D&B Sternweis Farms — co-hosts of the 2018 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Wood County, Wis., July 10-12 — is every bit a family farm. Owners Daryl and Brenda Sternweis, Marshfield, have a new 40-cow rotary parlor and are primed for expansion. But their children, the fifth generation on the farm, have participated in chores from early on. And Daryl’s dad, Jim Sternweis, at 85 still helps with fieldwork, as well.
“It’s a really great way to raise a family,” Brenda says.
When the Sternweises’ oldest daughter, Heather, married Josh Heiman in 2016, their lifelong friends and neighbors became “family,” too. Josh’s parents, Ken and Joellen Heiman, and other Heiman family members own Weber’s Farm Store and Heiman Holsteins. The Heimans are co-hosting Wisconsin Farm Tech Days with the Sternweises. Besides being milk producers and retailers, the Heimans are cheesemakers and owners of Nasonville Dairy near Marshfield.
Daryl Sternweis, 53, is a lifelong farmer. “I grew up with it and learned to love it,” he says. “I love the fieldwork part of it. And now with the new freestall barn and rotary, I’ve become a better ‘cow man’ than I ever thought I would be.” Brenda tends the young stock, a role she says is “rewarding.”
Heather, 26, graduated from Mid-State Technical College’s two-year farm program in Marshfield. Many of the classes are taught by Mike Sabel, vice chairman of the WFTD executive committee. With her mother, Heather oversees fresh cows and herd health and is working toward farm ownership.
The Sternweises’ oldest son, Justin, 24, has worked full time on the farm since his high school graduation. Their son Aaron, 22, works off the farm as a diesel mechanic. The other Sternweis children are Brittney, 17; Autumn, 15; Brooke, 13; and Jonathon, 11.
New rotary parlor
The Sternweises flipped the switch on their 40-cow rotary parlor last August. They anticipated milking about 450 Holstein cows three times a day by Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. The rotary is capable of milking as many as 1,300 cows. The milking system is computerized with automatic takeoffs. Other technologies include an automatic crowd gate, hand-held teat scrubber and automated foot bath that fills with the touch of a button for better chemical consistency and employee safety. A touch-screen-operated sort gate can divert cows to a pen off the return alley that holds 30 head.
The new parlor complex has a viewing window, plus an upstairs conference room and office. Cattle are divided into four groups: fresh and special-needs, high-production, heifers and cows. Freestalls in the six-row barn are bedded with sawdust over mattresses. The Sternweises use sawdust in other barns, too.
The farm uses sexed semen on high-end cows and beef semen on cows difficult to breed. Calves are hand-fed in individual pens for a week before moving to group pens with automated feeders. Once weaned, heifers move through a series of facilities. Daryl says in the fall they hope to move 600-pound heifers to a custom grower and have them return bred six months later.
During Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, visitors can board buses for tours of the Sternweises’ rotary parlor and adjoining tunnel-ventilated barn. The farmstead is about a quarter mile from the heart of Tent City. Visitors will not be able to get off the buses.
The family owns about 1,200 acres and rents no additional land to grow corn, alfalfa hay and soybeans. Second-crop haylage harvested during WFTD will be delivered to the Sternweises’ bunkers.
The family shares labor for fieldwork with Heiman Holsteins. They also use one another’s equipment. The Sternweises also share labor and own equipment with Daryl’s brother, Jerry Sternweis, who dairy-farms nearby.
Brenda says her family is honored to be co-hosting the 2018 show for Wood County. They’re grateful for the opportunity to promote farming, which for them is a mix of traditional family-farming values and practices, and new technology that will move their farm into the future.
Source: Wisconsin Farm Technology Days