Few students know about the careers available in agriculture, which is why Lomira Middle School teacher Troy Risse brought his seventh-graders to Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County, Wis.
“They think you can milk a cow and that’s about it,” he said during the late March tour. “But there are a lot of career opportunities out there.”
The ag industry needs workers. Not only are most farms in need of workers now, the average age of workers in the industry is increasing. Bringing students in for farm tours is one way to help them keep an ag-related career in mind.
Fifty students toured Rosendale as part of the school’s career exploration day. They viewed the climate-controlled barns where the cows lay on comfortable sand bedding, the milking parlor with its twin 80-cow carousels, the nursery with newborn calves and the biodigester, which converts the dairy’s animal waste into electricity.
“The cows are like little kids riding the carousal, sometimes they don’t want to get off,” joked tour guide C.J. Ortiz.
A scanner on the milking carousal checks which cow is getting on and then measures her milk output. If employees notice a cow’s output is down, that could be a sign the animal isn’t feeling well.
Oritz also explained how the milk goes directly from the cows via pipes into waiting tanker trucks. Along the way, it’s cooled. Each day, 15 tankers of milk go to a food processing plant in Appleton where it’s used in multiple food products.
About 25 to 35 calves are born every day at Rosendale. Then, they travel to Calf Source in De Pere and then at 6 months old, they travel to Heifer Source in Liberal, Kan.
“The cows come back here about two months before calving,” Ortiz said. “It’s neat how they come back to their home dairy.”
Rosendale employs 90, including 70 who work directly with the dairy’s 7,800 cows.
“These are good jobs and you get vacation and health insurance,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said many employees are like her husband, who was promoted several times and now oversees the herd.
“Milk Source really encourages growth within the company and invests in its workers,” she said. “They help you get the schooling and training you need.”
Let’s hope tours like these convince more people to go into the ag industry.