Dan Wiese, partner in Wiese Brothers Farms, compares the 6,000-cow herd to the residents of a town or village. Each one needs to be fed and their waste needs to be managed. At Wiese Brothers, they aim to feed their herd in an efficient, cost-effective way and handle their manure to be good stewards of the community and environment around them.
Wiese Brothers own and operate a feed mill and trucking company in addition to the dairy. The diversity of the business allows for commodity trading.
According to a recent study, food waste is the number one contributor to landfills in Wisconsin. Food waste takes up valuable space in landfills and contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions. Feeding byproducts of human food production to dairy cattle offers a new home for food that would otherwise be wasted.
“If a human can eat it, it will usually do well in the rumen.” says Dan Wiese.
Truckloads of product will be rejected from processing plants for a myriad of reasons. Wiese’s are located about 25 miles south of Green Bay, putting them in an ideal location to accept these products.
Wieses are often able to obtain these products at a reasonable cost. They work closely with their nutritionist to balance these varying products in the ration.
The dairy cow is a wonderful recycler. She is able to turn those food byproducts into delicious, nutritious dairy products.
Some byproducts will drive intake, resulting in higher milk production. Other byproducts are better suited for heifer feed where the ration is balanced for growth rather than producing milk.
The base ingredients of the cow’s diet are still corn silage and haylage and remain consistent day to day. Fruity Pebbles, granola, cranberry hulls and candy are a few examples of products that have been worked into the ration at Wiese Brothers. These products are often high in starch and sugar that are used as energy in the cow’s diet.
Implementing high-energy byproducts in the cow’s diet offers a cost savings, aligning with the goal of being efficient and cost effective.
Adding these various products to the cow’s diet comes with some trial and error. “You learn more from your failures than your successes,” says Dan Wiese.
When it comes to sustainability, every farm is different. Wiese Brothers have found an economic and environmental benefit in implementing byproducts in their dairy herd ration.
Rachel Gerbitz is WFBF’s Director of Sustainability Communications and Partnerships. In this newly-created role, she oversees the organization’s sustainability communication efforts. Rachel grew up in Rock County where she was involved in 4-H and the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association. She now lives in Kaukauna. In her spare time, Rachel manages her small herd of registered Jersey cattle.