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Friday, 02 June 2017 10:17

Bring the family to the Rock County Dairy Breakfast

Written by  Todd Mishler

STATELINE NEWS -- Life has come full circle for Dana and Matt Brandl, at least when it comes to their families and dairy breakfasts.

Their parents were in the spotlight in 2007 as the Karlens hosted the Green County affair while the Brandls entertained at the Rock County event.

However, Dana and Matt are doing the honors for the latter gathering this year.

The Rock County Dairy Promotion Council’s annual celebration is scheduled for Saturday, June 10, 2017,  from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the farm at 10817 E. Lake Shore Road in Clinton. Cost is $6 for adults and $2 for children 10 and younger.

Several thousand people are expected to visit the property located on East Lake Shore Road just southeast of Clinton, which his parents, Dave and Anne, bought in 1985.

“They came to us last fall about hosting, which is kind of neat because it’s 10 years since our families did it,” Dana said. “The council has been unbelievable to work with. They have experience and have an outline of everything that’s scheduled. They do all of the set-up, and they are in charge of lining up the specialists, like a nutritionist and a veterinarian. But they’re flexible and open to other ideas.”

Meanwhile, Matt and Dana, who have been married for three years, remain in partnership with his folks but took over daily operation of the farm last year.

They have about 315 acres, 300 of them planted in corn and hay, which stays on the farm to feed a herd of 250 milking cows. They produce nearly 650,000 pounds -- 75,500 gallons -- of milk every month.

They spend about 12 hours daily milking, including cleanup, with shifts starting at 4 a.m., noon and 8 p.m.

“The people who get here early enough (for the dairy breakfast) should get to see us finish up our first milking that day,” Matt said of their parallel parlor that features eight cows on each side and involves three people, one on each side and one to move the animals in and out and clean barns.

Every ounce of that milk is accounted for, and technology has helped tremendously.

“Dad used to keep track of everything in paper notebooks,” Matt said, remembering how tough it was to find the right information sometimes. “Now, everything is computerized and much faster.”

The Brandls’ operation features a crew of about 10 full- and part-time workers, mostly family members and a couple of good friends. However, Dave endured open-heart surgery on Easter Day and isn’t back to 100 percent yet, a situation that doesn’t suit someone who enjoys the rigors of farm life.

Families like the Brandls know nothing else other than working and farming. That even applies to Matt and Dana’s 2-year-old son, Max, who takes his job seriously, hauling feed for the cows back and forth in his Little Tikes red wagon.

“I can’t imagine Matt doing anything else,” Dana said. “In farming, you need experience in so many areas … crop production, the veterinary field, fixing equipment.”

Matt responds: “When we’ve got a sick cow, I call Dana and ask her what I should do.”

That’s because she does lab work at Stateline Veterinary Service in Darien on a part-time basis.

Dana is from near Monticello, about 10 miles north of Monroe, where she and her siblings were the fourth generation to live on the land that has been in the family of Swiss ancestry since 1926.

“I helped feed calves pretty much since I started to walk,” she said.

They met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Matt was taking a short course in agriculture after studying business at UW-Whitewater for a year.

His yearning to return to the farm had proven to be too strong, so he followed his heart.

“It involves long days, but I love farming,” Matt said. “And I love working for myself.”

And that means, among many factors, keeping abreast of changing technology and the sometimes-volatile financial markets.

The Brandls were not affected by the recent drama involving Wisconsin milk producers and trade issues with Canada.

“Anytime you have so much milk on the market, it can affect the whole system more long term or indirectly,” he said.

They belong to the Rolling Hills Dairy Cooperative, which started in 2006 with 13 members, including Dave Brandl. Today it includes 170 farmers throughout southern Wisconsin.

And some of them no doubt were among the estimated 3,800 people who attended the previous event at the Brandl farm despite the fact Janesville and other parts of the county received rain that morning in June 2007.

“We’re anticipating around 4,500 to attend, but we’re preparing for 5,000,” Matt said.

But he and Dana are looking forward to playing host again.

“Many people still don’t know a lot about how a family farm works or where their milk comes from,” Dana said. “We treat these 300 (calves) like they’re our babies. It’s good for people to see that these families are committed to farming.”

The dairy promotions council will have a large tent and tables set up in a green space adjacent to the house, and parking will be in the field to the west. The Rock County event is one of the more than 72 breakfasts across Wisconsin promoting June Dairy Month.

The all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast includes ham patties, yogurt, cheese sticks, applesauce, ice cream, milk and coffee. Activities include tours, a crafty cow contest, music from the band Heatwave and the Rock County 4-H choir, a small animal display, tractor wagon rides and the Rock County ag ambassador leading an educational game area for children.

But the event is about much more than that.

“I like hosting the dairy breakfast because it means cleaning up some things you normally don’t get to,” Dana said, to which her husband responded, jokingly, of course, “I don’t like it because you have to clean up things you normally don’t get to.”


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