DARLINGTON, Wis. – Levi Wedig is a member of the millennial generation – a group that will help shape agriculture in the years to come.
The Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association recognizes the contributions the next generation of farmers and ranchers will make. That’s why the organization has infused “young blood” into its board. At its February annual meeting, the association elected Wedig as well as Anna Boschert to serve as at-large members of the board.
“We’re always appreciative of our more-seasoned and long-standing members,” said Eric Johnson, association president. “But like all organizations we understand our future strength and growth is dependent on the younger generations. And younger board members help represent their age group’s point of view. Both Levi and Anna were highly recommended by their peers who are deeply involved in the production side of the beef industry.”
Brady Zuck, a director at-large for the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, encouraged Wedig to serve on the board. The young cattlemen both majored in animal science at Iowa State University. Wedig also earned a degree in dairy science. The two became friends through the university’s Block and Bridle Club.
“Levi was active in that club and other volunteer activities, and I thought he’d be active in the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association as well,” Zuck said. “It’s also good to have a younger person bring fresh ideas.”
Troy Lobdell, agriculture teacher at Darlington High School and adviser for the Darlington FFA, said Wedig was a leader from the “get go.”
“Levi was president of our FFA chapter when he was a senior in high school,” Lobdell said. “He also was a member of the parliamentary procedure team that competed at the national level. He participated in a number of speaking contests and also excelled showing cattle.”
Wedig, 25, farms with his parents, Joe and Kim Wedig, and brothers Justin and Mitchell Wedig. At the Wedig Cattle Company near Darlington they manage a 230-head beef-cattle herd, milk 220 dairy cows and farm about 700 acres. The Wedig Cattle Company also has three non-family employees.
“We try to meet every morning after chores to talk about priorities for the day,” Levi Wedig said.
The brothers each have focus areas, but they’re also cross-trained. Justin Wedig, 31, has helped the farm diversify by expanding the beef herd and building its Maine-Anjou-influenced crossbred genetics. The Wedig Cattle Company holds two cattle sales annually and specializes in club calves. Mitchell Wedig, 28, manages the farm’s equipment and cropping operations. Levi Wedig does a variety of tasks such as heat checks.
While still in college Levi Wedig served a summer internship for an 800-head cattle ranch in South Dakota. The internship gave him a better understanding of genetics, he said, as well as hay production. The Wedigs still source some of their genetics from that South Dakota ranch.
After graduating Wedig worked two years for Eldon C. Stutsman Inc., a wholesale feed-distribution company based in Hills, Iowa. He called on feed mills and feed stores in northern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I learned a lot about the distribution side of agriculture – an important part of getting feed to producers – as well as the logistical aspects of making sure feed mills have sufficient amounts of protein.”
One of the reasons he returned to Darlington, he said, was that the family farm was experiencing a labor shortage.
“Replacing employees and training them to the level needed is difficult,” he said. “It’s a challenge in any industry.”
The family farm is large enough that it can support and provide future opportunities for all the Wedig brothers, he said. While his father is the farm’s largest shareholder, the brothers are building their equity. They understand they’re working toward a greater portion of ownership; the family has been planning for transition.
“You need to have an end goal in sight,” he said.
Wedig plans to keep the cattle industry’s future in sight.
“It’s important to be involved outside of the farm to have a better understanding of the industry and the legislative side of things,” he said.
That’s one reason, he said, why he agreed to serve on the board of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association.
Association president Johnson said Wedig is in-tune with state and national issues involving beef producers; he willingly accepted Wedig’s nomination to serve on the board.
Editor’s note: See the May 30 issue of Agri-View for a story on Anna Boschert.