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A visit to the Spooner ARS – Audio

A visit to Spooner Ag Research Station

Phil Holman, Research Program Manager
Spooner Agricultural Research Station
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
3:03 – Total Time
0:12 – Mission of Spooner Research Station
0:35 – What’s unique about the sheep research at Spooner
0:53 – How does this research help Wisconsin’s sheep industry
1:13 – What crop research is done at Spooner
2:52 – Lead out



Sevie Kenyon: Phil, can you tell us a little bit about of the missions here of the Spooner research Station?

Phil Holman: The Spooner Ag Research Station now is the northern most agricultural station that works on crop production, and our animal that we have is sheep, and we are the only dairy research facility in North America. So we do all the different crops, as well as dairy sheep research for the University.

Sevie Kenyon: What’s unique about the sheep research here?

Phil Holman: Well, the unique part is that we milk the sheep. They don’t give a lot of production, but they produce a high value of milk that then is used for specialty cheeses or yogurts by different manufacturers in the state, as well as we can ship it anywhere in the United States.

Sevie Kenyon: And how is that helping the sheep business here in the state?

Phil Holman: It has started a thriving dairy sheep industry. There’s a dairy sheep co-op, there’s independent producers, producers that sell to cheese makers in the state, as well as we sell breeding and livestock sheep of the dairy breeds throughout the United States.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you tell us a little bit about the agronomic research that happens here?

Phil Holman: The agronomic research is that we being the northern most station in the agronomy, we have the corn; soybeans, the shorter season varieties are tested here, as well as we do any fertility trials for what rates of fertilizer. We’ve done trials on soil ph, we also have alfalfa trials, fertilizer trials with alfalfa, [and] forage grasses. We also have Switch Grass, Indian grass, Big Blue Stem for some heading dates as well as some Biomass. They’re looking at the ethanol capacity; just seeing what types of crops we can grow in this little bit shorter season climate than the southern part of the state.

[The sheep milking season at Spooner]:

Our flock is around 300 dairy ewes (are saved each year), and we start lambing in January, and we lamb in groups of about 100, so three different groups. One at the end of January, one in February, and one goes March/April (the ewe lambs). And we raise the lambs; we need to save about 100 for replacements, and the rest are then sold for meat lambs. There’s some for breeding stock. And we start milking, soon, right after lambing, and we milk (it’s a seasonal operation), we milk until mid September or early October is when we finish the milking season. We milk twice a day up until mid August or early September, and then drop to once a day as their lactation and their milk production decreases. So that’s kind of the season in a nutshell. It takes high quality forages to get good milk production, and we do research on different feeding trials, milk quality, mastitis control, lamb growth, different feeds for the lambs and such.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Phil Holman, Superintendent, Spooner Agricultural Research Station, University of Wisconsin and the College of Agricultural and Life Science, Madison, Wisconsin, and I am Sevie Kenyon.