COVID-19 Response

For information about fall semester instruction and campus operations, please visit

During this time, please contact us at

UW Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmer school offers classes and mentoring at sites across the state

If you’re in the process of setting up a dairy or livestock operation or hope to do so, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a class to help you get started. And you don’t have to travel to Madison to take it.

The university’s Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF) will be offered at as many as 15 distance education sites around the state this year, but at least three students must sign up for a site for the program to be offered there.

Participants in the Farm Services Agency’s (FSA) beginning farmer loan programs, as well as apprentices in the new Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) program are encouraged to enroll. The WSBDF is an approved vendor for both FSA and DGA business training.

The distance education classrooms are designed for students who want to start farming but aren’t able to attend class in Madison. Each classroom will have video and audio links to the weekly seminar based in Madison, but will also have an on-site instructor and feature guest lectures by local grazing specialists, farm lenders and experienced farmers. Students also tour local farms and have opportunities to participate in internships and industry conferences.

“Our students consistently tell us that these opportunities to talk to farmers, especially young graduates of the WSBDF who are succeeding in dairy and livestock farming, is one of most valuable parts of the program,” says program director Dick Cates.

The WSBDF curriculum covers all aspects of business planning, from farm selection, design and remodeling to animal and pasture management. About three-fourths of those who graduated from WSBDF since 1996 are now farming. Of those, about half started their own farm enterprise or new farm business.

The school is offered through the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course. The 15-week course begins November 8 and meets every Thursday from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. through March 21 (the class meets Tuesday, November 20 during Thanksgiving week and takes a four-week break in late December and January).

Tuition and fees vary by site, number of credits earned and how the student enrolls. Typically, students who take the class at an off-campus site pay between $200 and $300 (and end up with a completed business plan).  Students who want to earn a certificate of completion or 1-3 college credits (either UW-Madison or Wisconsin Technical College) pay the per-credit fee charged by the institution.

The deadline for applications for the distance sites is November 1. Some scholarships are available. Those interested should contact the facilitator at the appropriate site:

– Appleton: Randy Tenpas, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-735-5673,

– Chilton: Jeremy Hanson, Fox Valley Technical College @ Chilton Regional Center, 920- 849-4416; or Greg Booher, Lakeshore Technical College, 920-693-1241;

– Green Bay:  Valerie Dantoin-Adamski, NE WI Technical College, 920-498-5568;

– Ladysmith: Rich Toebe, UW-Extension, Rusk County, 715-532-2151,

– Neillsville: Maria Bendixen, UW-Extension, Clark County, 715-743-5121;

– Medford: Sandy Stuttgen, UW-Extension, Taylor County, 715-748-3327;

– Menomonie: Mark Denk, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-577-3036;

– Phillips: Mark Kopecky, UW-Extension Price County, 715-339-2555;

– Prairie du Chien: Vance Haugen, UW Extension, Crawford County, 608-326-0223;

– Reedsburg: Doug Marshall, MATC-Reedsburg, 608-524-7727;

– Spooner: Otto Wiegand, UW-Extension, Washburn, Sawyer & Burnett Counties, 715-635-3506,

– Thorp: Brad Sirianni, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-579-5834;

– Viroqua: Jean Stramel, Grazing Specialist, 608-647-8874 ext110;

– Waupaca:  Lynn Jerrett, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-831-4387;

– Wausau: Victoria Pietz, Northcentral Technical College, 715-803-1414;

To get application materials to attend the WSBDF on the Madison campus, or to get more information about any aspect of the program, go online to or call 608-265-6437.

For more information, contact Richard Cates, 608-265-6437, 608-588-2836,; or Steve Neary, 608-265-6437,