Meffert Homestead Dairy, in Waunakee, Wisconsin just a few miles north of Madison, is a beautiful 250-acre family farm owned by Jeff Meffert. In contrast to the developed surrounding areas, the farm looks much the same as when Jeff’s grandfather founded it in 1929. Jeff and his son Luke – representing the fourth generation on the farm – run the operation with the help of Jeff’s semi-retired father, Jack.
After high school, Jeff attended the Farm and Industry Short Course at the University of Wisconsin, as did Luke years later. The hands-on courses cover all aspects of dairy farm operations, complimenting their long-time experience. “I’ve been farming my whole life, and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” said Jeff. One of Jeff’s joys as a farmer is seeing milk in the dairy section of a grocery store and knowing what he does is supplying nutritious and essential food to people.
Jeff married Ann Marie Schmitt in 1990, a partner with a deep love for dairy farming and their two children, Luke and Megan. Ann Marie passed away in 2017, but the family farming tradition is being carried on. “I’m motivated, as a dad, to keep moving forward and keep the legacy alive,” said Jeff. “I have a vested interest in the success of this farm for myself and Luke.”
Last year, Jeff and Luke built a new structure for their youngstock to put all their heifers under one roof to improve feeding, bedding, cow comfort and farming convenience. In 2015, they raised a new cow barn with sand bedded free stalls, a herringbone milking parlor and more manure storage; and in 2019, they built a new calf barn. “We believe that the better we treat our animals, the better they treat us. They keep us humble, and there’s never a dull moment!” said Jeff.
Increasing manure storage capacity over the past 10 years has enabled the Mefferts to spread more in the spring and fall. This environmentally conscientious change helps minimize manure runoff and ensure a healthy ecosystem.
“The continuous cycle of feeding nutrients from our healthy crops to the cows that produce milk, and then returning the byproduct of manure back into the field for the next crop, is a special relationship,” said Jeff. “The land, the cows and people all benefit; and it’s good for the bottom line.”
The Mefferts’ philosophy is to care for the land that grows the crops and supports the cows and farm. “There’s a symbiotic relationship, so we have comprehensive conservation and nutrition management plans incorporating no-till, minimal-till and cover crops to preserve the land and resources,” said Jeff. They grow alfalfa, corn, rye and sorghum.
The Meffert Homestead Dairy’s farm team includes a nutritionist, veterinarian and Foremost Farms Field Representative Beth Yanke. “Beth is always right there if we have any problems or questions. She comes out to help us and to troubleshoot to stay ahead of the game. The co-op has a real interest in us and other dairy farmers succeeding,” said Jeff.
Recently, the Mefferts invited groups to their farm to receive training for work purposes, including agents, underwriters and staff from rural insurance companies and prospective clients from a grocery store chain as part of the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin’s tour of cheese plants and farms. “Everyone wants that story about where their food comes from, so this is one way to get the word out about Wisconsin dairy farmers,” said Jeff.