Who would think that agreeing to provide a tour of your farm would lead you to another country?
The Fetzers and Holtermans do. They have had the opportunity to travel around the world and share insights about the Wisconsin dairy community, their farms and management styles.
We asked Lloyd and Daphne Holterman of Rosy-Lane Holsteins and Paul and Char Fetzer at Fetzer Farms and about their experiences.
Lloyd and Daphne were excited to engage others on dairy trends in Wisconsin and learn more about the dairy community in other countries.
What countries have you visited to speak about dairy? Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and United Kingdom.
How did you get involved in these events? Lloyd was first asked to speak about Holstein genetics at the British Cattle Breeders Conference at Cambridge University in the UK in 1992. Next, we went to Australia to a world-wide dairy conference to share our positive experiences with rBST and our herd management.
All along, we had been hosting tours during World Dairy Expo for international farmers interested in herd management, facilities and genetics. Genetics seem to interest most farmers so the groups then often asked us to come to their country and elaborate on that topic. More recently, some speaking has focused on our track record of no antibiotics used in the milking herd for the past five years. (Genetic selection is a part of that.)
What topics do you cover? Besides genetics, we have also addressed human resources, cow housing facilities and our growth strategies.
What have been common conversations? In most countries we talk about herd management practices, current service sires, milk price, feeding and labor issues.
What have you observed? Dairying in each country is different, yet the same. The people are always committed to caring for their cows. In Europe, farmers are very responsive to what consumers want. They are always looking for a way to do things more efficiently, from feeding calves to milking and feed harvesting. Tax levies vary widely from country to country and can be most interesting.
What were the differences? Cost structures and market signals vary widely. Some countries provide subsidies for dairy farmers based on per acre of land. Some subsidize purchase of new field and milking equipment to encourage investment in milk/food production.
The Fetzers recently traveled to Australia and New Zealand. It made them aware of challenges that others face around the world.
How did you get involved? A few months ago, we had brothers Mike and Tim Ryan from a sales company called Eagle Direct in Australia tour our new heifer facilities with John McBride and Mike Wolf from VES Environmental. Before I finished the tour, they asked if I would be interested in going to an open house at a dairy they were working at in Australia.
What topics did you present on? Farmers in Australia are getting more involved in confinement and moving away from grazing. I presented on how Wisconsin farms handle extreme weather patterns, confined housing for animals, multi-generational farms, cow comfort and transitioning cows to a new facility.
Did you see similarities to Wisconsin dairy? They are focused on nutrition, hoof trimming, milk production and grow similar crops such as corn silage and haylage. They face similar challenges with different animals. For example, we have issues with starlings and they have the same issue with cockatoos. Unfortunately, they deal with strong environmentalists and anti-animal activists that attack their farms.
What were the differences? They don’t see the same weather extremes as we do here and experience a drier heat.