November 13, 2017

New Barns Help Wisconsin Dairy Grow

 |  By: Wyatt Bechtel

It’s a season of change for one Wisconsin family as they transition ownership and the focus of their business. For the past three years, Fustead Holsteins has been focusing less on the sale of genetics and more on increasing milk production and herd size after moving from a tiestall barn into a freestall.

For the past 30 years, Brian and Wendy Fust have milked 140 cows in a tiestall barn. In 2014, they made the move to invest in new facilities on their farm near Wausau, Wisconsin.

Their son, Tyler, and daughter, Jennifer, are active in the operation and live with their spouses and children just a quarter of a mile from the family farm that was started in 1905.

Building new facilities has helped them expand. When Tyler came back to the farm, a freestall barn was built in addition to a double-12 parallel parlor.

“Every generation has lived together for a while going back to my great-grandpa,” Brian says. “Today, we’re in the process of transitioning [ownership].”

Brian owns the farm and Tyler is gaining equity in the operation by purchasing cows, starting the next transition.

In the old tiestall barn, cows averaged 24,000 lb. Enhancements in cow comfort, milking three times per day and improvements in nutrition, have all aided in the dairy achieving a 31,000 lb. per cow average in the new facilities.

“It has been unbelievable how well [the barn] transition is going,” Brian says.

Genetics have been an interest for Brian since high school. That interest turned into an additional business for Fustead Holsteins by raising several animals for genetic sales that have made a difference in the breed.

Fustead Emory Blitz—ET remains a top selling bull for Select Sires, selling more than 1.6 million units of semen worldwide, from the bull born in 1996. Brian still has some semen in the tank from the bull, who was known for siring high milk producing females and is currently Select Sires’ “All-Time Breeding Bull.”

Genomics are helping Fustead Holsteins identify superior genetics quicker. However, today genetic sales aren’t the focus. Fusts have their eye on milk production.

“There aren’t any guarantees flushing cows, sometimes it goes good and other times you don’t get anything. I have to have a steady income, so milk is our main focus,” Brian says, adding, “but, I still love the genetics part of it.”

Speaking of genetics, dairy farming is in Brian’s genes. He’s a fourth-generation dairyman who hopes someday the sixth-generation will return to the family farm, too.