2020 Master Agriculturist Jeff Hendrickson knew from the time he was a young boy that he wanted to be a dairy farmer. After graduating from Pecatonica High School in Blanchardville, Wis., in 1979, Jeff worked as a herdsman for two years before joining his dad and brother on the home farm near Blanchardville.
In 1986, shortly after Jeff and Kate were married, they started farming on a farm near Monticello that they rented. The couple put together a herd of cows and heifers that they purchased on their own. They also purchased a few animals from their parents and some close friends.
“In 1991, the milkman knew we were looking to buy a farm, and he told us this farm just south of Belleville was for sale,” Jeff says. “We came and looked at it, and we bought it.”
Cows are milked in a barn with 59 tiestalls and four box stalls. Half the cows are housed in the tiestall barn and half are housed in a freestall barn.
Three years ago, Jeff and Kate increased the number of acres they farm by purchasing 113 acres from Jeff’s home farm near Blanchardville.
“We didn’t have a mortgage for a few years,” Jeff says. “Now we have a mortgage again, but I figure we’re further ahead with the mortgage with what you have to pay for hay now — it is outrageous.”
On their 315 acres of cropland, the Hendricksons grow corn, hay, oats and wheat. They follow a conservation plan of three years in corn, one year in oats with new seeding, and hay for a minimum of three years; grassy hay stands last up to six years.
“The farm has been a great place to raise a family,” Kate says.
The Hendricksons raised five children — Brandon, Kelsi, Trent, Breinne and Brooks — who were all active in 4-H, Junior Holstein, and showing and judging dairy cattle when they were growing up.
Brandon is a highway patrolman for Green County and helps with fieldwork during the growing season. He has a wife, Kim; a son, Brett; two daughters, Emma and Ava; and two stepdaughters, Riley and Cassidy.
Kelsi graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in life sciences communication. She is marketing manager at Filament in Madison. She dairy farms with her husband, Jeremy Mayer, in Green County. They have one son, Brantley, and are expecting their second child in April.
Trent graduated from UW-Platteville with a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a dairy emphasis. He and his wife, Kelsey, dairy farm near Blanchardville. They have a son, Trevor, and a daughter, Grace.
Breinne graduated from UW-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in life science communications. She is a marketing executive at Filament in Madison.
Brooks dairy farms with his parents on the home farm and is planning a June wedding with his fiancee, Riley.
Everyone pitches in to get the work done on the farm. Jeff and Kate milk in the morning, and Brooks and Kate milk in the evening. Brooks and Jeff feed and scrape.
“In the evening, when we switch, Kate feeds calves, and Riley or I help Brooks finish milking,” Jeff explains.
Brooks and Jeff handle most of the fieldwork. Brandon helps in the evenings and on weekends when he has time. Kate also does the bookwork and babysits Brantley a couple of days a week.
Today, Jeffrey-Way Holstein’s herd average is 29,600 pounds of milk with 3.7% butterfat and 3.3% protein. The breed age average is an impressive 112.8, with 56 cows scored Excellent and 49 Very Good. The Hendricksons have received 28 consecutive Progressive Breeders’ Registry awards and have won the Herd of Excellence award three times from Holstein USA. They have won both the Distinguished Holstein Breeder Award and the Outstanding Young Holstein Breeder Award from the Wisconsin Holstein Association, and in 1994, they were named Wisconsin Dairy Farm Family of the Year.
Jeff breeds for cows with high type, high production, good feet and legs, and a high CTPI (Cow Total Performance Index) that stay productive for years.
Jeff and Kate have sold cattle to farmers in several states as well as Canada and Japan. Embryos have been exported to Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, New Zealand and South America.
“We used to sell 25 to 30 cows a year and a lot of embryos,” Jeff explains. “We really sold a lot during the 1990s and the early 2000s. That helped us pay off the farm pretty quick. We still sell about 10 heifers or calves a year at sales and to private buyers who come to the farm.”
The family shows cows at district and state Holstein shows and county and state fairs, as well as World Dairy Expo.
“Our kids did a lot of showing while they were growing up,” Kate says. “Now our granddaughters Emma, 13, and Ava, 11, are showing. We show at Expo.”
In their 30-plus years of showing registered Holsteins, the Hendricksons have racked up a number of top awards. They have bred and exhibited one Reserve All-American; two All-American nominations; five Junior All-American nominations; and seven Junior All-Wisconsin winners.
Jeff has been a member of the county, state and national Holstein associations for 40 years. He was a 4-H club leader for 25 years. For the past 16 years, he has served on the CentralStar Cooperative board of directors as a board member.
He served six years as a board member on the Green County DHIA Board. He was on the Green County Holstein Board for six years and served as president for two years. Jeff is a lifetime FFA Alumni member.
He also served on his church council for four years and was on the building and grounds committee for eight years.
The Hendricksons have hosted numerous 4-H and FFA judging contests and clinics at their farm, and they have given several tours to schoolchildren and adult groups.