DenMar Acres: Change & growth
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Posted by: Joanna Wavrunek, digital communications manager
Dennis Zirbel and his wife, Mary, started DenMar Acres in 1997 in Greenleaf with 150 cows. Their sons, Jeremy, Jeff and Jesse, have since joined in the operation, which now has 950 cows.
The farm has a double-12 parlor, a freestall barn housing with sand bedding and uses 1,900 acres of cropland to feed the cows. The farm has eight full-time workers and one full-time herdsman, and Jeremy’s wife, Holly, takes care of the bookkeeping and payroll. The milk goes to Belgioioso Cheese.
DBA: What are you most proud of on your farm?
Zirbels: We are a family farm that is constantly changing and growing. We are proud of how far we have come. We adapt to change and keep moving forward. The last few years have seen a huge jump in technology, upgrades and environmental changes. We pride ourselves in our work ethic, sustainability practices, employee management and love for our dairy.
DBA: What sustainable practices are you using on the farm and what benefits have you seen?
Zirbels: We have been using cover crops for the past couple of years and have found many benefits. Soil erosion and nutrient runoff are greatly reduced and our soil compaction has lessened and improved with added organic matter. With less soil compaction, we have been able to utilize no-till and reduced tillage on our fields.
DBA: How do you engage the non-farming public about dairy farming?
Zirbels: We never turn down an opportunity to answer questions about what we do. We also support the Brown County Breakfast on the Farm each year and encourage neighbors, friends and family to go, enjoy, ask questions and get a feel for what it is like and how hard these farms work day in and day out.
DBA: What advice would you offer to young farmers?
Zirbels: Education is key. Have a good base of animal health, feed and nutrition knowledge. Stay up to date on the technology that is up and coming and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use all the resources available to you, be it your local FSA office or organizations like the DBA.
DBA: What does the future hold for DenMar Acres?
Zirbels: We will continue to work toward growing. Growing in excellence, milk quality, employee management, conservation practices and technology upgrades.
DBA: What do you see as major challenges and opportunities facing the dairy community in the future?
Zirbels: Some of the challenges facing the dairy industry are below-market basis milk prices and rising costs of production. The ever-changing labor and immigration laws are also a challenge for many of us. Also, many farmers are already working on reducing their carbon footprint by utilizing cover crops, proper crop rotation and the use of no-till or reduced tillage.
DBA: What technologies have you incorporated on your farm that have greatly benefited your business or what technologies do you see as having a great impact on our dairy community moving forward?
Zirbels: We have been using the AFI Farm leg band system for a few years now and wouldn’t want it any other way. We have been able to monitor herd health, breedings, activity, milk production and quality more efficiently and accurately. We recently added Lely Juno feed pushers. Not only does it save on labor and fuel/skid steer use, but we now have a constant supply of feed pushed up for our cows as they come back from the parlor. Bonus for everyone!
DBA: If you were talking to people who do not have any connection to agriculture, what would you want to tell them about your farm or the dairy community?
Zirbels: We would love for anyone that maybe does not understand what we do or why we do things to simply ask. No question is a wrong question! We truly do love our job, our cows, our employees and our land. We take pride in the great Wisconsin agriculture community and just encourage everyone to tour a farm, ask questions and get involved.
DBA: You have been a member of DBA since March 2007. What benefit do you find most helpful?
Zirbels: We have utilized our membership by taking part in the many conferences and educational events. We also love the many news feeds we get regarding what’s going on in Washington, new farming regulations and practices, and what others are doing regarding sustainability, technology and dairy advancements.
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