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In the News: Staff Columns

Winter's here: Now what?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joanna Wavrunek, digital communications manager
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By MaryBeth Matzek, for DBA

Once the cold sets in, and the crops are tucked away, the pace on dairy farms slows. This gives farmers an opportunity to step back and take stock.

What do the finances look like heading into the new year? What special projects didn’t I get to? How can I improve?

Steve Abel of Abel Dairy Farms in Eden said he uses the winter months for planning and maintenance projects. Planning can include reviewing crop and field plans as well as tackling finances.

“We tend to do more building maintenance, if possible, whether it is the freestalls, headlocks, fans or lighting,” Abel said. “Our cropping and outside crew will also spend a lot of time working on the planting and harvesting equipment in the shop.”

This winter is a bit busier at Kieler Farms in Platteville where construction is finishing up on the dairy’s new 1,900-stall cross-ventilated freestall barn and 50-stall rotary parlor.

“Moving into the new barn during winter will help us focus our time on the barn and the cows since there is no field work to be done during winter,” said Renee Clark, a third-generation dairy farmer at Kieler Farms. “Moving into the barn will be time-consuming and all the quirks will have to be figured out, but we’re excited for this next project.”

While winters are normally a bit more relaxed than the rest of the year, Clark said there is still plenty of work to do – even without the big move.

“We tend to work on machinery in our heated shop, plan next year’s crops and complete projects that were not done throughout the year,” she said.

Clark said the management team meets monthly to look at finances, but that the end of the year is a good time to “review finances from the year and make plans for the upcoming year.”

Since Abel does not have to think about field work during the winter, he said it frees up time for more detailed business planning.

“We work with a dairy business financial consultant all year, but the late fall and early winter months are when we do our budgeting for the next year,” he said. “It is also a good time to do more investigating and planning for future projects.”
The winter months also provide dairy farmers with their best opportunity to grab some time off.

“We have a very good team that allows my wife and I the time to take a trip to someplace tropical every winter,” said Abel, adding that the winter months are an ideal time to visit other dairies and attend seminars and trainings.

The Clarks also try to squeeze in a trip with their young daughters to an indoor waterpark each winter although that is not always easy. After all, this is Wisconsin.

“Taking time off in the winter holds challenges of its own because waters can freeze, blizzards occur and everything seems to take a little longer due to cold temperatures,” Clark said.

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