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Sun Burst Dairy Creates Its Own Future

Sun Burst Dairy Creates Its Own Future
Brown family farm 650 acres and milk 500 cows near Belleville.

By Ethan Giebel

Sun Burst Dairy has a motto, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Brian and Yogi Brown have created a future for themselves and their family since they moved onto their Belleville dairy farm in 1983. They expanded in 1999 when by adding a 300-cow freestall barn and parlor. The most recent expansion occurred when an additional freestall barn was added in 2007, bringing the milking herd up to 500 cows. The farm operates about 650 acres of cropland. Additional grain, dry hay and wheat straw are purchased to supply the herd.

The Brown family (from left) are Brian, Yogi, Whitney and Cory.

Teamwork counts
Farming is a family affair for the Brown family. Brian works in collaboration with his brother, Doug who dairies on a nearby farm. They share some equipment and work together when necessary. Brian's parents Gerald and Janette take an interest in the farm as well.

The Browns have four children, Chris, Erin, Cory and Whitney. Chris and Erin have moved off of the farm. Cory graduated from UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course in the spring of 2013 and plans to work into the family dairy farm in the future. Whitney is a junior at Belleville High School where she is an active member of the FFA chapter and 4-H.

With plans to carry on the family farm, Cory attended the New Century Farmer program in the summer of 2013 though FFA. The five-day conference is hosted each year in Iowa for an elite group of young people entering the field of production agriculture. While in attendance, participants heard from a series of industry experts. "I learned that better gets better before bigger gets better," said Cory. "If you stay where you are, you fall behind."

Cows at Sun Burst Dairy are housed in two freestall barns and are milked three times each day in a double-10 parallel parlor.

"One of our barns uses sawdust bedding while the other uses sand," said Brian. "They both have their pros and cons. The sawdust takes more management but is much easier on equipment. Cows seem to enjoy the sand bedding better."

Maximizing cow comfort
Prior to expanding their dairy farm, the Brown's toured dairy farms to decide on a facility with options that would be right for them.

"When we built our second barn, we improved on what we learned from our first barn." said Brian.

While building, a breezeway between the two freestall barns was added that includes a herdsman's office, hoof trimming area and pens for visits from the veterinarian. Headlocks are used in the freestall barns for working with the cows.

"It's all about the cows, if you are good to the cows, the cows are good to you," said Yogi. "When cows are comfortable, they give their true potential."

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The Brown's believe in using newer technologies and practices that have emerged in the dairy industry.

"Healthy cows will do the rest for you," said Brian. "When I am mating cattle, I look for good, sound dairy animals that provide a good return on investment."

Along with managing employees and the farm accounts, Yogi specializes in calf care. Calves are kept in calf hutches. A pasteurizer is used to utilize waste milk to be fed to calves.

"The pasteurizer helps us raise healthier calves," said Yogi. Heifers are raised by two growers and are brought back prior to calving.

"We work with a core team of people," said Brian. "Our nutritionist, agronomist and veterinarian all work with us to make decisions for the farm. Having consultants allows us to see areas for improvement. We also have a great team of people who work for us."

The farm employs nine full time and a few part time employees.

In addition to his duties on the farm, Brian serves as chair of the board of directors at Accelerated Genetics. Not only has this experience allowed him to serve his fellow dairy and beef producers in the Midwest, but also abroad. Brian and Yogi had the opportunity to travel to the Ukraine and Colombia this year to meet with dairy producers. The trip to the Ukraine was made possible through the USDA Emerging Markets Program.

They held group meetings with farmers where Brian spoke about cooperatives in agriculture and dairy herd management. Yogi shared her expertise on raising calves.

"It has truly been the chance of a lifetime to help others in this industry, we are all trying to feed a growing world," said Brian.

The Brown family enjoys welcoming visitors to their Dane County farm. Due to the close proximity to Madison, the farm is an ideal stop for visitors during World Dairy Expo. During Expo, Sun Burst Dairy hosts upwards of 500 visitors from all over the world. 

"You have to have fun," said Brian. "If your job is your hobby, it can't get better than that. We love this industry and want to get the next generation involved."

TAGS: USDA
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