Brian Forrest worked on his father’s dairy farm in Wisconsin while he was growing up. After graduating from Stratford High School, he majored in agricultural engineering at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He returned to the family farm after graduating in 1994. Two years later he started buying cows and machinery from his parents. In 2002, Forrest began buying his parents’ farm. In 2006 he expanded his herd to 90 cows and in 2011 he was milking 130 cows.
“At that time, I was farming 600 owned and leased acres – mostly leased,” says Forrest, who is honored as a 2021 Master Farmer.
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It was then that his neighbors, Ken Hein and Gary Ruegsegger, both master agronomists in 2010, started talking to Forrest. Ruegsegger wanted to retire.
“After several conversations, on January 1, 2012, we merged our farms,” explains Forrest.
In 2013, the farm, known as Maple Ridge Dairy, purchased the neighboring farm from Hein’s cousins and 240 cows. Today Maple Ridge Dairy operates 3,800 acres, milks 1,910 Holstein cows and raises 1,500 heifers. Cows are milked three times a day on two farms. The dry cows are housed in the former farm of Forrest.
“It’s hard to put too many animals in one place,” he explains. “We’ve been at this size for five years now. We strongly believe in improvement, not just growth. “
Forrest says Maple Ridge Dairy is focused on growing its employees and growing its equity.
“But if a neighbor retires and there is an opportunity to work with him like Ken and Gary worked with me, we’ll look into it,” he says. “We like to be very local. I would like to do it for other people.
High milk production is important at Maple Ridge Dairy – the herd moving average is 30,000 pounds of milk with 4.2% fat and 3.2% protein. But Forrest’s emphasis is on producing high quality milk. The number of somatic cells has fallen from 110,000 to less than 80,000 in recent years. The National Mastitis Council recently recognized Maple Ridge Dairy as a platinum winner for its high quality milk.
Forrest attributes the consistently low somatic cell count to three main factors:
- more complete and consistent milking preparation with the use of mechanical teat washers
- more frequent maintenance of sand litter in stalls
- use cow health records for breeding stock selection, not just to improve milk production
Maple Ridge Dairy grows crops on 3,800 owned and leased acres. They grow alfalfa and herb mixes for haylage, corn for grain and silage, wheat for grain and straw, and soybeans. They pay particular attention to water management and minimizing soil runoff.
They currently cultivate 800 acres of no-till crop and are planting small-grain cover crops on 500-600 acres.
“We fully believe in low disturbance manure applications,” explains Forrest. ” We are doing it. This is a victory for us, and a win-win situation for the environment and for consumers as well.
Partner Hein is pleased with Forrest’s farm management skills and the farm’s success since Forrest joined Maple Ridge Dairy.
“Brian is a great manager with great farm, family and community values,” says Hein. “Every aspect of the farm is run to a high standard with measured results – from raising the calves and milking the cows to creating the best cow comfort, producing great feed with minimal impact. on the environment – everything helps to create a high-quality product for the consumer. “
Forrest also worked with the Village of Stratford to help them with the Department of Natural Resources permitting process. He met with consultants on several occasions to determine which land suited the requirements of the trade agreement and was prepared to modify some crop rotation plans to meet MNR’s requirements.
“We are extremely grateful to work with a co-operative person who cares about the needs of the village,” says Keith Grell, President of the Village of Stratford. “This saved the village the costs of building new facilities to meet the new standards, which ultimately kept water prices from rising in the village. This is an excellent example of collaboration between rural agriculture and the urban community for the benefit of the environment.
Forrest appreciates the opportunity Hein and Ruegsegger gave him, but he’s also grateful for the vision Hein’s father, Phil Hein, had when he started Maple Ridge Dairy. A master farmer in 1983, Phil passed away last February at the age of 92.
“Phil was a progressive farmer in the 1970s and 1980s,” says Forrest. “He got everything ready for today.
Forrest served on the Board of Professional Dairy Producers for six years and was Treasurer for three years. He was also a member of the board of directors for Marathon County DHIA. He was treasurer of and continues to be a member of the Stratford Region Chamber of Commerce. He also sits on the Supervisory Board of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, which oversees research activities. He is involved in many activities with the National Farm Medicine Center, including conducting research, organizing farm tours, and speaking to groups.
In addition to the many hats he wears on the farm, Forrest was selfless in July 2019 when he was a living liver donor for his first cousin Richard Gillete. The procedure required complex surgery, and Forrest’s recovery took 12 weeks.
He and his wife, Elaine, also participate in community activities, including Stratford Community Days and Christmas in the Park. Elaine led the revitalization of a playground in Stratford, which involved fundraising, construction and overall project management.
The Forrest have five children: Kylie, Max and Brooks Vanderhoof, and Lucas and Violet Forrest.
2021 Master Farmer
Site: Stratford, Marathon County, Wisconsin
Agricultural enterprises: 1,910 Holstein cows, 1,800 Holstein heifers, crops
Farm size: 3,800 acres owned and leased
Family: wife, Elaine; daughters Violet and Kylie; sons Lucas, Max and Brooks