WATERTOWN, Wis. – McFarlandale Dairy has long been a fixture of the Watertown area. The family farm, established in 1852, at one time bottled milk and delivered it to area residents. The farm is now operated by the fifth and sixth generations of the McFarland family. They will be hosting the 2019 Watertown Agri-Business Club dairy breakfast.

Peter and Cindy McFarland, along with their daughter and son-in-law Christine and Robb Bender, milk about 650 cows and farm about 1,000 acres. They have nine employees. Robb Bender has an off-farm job working for GPS Dairy Consulting LLC. But he does McFarlandale Dairy’s nutrition work and participates in the farm’s weekly management meetings.

Christine Bender and her brother, Mark McFarland, were welcome to pursue careers away from the farm, their father said. Mark McFarland is a financial adviser for Edward Jones in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Prior to returning to the family farm in 2016, Christine Bender was a dairy nutritionist.

“It was good to have worked away from the farm, but I realized I was fortunate to have what we had at home,” she said.

Peter McFarland said, “It’s wonderful she wants to continue farming. And we’ve started the process of transitioning the farm business to Christine and Robb.”

The family began working with a financial consultant about three years ago. They continue to meet on a quarterly basis to evaluate their costs of production. They also do benchmarking to compare their operation to other dairy farms.

Cindy McFarland pays the farm’s bills and compares commodity prices. In today’s narrow-margin environment one must keep a close watch on everything, she said.

The family has expanded the milking herd from 100 to 650 cows since the Benders joined the farm. Peter McFarland said prior to that he and his wife had been accustomed to doing most of the work themselves. But he needed to step back when he was diagnosed with cancer. He said he’s doing well now, but credits his family and employees for managing the farm.

Christine Bender manages the herd. Cows are milked three times daily. They average 98 pounds of milk per day, with 3.88 percent butterfat and 3.03 percent protein. The family contracts with an individual to raise heifers off-site. They also work with a custom harvester to harvest their corn silage and haylage.

Bender said she’s excited to host the Watertown Agri-Business Club dairy breakfast. It will be the first time the McFarland family has hosted the two-day event, which annually attracts about 5,000 people.

Brad Brusveen, president of the Watertown Agri-Business Club, said the organization has held the annual breakfast for about 50 years.

“We’re very happy McFarlandale Dairy is hosting this year’s breakfast,” he said. “They’re great people, have a modern dairy farm and are just outside of Watertown so we should have great crowds.”

The breakfast will feature a raffle. The Watertown Agri-Business Club invests proceeds from the raffle and profits from the breakfast in its scholarship fund. The organization gave $17,700 in scholarships in 2018 to students pursuing agricultural degrees and continuing education, Brusveen said.

Visitors to the 2019 dairy breakfast are encouraged to take a shuttle to and from Blain’s Farm and Fleet at 1400 W. Main St., Watertown.

In addition to farm tours, attendees will have the opportunity to hear the Gary Beal Band, which introduces comedy into a lively polka repertoire, Brusveen said.

Visit watertownagribusinessclub.com for more information.

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.