I start my day the same way many farmers do all across the country. Regardless of how many animals are in their care, or the method of production they’ve chosen for their farm, farmers gets up and check their animals. I make sure ours are comfortable and secure, with plenty of food, water and dry places to rest. Our animals come first no matter the day, time of year, how little sleep I’ve had or what the weather conditions are like. It’s who we are; it’s a reason to wake up.
We grow corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and have a 60-cow herd of beef cattle. After 11 years of directly marketing finished beef to consumers, we decided to change how we market our cows. Today, we sell our calves as feeders at weaning age, which is around 7 months old.
Raising cattle naturally for consumers seeking out minimally processed meat was time and labor intensive. Our choice to change how we sell our cows was made when our son, Grant, started a dairy cow herd more than a year ago. This gave us the opportunity to help him grow his part of the farm. Grant graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a degree in animal science and a dairy emphasis. He has had an interest in the dairy industry his whole life and started working for dairy farms as a teenager. Our choice in how we raise our cattle was influenced by the resources available on the farm, including time.
Gary grew up farming with his parents and grandfather, while I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and became a farmer by marriage. Now, we farm together on Willow Lea Stock Farm. The land where our cattle graze during the spring, summer and fall has been in my husband’s family since the 1840s. For us, farming is a family affair; we have one full-time employee who is a cousin and a few other seasonal workers, and we are excited that Grant is pursuing his passion for the dairy industry.
We strive to be good stewards of the land and animals we care for. Our goal is to be productive and responsible on our farm. This is a choice that we’ve made because it’s the right thing to do and what is best for our land, family and consumers.