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Attendees of the Pierce County Dairy Breakfast will be able to tour the Colbenson's dairy farm, which will include a tour of their big barn. The Colbensons currently milk 240 cows. (Sara Tischauser / Forum News Service)

Wisconsin family looks forward to sharing their farm

PIERCE COUNTY, Wisc. - Spending a day out on the farm and learning about farm life while enjoying a great breakfast is exactly what everyone is invited to do at the ninth annual Pierce County Dairy Breakfast at Ti-Shi Dairy, Inc./Colbenson Family Farm on Saturday, June 16.

Tim Colbenson said he and his wife Shirley bought the farm in 1993 and moved with their children to Pierce County. Previously, they farmed on a rented place in southeast Minnesota.

"It was a farm that was not being milked at that time," Tim said about their current farm. "It was an opportunity. The farm brought us here."

While Tim said they didn't know anyone in area and were not familiar with Pierce County, it didn't take them long to feel at home in the area.

"It wasn't long before we called this home," Tim said. "It's been a fantastic move for Shirley, I and our family."

Tim was quick to point out that their dairy farm is definitely a family operation and wouldn't be possible without everyone in the family. He and Shirley, along with oldest son Ben (wife Danielle and son Hudson); twin sons Brian (wife Felicia) and Brandon (fiancé Emi Trost); and daughter Breanna (husband Conner Sieracki) have all contributed to the success of the farm.

Brian said he and his siblings were all actively involved with the farm as they grew up there. They worked on the farm when they weren't involved with school activities.

Since buying the farm, the family has made some updates and improvements. Brian said in 1998 the first barn was remodeled. In 2002, they put in a double 12 parlor that went into the old tie-stall barn. In 2013, they added their big barn, which Brian said allowed them to milk 100 more cows than they were previously milking.

Tim said the new barn they built in 2013 has allowed the cows to have more space and improved milk production. He just wishes they had built the barn sooner.

Right now, Tim said they have 350 acres, milk 240 cows, produce 30,261 pounds of milk and have an annual somatic cell count of 46,000. He said their main focus is on the cows and they have custom work done for the crops.

"Custom hire is very expensive, but it allows us to spend a little more detailed time with the cows," Tim said. "We have very little machinery; we concentrate on the cows."

Brian said after time away from the farm, he was glad to return. He looks forward to someday raising his own family on the farm.

"We grew up with mom and dad," Brian said. "It taught us a lot and instilled in us a good work ethic. Lot of life skills on the farm, caring for animals, hard work. [I want] to be able to have a job where the family can grow up around me, where I work."

Tim said he only knows life on the farm and can't imagine life any other way.

"This is all I've ever done and wouldn't do anything else," Tim said. "It's just you're your own boss. It's just freedom that comes with owning a business. Beauty of the farm is to be able to work side by side with family."

One reason the Colbensons installed the parlor was to be able to spend more time attending the kids' activities and being part of their lives. Tim didn't want to look back and think he had missed his children's key moments in school.

Brian said the parlor allowed them to reduce the milking time of their 130 cows in 2002 from three-plus hours to one-and-a-half hours.

In order to keep their family farm going, Tim said it is necessary to continue to increase the number of cows they milk.

"With the addition of another family and milk prices, we need to milk more and more cows to compensate," Tim said. "Simple economics dictate we have to do it. Growth is necessary for the next generation. Does it mean milking more cows? Yes it does."

Tim said he looks forward to having people out on the farm and letting them see what the farm is like. Sometimes people have preconceived notions as to how a dairy farm works, he said, and it's nice to be able to show people the truth behind dairy farming.

The Pierce County Dairy Breakfast will be held 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 16 at Ti-Shi Dairy, Inc./Colbenson Family Farm at N6182 290th St., Elmwood, WI 54740 (although some map programs may bring this up as Spring Valley.) Breakfast will feature Dad's Belgian waffles, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery deep-fried cheese curds, Culver's of Baldwin custard, sausage, milk and coffee. In addition to breakfast there will be a petting zoo, kids activities and tours of the farm. Brian will demonstrate the sawmill process at 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. Signs will be posted the day of the event to direct people to the farm.

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