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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From pasture to palate

--- Walworth County Farm Bureau Dairy Breakfast is June 21

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

Paul Brockmeyer is just finishing the day's first of two rounds of milking his 43 Holstein and Brown Swiss cows at 10 a.m. on his rural Whitewater farm. Each round can take anywhere from one to four hours apiece.

Terry Mayer/The Week
Paul Brockmeyer, and Dounut, will be at the 32nd Annual Dairy Breakfast bright and early next Saturday morning as hosts of this year's event.
His right and left hands, Daisy the Australia brown heeler and Molly the border collie, wrestle and play nearby now that they're off duty for a little while.

Daisy is the veteran Brockmeyer herder and has been teaching Molly the ropes for the past year. Molly nips at Daisy's jowls until she's had enough and gives her a stern nip back.

Spring calves call out from their pens for more bottles for their ever-hungry bellies and a few of his 43 milking heifers--Slice, Lynette, Dounut, Anna and Silver--remain in the barn, chomping hay in their stanchions.

Brockmeyer is happy to take some time to talk about his farm and the dairy industry to anyone interested in a lesson about Wisconsin's leading farm industry.

"You have to promote yourself or people will forget about you," Brockmeyer says. "There are fewer people in farming with every generation."

Not too long ago most of the kids in school lived on farms, he said. Now it's their grandparents who were the last in their families who grew up on farms.

That's just the reason he was honored to be chosen as the host family for this year's Walworth County Farm Bureau Dairy Breakfast, to be held at the Walworth County Fairgrounds June 21.

"We were happy to be the host family," he said. "I'll stand and talk to people as long as they want to stay and ask questions."

And he's not kidding--he's a walking fact-filled encyclopedia of information.

Did you know the Holstein breed became popularized during World War II because their milk was best in making dehydrated milk, a staple in American kitchens?

Did you know cows' tails are often cropped in larger dairy operations so other cows can't step on them?

And did you know that organically labeled milk isn't any more organic than non-organically labeled milk?

"Every truckload is tested," he said. "And if yours has antibiotics, you don't just buy your milk back, you have to buy all the milk in that truck. And nobody wants to buy a truckload of milk."

He enjoys talking to people and is pleasantly surprised at the types of questions he gets from people who have never even been in a barn.

"They ask very intelligent questions. I made a video of our whole process and people really watch it closely."

Brockmeyer started farming in 1971 in cash grains, adding the milking herd in 1984. His 43 milking cows and 30 replacement heifers are rotationally grazed on about 50 of his 180 acres and milked with individual milking machines by himself, daughter Meghan and/or Noah Meilke, Brockmeyer's "very helpful and competent" part-time employee and high school student.

"Meghan is at Platteville getting a pre-vet degree," he said. "She'll probably be the one to come back and run the farm."

The average age of the milking herd is six years, he said. "And by then they've paid for themselves many times over."

The farm is a member of the Swiss Valley milk cooperative and their milk is shipped to one of many locations in Wisconsin and Illinois to become mainly cheese and milk as end products.

Along with sharing his vast knowledge of the industry inside and out at the dairy breakfast, Brockmeyer will also be bringing his own cows for the milking contests and as life-sized show-and-tell examples.

"Which one do you want to milk you, a Republican or a Democrat?" he playfully asks Dounut.

"People are surprised at how big they are," he says, getting back on topic. "And my cows aren't as big as some of those who breed for size. I breed mainly for disposition."

While this is Brockmeyer's first time as host family for the Dairy Breakfast, he's no stranger to teaching about farming.

"We've hosted lots of farm tours and taken cows and calves to various schools in Wisconsin and Illinois for many years."

Brockmeyer is active with the Walworth County Dairy Promotion Committee, is an instructor with the Walworth, Racine and Kenosha Counties Tractor Safety Program and occasionally does long-term teaching assignments in agricultural education.

He's married to Kathy, a medical technologist at Fort Health Care and they have three grown children, Kyle, Lindsey and Meghan, who were all active in showing cattle through 4-H and FFA.

The Dairy Breakfast menu is scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage, coffee cake, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and of course, lots of milk. There will also be 10- and 15-mile bike rides. For more information, call 723-3228 or visit www.walworthcountyfair.com.


To Do

What: 32nd Annual Walworth County Farm Bureau Dairy Breakfast

Where: Walworth County Fairgrounds, 411 E. Court St., Elkhorn and Featured Dairy Farm of Paul and Kathy Brockmeyer, N7617 Engel Road, Whitewater.

When: June 21, 6-10:30 a.m.

Tickets: $5 in advance, $6 at the gate

More info: 723-3228 or www.walworthcountyfair.com



Anonymous Nancie and David Peterson - Madrid NE said...

Congratulations Paul and Kathy! Of course I can be extra proud because Paul is my brother and Kathy and I are like sisters. Paul forgot to tell all of you that my husband and I get to help with milking chores whenever we are in Wisconsin. Living in Nebraska keeps us out of the barn most of the time though. Promoting dairy is an important part of agriculture. We are retired farmers here in NE. Wheat, and corn have been our main crops.
We salute all our farming neighbors in Wisconsin and Nebraska.

June 27, 2008 8:29 PM  

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