Farm Tech Days: The Modern Science of Caring for the Herd


Local residents, Daryl and Brenda Sternweis, Ken and Joellen Heiman, Kelvin and Marilyn Heiman and their families will host the largest agricultural show in Wisconsin in 2018 as Wisconsin Farm Technology Days comes to Wood County.

Caring for the herd is a prominent role in a farming family. Not only do the animals bring in income, they often become a part of family life. Through feeding, milking, medicating and birthing, farmers are with them every step of the way.

Ken Heiman said that if you take care of the cows, they will take care of you. “Taking shortcuts will never get you the quality product you want at the end of the day, you have to feel good about what you’re doing and how you are taking care of what God and Mother Nature have given you.”

There is a science when it comes for caring for the herd. Whether it’s feed, lodging or bedding, all are taken into account to ensure optimal comfort and health.

Heiman and his family use sand for bedding. “Research has shown that cows prefer sand over straw, wood shaving and even rubber mats. Cows lay down for 12 to 14 hours each day so it is just as important to keep them comfortable while lying down as any other time,” he said.

There is much more to feeding in today’s farming world than just throwing down a bale of hay. Cows are catered to with formulas that increase production. Heiman said that cows are often fed inside, with the food brought to them, rather than getting it in the pasture.

“By doing this, we are able to give the cow the specific nutrients she needs to be healthy by adding the vitamins, minerals and amino acids she needs. The diet is always consistent,” he said. “Cows really like consistency and routine.”

An object for comfort and fun also exists on the Heiman farm, and that is a rotating brush that is above the back of the cow. The cow can run on it and the brush will spin, thus rubbing their back, neck and head. Heiman said that not only do the cows love it, they are entertaining to watch. Due to popularity, these brushes need to be replaced often.

As for liking consistency, Heiman stated cows also prefer the temperature to be between 55 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit, and that this is the primary reason why their cows are often kept inside. “We use large fans and sometimes sprinklers to keep the cows cool in the summer, and the barn protects them throughout the year from the harshest of wind and cold,” Heiman said. A veterinarian also helps with animal health and well-being.

Heiman said that farming is a labor of love, whether it’s animal or land care. “Most people don’t comprehend the farmer’s drive to work from before sun-up to well after it goes down, to take care of all they have. If you think about all that a farmer has to do in a day – they have to be a caretaker of the land and the animals, sometimes a veterinarian, a strategist, a mathematician, a chemist, a machinist, a welder, a plumber, and a handyman – no day is the same as before.”