming to the farm since she didn’t know much about the dairy.
“There is so much information out there and we only scratched the surface of everything that there is to know and how we can fix everything. It has really helped being a student because you are both on the farm and learning practical knowledge from the managers but then also in school learning the book knowledge and getting information on industry standards.”
To provide on-farm experiences for students is one of the points in the Pioneer Farms mission statement. Pioneer Farm Director Charles Steiner commented that one way to help be an advocate for the agriculture industry and to show the community that they are an educational resource for students is be an open facility.
“This is a great opportunity for us to support the agriculture and dairy industry and give community members the opportunity to come to the University farm and learn how we operate and how we are doing research and learn about how research can impact local farmers, the community and the ag and dairy industry as a whole,” Steiner added.
Some students have been researching calf behaviors and feeding habits by calculating how they react to different color buckets, clear buckets where they can see the bottom vs. black buckets where they can’t see. Others have been looking into oxytocin usage on the farm buy filling out oxytocin logs on when it is giving, how much, and the reasons for giving oxytocin.
Since the calves are placed in the old dairy barn (the new milking facility was built in 2007), students have been working on creating the best space for the heifers and calves by making it better ventilated, replacing fans with exhaust fans and measuring weight gain vs. the industry on calves by comparing two different types of feed.
Hull commented that during the summer they are planning a colostrum improvement program. Using a Brix refractrometer, it will give the students a goo analysis of how good the colostrum is for the calves. They are still in the planning stages but hope to be able to test the colostrum before giving it to the calves and making records to know which cow gives the best colostrum and save that information for future calves.
“We have been having some issues with colostrum and giving it on time. It is difficult to tell if something is wrong if you don’t test it and we aren’t testing it now. This could potentially improve the lives of our calves and others who use this data. Colostrum effects their entire productive life,” Hull explained.
Out in the near 400 acres of crop fields, there is also research being tested on the water run off and looking at sediment and nutrient loss. There are different practices that can be done on fields or pastures and this research will help see what impact they have on water quality. Steiner mentioned that water quality has become a big topic and this research has done a lot to help learn more about what can be done.
“We are a public university and a dairy enterprise and we are trying to replicate agricultural practices and environmental practices,” Steiner stated.
“We are bridging the gap between just having a farm and just having a school,” Hull concluded.
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm is thankful for the opportunity to show the community everything it has to offer and share what the students are learning. The last time the Pioneer Farm hosted the breakfast was 1986 and many things have changed since then.
The Lafayette County Dairy Breakfast will feature live music, a tour of the farm and children’s activities – such as a petting zoo, games and pedal tractor pull – along with a variety of booths, antique tractors and the most important hearty breakfast. The farm is located at 29200 College Farm Road, 5.5 miles east of Platteville and 4 miles southwest of Belmont.