College tours view agribusiness improvements

posted April 9, 2018 7:39 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Jenessa Freidhof, Regional Editor |

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    A cow at Gotz’s farm was curious to see what all the people were doing in her barn during the tours. More than 200 people took part in the tours, which included stops at Provision Partners Cooperative and D&B Sternweis Farm.
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    Kayla Gotz, right, showed one of the Mid-State Technical College tour groups her family’s dairy farm during the tours on March 28. Gotz, who is the herd manager for her family’s farm, said they are constantly working to make improvements to their farm to ensure they are maximizing cow comfort and production in order to keep the farm going into the future.

MARSHFIELD — More than 200 people took part March 28 in Mid-State Technical College’s annual Agribusiness Club Tour, which included stops at ProVision Partners Cooperative agronomy center in Auburndale, Gotz Dairy Farm near Auburndale and D&B Sternweis Farms, the co-host of this year’s Farm Technology Days.

D&B Sternweis Farms, which will co-host Farm Technology Days in July, was started in 1877 by Yohan Sternweis and today is operated by the family’s fourth-generation, Daryl and Brenda Sternweis, who bought the farm in 1993. They have since expanded the farm from 160 cows to 400 cows and added a 40-stall Boumatic rotary parlor in which they milk three times a day.

In the future, the Sternweis family would like to add another free-stall barn in order to maximize their rotary parlor and focus on improving cow comfort.

ProVision Partners Cooperative’s new agronomy center in Auburndale was opened in May 2017 and has a dry fertilizer storage capacity of 12,200 tons. Korey Sutton, Auburndale location manager, said because the facility is able to store more, they do not have to worry as much about the new laws associated with trucking. The facility has a receiving capacity of 250 tons per hour and can unload the fertilizer inputs either from truck or rail, with plans to expand their rail capacity in the upcoming year.

“When we were coming up with the facility design, we went to other companies that have recently built and asked them what works and what doesn’t work. Then we designed our plant, taking their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses,” Sutton said.

He said the new facility has allowed them to speed up their service to their customers.

“When you call in and say what you want, we create the blend and send it to the computer. Everything is automated so all the person here really has to do is point and click and tell which mixer to go into. We can have three batches going at one time,” Sutton said. “With the old plant, it used to take me 15 minutes to do a truckload. Now, I can probably do two truckloads out of here in five minutes.”

With the tighter planting windows in the spring, he said the speed helps them to keep up with the demand.

“The windows keep getting tighter and tighter. It used to be over a month. Now the vast majority of everything is done within five to seven days,” Sutton said.

Gotz Century Dairy, outside of Auburndale, is a fifth-generation farm operated by Tom and Karla Gotz with the help of their children. In 2013, the farm built a double-16 parlor. Prior to that, the family milked approximately 180 cows in a 97-stall tie-stall barn, which Tom’s daughter, Kayla, said took almost four hours per milking. With the new parlor, the family was able to cut their milking time in half and increase their herd to about 275 cows.

Kayla, who returned to the farm to work full time after graduating from Fox Valley Technical College, is the herd manager and responsible for hoof trimming among other tasks. She said the farm is currently in transition as it works to increase technology and facilities for optimal cow comfort and production. Among those improvements will eventually be renovations to the old barn, turning part of it into a free-stall, as well as computer software that will allow the family to better track each cow’s production.

In between tours, the group gathered at the Eagle’s Club in Marshfield for lunch and to recognize sponsors for the program. MSTC agricultural program instructor Teri Raatz said the day is a great opportunity for students to network with others in the agriculture industry while learning about how different businesses and farms are run. She said the tours have grown over the past couple of years and they hope to continue to expand them in the future.

“The tours are a part of my students’ curriculum so it is just another class for them. They are also open to area farmers and businesses,” Raatz said.

Mid-State Technical College’s agriculture program enrolls students in Farm Operations and Farm Business and Production Management programs. Students can also enroll in a new program, Agribusiness and Science Technology, which allows students to transfer their credits to UW-River Falls Agricultural Studies program.

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