Rosy-Lane Holsteins owner and partner Daphne Holterman will welcome the Wisconsin Idea Seminar in May and give a tour of their 900-cow operation. In advance of our visit–and in between a number of international speaking engagements–she shares insight with us about her time at UW-Madison, her role as an “agvocate,” and the farm’s exploration of robotic milkers. Daphne, who graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in agricultural journalism, oversees the farm’s safety program, human resources, staff training, community relations, and accounting. Beyond the farm she also manages several related businesses, including a small marketing and farm management consulting company with her husband Lloyd. We are looking forward to visiting the farm in May to experience Daphne’s passion for agriculture first-hand. It will be the second visit since 1993.
As a UW-Madison alumna, in what ways did your time at the university, and your Agricultural Journalism major, influence your work today? Coming from a farm outside of a small town in Wisconsin, my time at the university was eye-opening. The atmosphere was welcoming and high-energy. I seemed to fit right in after a couple of weeks of adjusting to city life, and I never looked back! My advisor was wise, kind and truly interested in me, which was not what I expected. Looking back, I think I felt as if I would be just a “number” in a big sea of students. That, of course, was not the case. At that time, the basic tools of the journalism trade were writing and photography yet I learned so much more. I met people from many backgrounds and places. I learned to compromise. I learned how to lead and inspire fellow students. I have used many of these skills in my career dairy farming as our operation has faced challenges of today’s agriculture economy and grown through the past 38 years.
We understand that life on the farm involves a wide variety of job duties. Which is your favorite, and why? I love to sit down and write the Rosy-Lane Record newsletter every quarter. It does not take me very long to write and add photos, but the layout can be tricky for me! I really look forward to capturing on paper what we do here and sharing that with our team, neighbors, landlords, suppliers, and others. And I enjoy hearing back from our readers that they look forward to receiving it.
You consider yourself an ‘agvocate.’ What is that? ‘Agvocate’ is a fairly new term that covers all kinds of activities that helps our customers understand where their food comes from and connect with those of us who farm. I have written blogs in the past, help keep up our Facebook page and other social media, and am active in our local chamber of commerce.
How have organizations, such as the Association of Women in Agriculture, influenced you? The Association of Women in Agriculture (AWA) was THE biggest influencer on my college career, with the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) a close second. I was president of AWA and have fond memories of all members striving to be better personally and professionally. We came from different locations and backgrounds, yet had a love of agriculture that we shared. We focused on securing a living unit (house) for our members and that was a dream that came true. The AWA house at 1909 University Ave. was built in 1994 where 24 students live today. I am so proud of this house and all that it stands for.
How is the Wisconsin Idea integrated into the work that you do? So much data and information is out there today on the web, in news media, etc. Some of it is not rooted in truth/facts. Sifting and winnowing is so important and learning how to do this is vital. In fact, we need to re-learn how to do this and continue to do it, despite our preconceived notions on anything, but especially modern agriculture and food production.
We look forward to visiting Rosy-Lane Holsteins this spring as part of the 2019 Wisconsin Idea Seminar River Tour! What can participants expect to gain from that experience? You will meet our cows, calves and the four partners/owners. You will get to see, touch and smell many things that allow us to care for our land and animals. That is our life-long passion and commitment. It is who we are and it is hard to explain on TV or in a written article. You just have to be here to see it in our eyes and hear it in our voices.
Are there any exciting new technologies or future projects that Rosy-Lane Holsteins is working towards? We are currently exploring how to incorporate robotic milkers into our operation. We think it will give cows more opportunity to express their natural tendencies and get milked when they want to (of course we entice them with a snack!). We already use GPS and other computer technologies to plant and harvest crops more accurately. We are also looking at how to minimize paper records. Some of our technology and practices have been around for some time, such as planting cover crops to improve soil health. One thing we have tracked for more than 10 years is aiming to harvest 1.7 lbs. milk per every 1 lb. of feed fed to milking cows. We are currently achieving this goal. This is a measure of our overall sustainability. With the same inputs, we are able to produce 114 more semi tankers of milk a year than an “average” dairy farm. This adds up year after year, positively influencing our profitability and our environment.
Do you have anything you would like to share with people who might be unfamiliar with Wisconsin agriculture? If you have questions about something, ask a real farmer! The diversity of Wisconsin agriculture is a strength and we can celebrate this and build on it for the future.
Daphne graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Journalism.
Hello, Wisconsin! Stories of the Wisconsin Idea is a profile series that highlights the remarkable ways Wisconsin Idea Seminar alumni, collaborators, and others are animated by the Wisconsin Idea on and off campus.