Down on the farm

Hanke Farms hosts grade-schoolers at Classroom on the Farm
by Verla Peichl
Review Correspondent


ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students got to give tender touches to the calves at Hanke Farms, during the annual Classroom on the Farm event last week. — Review photo by Verla Peichl ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students got to give tender touches to the calves at Hanke Farms, during the annual Classroom on the Farm event last week. — Review photo by Verla Peichl “Does it hurt when the calves get the ear tags put in?”

“How much does the tractor cost?”

“How do you know when a cow is sick?”

These are just a few of the questions that third and fourth graders asked at Hanke Farms, located on Willow Road in Plymouth, during the ninth annual Classroom on the Farm event, sponsored by the Sheboygan County Farm Bureau.

Classroom on the Farm is a special field trip in which elementary school children from Sheboygan, Sheboygan

Falls, Cedar Grove, Elkhart Lake and Random Lake take part in a day of learning about farm life.

The day was set aside for the students to learn things that they’ve read about in school, through a “hands on” day of getting up close and personal with cows and calves, learning about the feed eaten by the cows, who takes care of the cows when they are sick and what it’s like inside the huge barns that can be seen from the road.


ELEMENTARY SCHOOL children feed the cows at Hanke Farms, during the recent Classroom on the Farm event. — Review photo by Verla Peichl ELEMENTARY SCHOOL children feed the cows at Hanke Farms, during the recent Classroom on the Farm event. — Review photo by Verla Peichl Jim and Jack Hanke, and their wives Bonnie and Dorene, are the third generation to own and operate Hanke Farms.

Their children, who work full-time on the dairy farm, are the fourth generation to be a part of the farm and they all take great pride and joy in helping the students learn about all that it takes to run a working dairy farm.

Classroom on the Farm consists of nine stations, with each one located throughout the farm which gives a special message to the groups that move from one station to another.


COURTNEY PERRONNE-HESS shows off the Hanke Farms milking parlor, during the recent Classroom on the Farm event. — Review photo by Verla Peichl COURTNEY PERRONNE-HESS shows off the Hanke Farms milking parlor, during the recent Classroom on the Farm event. — Review photo by Verla Peichl Each station was presented by a family farm member or an agribusiness farm partner and the information was condensed into 10-minute increments all explaining the importance of the subject.

Station 1-The Milking Parlor was presented by Courtney Perronne Hess.

“The Hanke’s cows are milked three times a day,” Perronne-Hess said. “Some farms milk only two times a day but the Hankes do three and that means the milking parlor is in use 24 hours a day. This breaks down to 21 hours of milking and three hours for cleaning.

“Before the cow is milked, her udder is washed, so the milk is clean, and the milking machine can harvest six to 10 gallons of milk in about four and a half minutes,” she said. “Fresh milk is pumped into large refrigerated tanks that can hold approximately 50,000 pounds of milk, or 5,814 gallons. It is the job of a farmer to produce the highest quality food product possible, milk, for you the consumer. As a farmer, this means raising healthy animals to produce a healthy product.”

Station 2-The Cow Doctor by Chris Booth.

Veterinarian Chris Booth explained some of the illnesses that affect a cow. He described types of instruments and some simple medications that are used to cure and treat the animals.

Booth also told the students that cows weigh between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds when they are fully grown.

“The cow doctor comes to the farm for many different reasons and some of those reasons are for when a cow is giving birth to a calf, when a cow or calf is not eating properly, when they need to give a calf or cow vaccinations or some sort of injury or to give medicines if they are sick,” Booth said.

Station 3-What Cows Need to Eat by Nutritionist Brian Walsh.

Walsh explained how to make the perfect mixture for the cows to eat and help them produce the best possible milk with good quality and keep them healthy and strong.

“Cows need to eat about 90 pounds of feed and drink about 25 to 30 gallons of water each day so they can give us milk each day,” said Walsh. “The feed that cows need to eat each day are hay, haylage, corn silage, corn, soybeans, cotton seed vitamins and minerals and they are all mixed with molasses.”

Station 4-The Farmer’s Goal.

Jack Hanke told the groups what it was like to be a farmer and why he enjoys it.

“Hi! I’m farmer Jack and I’m here to talk to you about animal agriculture and my farm,” Jack Hanke said to the students. “I hope to be able to give you a better understanding of what happens on our farm so you can feel as secure as I do about the quality of milk my family and I produce for you that is sold at the grocery store or your school.

“Farming is not just my job,” he said. “It is my passion! I wouldn’t wake up at 5 a.m. every morning if I didn’t love it. I appreciate that I get to work every day with animals and with the land. I’m proud to produce the food my family and friends eat, and to know that it is healthy and safe.”

Station 5-The Role of Farm Machinery was explained by Jon Anhalt.

Anhalt told the students about all that it takes to plant and harvest good crops of alfalfa, corn, wheat and soybeans. He talked about the machinery on display and answered questions regarding how they work and the importance of those pieces of equipment.

Anhalt told the students that new technology has made it easier for farmers to plant and harvest the crops by the use of an iPad and GPS. He also noted that even though there is advanced technology it’s still important to do the simple things such as greasing the equipment, sharpening the knives, tightening equipment chains and keeping the machinery clean and in good working condition.

“We monitor environmental conditions to comply with EPA regulations and ensure the safety of our animals,” said Anhalt.

Station 6-The Day in the Life of a Cow.

Kathy Zimbal explained what a cow’s life is like while living on the Hanke Farm. She explained that a free stall barn is just that. The cow can move around freely and is not tied up and they can eat, drink and sleep whenever they feel like it.

The cows have special mattresses where they can sleep on and have a very comfortable bedding area. She also told the students about the different types of cows, such as black and white Holsteins and red and white Holsteins.

“There are no two cows that have the same shape of spots on them,” said Zimbal, “Even though they are all different, they have ear tags with numbers so the Hankes can tell them apart and that’s how the records are kept for all of the animals.

“We now know how the Hanke Farm takes care of their cows, however, every farm is different, but all farmers take very good care of their cows,” she said.

Station 7-Milk a Cow.

Marlene Kammann, Sheboygan County dairy ambassador, talked to the students about milk and what it means to be pasteurized and homogenized and about all the different kinds of cheese.

“Wisconsin is home to 129 cheese plants that produce more than 600 varieties of Wisconsin cheese,” said Kammann. “It takes two days for the milk to get from the milking parlor to school or to the grocery story.”

Kammann then instructed the students on how to milk a cow by hand. She explained that this is the process that was used before farm- ers used milking machines. The mechanical milking cow, Addie, was on hand and is always willing to allow the students to milk her.

Station 8-Baby Calves told by Michelle Klemme.

“After a calf is born, it gets up and stands in about a half hour,” said Klemme. “When you were born, I’ll bet it took about a year to stand up and walk.”

She explained to the students that a calf weighs about 80 to 100 pounds when it is born and the calf drinks mother’s milk right away with a bottle to get healthy antibodies.

“A calf is taught to drink from a pail after about two to three days by using a pail with a learning nipple,” said Klemme.

Klemme explained things about different types of housing for calves and that a girl calf is called a heifer and a boy calf is called a bull. The students all listened intently, but they were eager to get closer to the calf so they could tenderly pet her head and feel how their coat of hair felt.

Station 9-The final station where nutrition for people was explained by Jane Loose from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Loose did a 10-minute presentation titled “Mapping Out a Healthy Wisconsin.”

This presentation took the third and fourth graders through a list of Wisconsin foods and where they are grown and produced in the state.

Classroom on the Farm is a day of learning where students have an up close and personal lesson on how a dairy farm contributes to the local economy.

They also learn that farmers are stewards of the land and for them it’s important to protect environmental resources, practice conservation techniques and provide a good habitat for the animals.


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