HALE, Wis. – When the annual dance and chicken fry was canceled for the Hale Fire Department in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, the firefighter members put their minds together. They proposed an alternative – instead of having chicken they would celebrate June Dairy Month with a social-distancing drive-thru breakfast.

Volunteering to host the breakfast was Hale resident Trish Brown along with her husband, Judd Brown, and their two boys, Eastan and Coltan. Trish Brown was eager to show her new 32-cow tie-stall barn built in 2019. The Browns bought the farm in 2012; they used the original milking facility until this past year when the barn was destroyed in a fire. Brown thinks the fire started from a small refrigerator used in the barn.

They were able to rescue their herd of 50 cows and no animals were lost during the fire. But the herd needed to be destroyed due to lung damage caused by the smoke. Brown’s determination to raise her boys on a farm and stay home with her children led her to rebuild.

“I built back to raise a family,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about. My husband works off-farm; I didn’t want to send the kids to daycare.”

Judd Brown is responsible for fieldwork and some of the feeding, which he does after working his off-farm job. Trish Brown said it means a lot of late-night hours for her husband trying to work two jobs.

The new barn includes eight computerized auto-takeoff units that run on a rail from the milkhouse washer to each cow. That relieves some of the body stress of lifting heavy units and shortens milking time. With the automated system Brown can easily milk the herd by herself. The microprocessors in the units help her monitor herd health, production and wash time.

With the new barn came a new herd of registered Holsteins from New York – Red and White, and black and white. Brown’s attention to conformity and production has brought her awards for her Red and White Sellcrest D Cheeto Red, 4, which brought eighth place at World Dairy Expo. She earned a senior champion and reserve grand champion at the North American International Livestock Exposition. The cow, officially owned by Coltan, was recently classified as an EX-91.

“I’m building something for the boys if they want it,” Brown said.

In addition to the 205-acre home farm, Judd and Trish Brown rent another 80 acres where they keep 80 head of Holstein steers they purchase for feeding out and using their extra feed. Dairy heifers from the milking string are raised at home, separate from the steers to prevent any possible spread of disease.

Because farm tours were not part of the breakfast, a video was made to show visitors as they waited in their cars for their meals. It included a cameo appearance from former owner Ed Prudlick who lived on the farm from 1944 until 2005.

“I’m glad to see cows still on the farm being milked,” Prudlick said. “That was my dream.”

The farm breakfast was a culmination of all the work Judd and Trish Brown have done to create a first-class dairy farm.

LeeAnne Bulman writes about agriculture from her farm overlooking the beautiful Danuser Valley on Wisconsin’s west coast. When not writing she helps her husband on their small grain and beef farm.