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School For Beginning Dairy Farmers Applications Due October 20th

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers offers qualified students the chance to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, special training sessions, seminars in the management of grazing-based dairy farms, farm internships, mentoring by experienced graziers and UW faculty, classroom and field experience, and the potential for future support and training.

Applications must be received by Oct. 20 for the class that begins Nov. 14 and runs through mid-March on the UW-Madison campus. The class is followed by on-farm internships. Students who choose internships work and usually live on the farms of veteran Wisconsin graziers who serve as teachers and mentors. A variety of scholarships are available to help WSBDF students with tuition and internship expenses.

This past summer, two international internships at New Zealand grass-based dairy farms were available, thanks to a grant from the Babcock Institute at the UW-Madison. Mike Tomandl of Athens, Wis. and Joe Hemierl of Cleveland, Wis., both from family dairy farms, were chosen to take their internships in New Zealand. Both students reported that they had the “experience of a lifetime.”

For individuals interested in the grass-based dairy seminar only, a distance education option is available. The seminar is available by internet hookup through participants” home computers. The distance education option costs $300 for the first person per site; additional students at one site are $100 per person.

Based at the UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the distance education option will allow students to “meet” with the experts on their home computers. The seminar will be taught at the Animal Sciences building on the CALS campus, with audio and streaming video transmitted over the internet to home PCs.

Through presentations and discussions, the seminar will familiarize students with the principles and practices of developing and managing a grass-based dairy farm business. Instructors include grass-based dairy farmers, UW-Madison scientists and UW-Extension specialists and county agents, and representatives of ag lending and other ag agencies.

The course will meet on Wednesdays for three terms, from Nov. 14 to mid-March.

Term 1 will cover starting a grass-based dairy business, including goal-setting, economic and agronomic principles, fencing, watering and lane construction, farm selection and grazing-system layout, winter feeding and housing, milking center design, and for the first time, a session on grass-based sheep dairying.

Term 2 will cover developing a business plan, including loans and grants, business arrangements for a dairy start-up, and software for start-up projections.

Term 3 will cover managing the business, including pasture nutrition and ration balancing, herd health, breeding and reproduction, and buying feed and selling milk.

To register or learn more, call (608) 262-5200 or (608) 588-2836; fax: (608) 265-3020; mail: Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, c/o CIAS, 146 Agriculture Hall, UW-Madison, Madison, WI 53706; e-mail:

You can also learn more about WSBDF at Farm Progress Days, Sept. 18 – 20; school materials will be displayed in the Beginning Farmers Tent.

The only program of its kind in the nation, the school is sponsored by the CALS Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, in cooperation with GrassWorks, Inc.; Cooperative Extension, UW-Extension; the Wisconsin Technical College System; the Farm Link Service of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; and grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Grazing Land Conservation Initiative and Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Additional support comes from the Mike Cannell Scholarship Fund and other private endowments held within the UW Foundation. Contact the UW Foundation to learn more about how you can support the WSBDF.