UW-EC foreign exchange students visit Denmark Dairy

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — It was an unbearably hot, sweltering July day, but for many of the UW-Eau Claire foreign exchange students who visited Denmark Dairy, the weather seemed “normal.”

Sixteen students from Myanmar, Taiwan, mainland China, France and Korea toured Denmark Dairy July 17 as part of a month-long Regional History and Culture class offered through UW-EC to help the students improve their English language skills.

When asked if the 98-degree temperature with a dewpoint near 70 degrees seemed hot, many of the students shook their heads and said it seemed like normal weather.

 Karl and Dennis Kragness of Denmark Dairy took the students on a tour of the barns, the feed storage, medical care area, milking parlor and machine shop.

The students arrived here July 13 for the month-long class.

Most of the students are from urban areas and had never been on a farm before.

Some of the students are business students and will be touring other businesses while they are here.

Several of the students will be enrolling at UW-Eau Claire this fall, noted Ami Christensen, ESL associate lecturer at UW-Eau Claire who is teaching the students during their month-long stay.

Two two-day old calves were among the highlights of the tour.

Dennis Kragness showed the students that the calves have a strong nursing instinct at this age and would suck on your own fingers if given a chance.

Several of the students wanted their pictures taken with the calves.

The visit to Denmark Dairy was the first outing for the class.

When asked what they would tell friends and relatives about Denmark Dairy when they return home, one young lady said she was impressed by the health of the dairy cows and that there was no communicable illnesses among the herd.

Another young man said he liked the idea that the dairy recycled a number of materials, such as the bedding sand and the water used to clean the barns and to cool the cows.

Even though it was sweltering outside, inside the barns at Denmark Dairy the exhaust fans and shower sprays for the cows made it remarkably pleasant.

The young man also mentioned the forage that is a by-product of other processes but does not go to waste because it makes good feed for cows, such as distiller’s grain and cotton seed, and of course, the animal waste that goes back out on the fields for fertilizer.

One young man with a farming background was surprised that with more than 800 dairy cows, there were no bulls at the farm.

Dennis Kragness had explained to the students that using artificial insemination for the cows and not having bulls on the premises related to the safety of the farm workers.

With that many dairy cows, a number of bulls would have to be kept on the farm, and that would create a more dangerous working environment for everyone involved, he said.

Another young lady was impressed with the efficiency of the dairy operation and that such a large number of animals could be milked and cared for by a relatively small number of people.

Denmark Dairy employs about a dozen workers.

Another young man said he was going to tell people at home that he never thought he would ever be that close to a cow and that he would tell them about all of the details necessary that go into feeding and milking and caring for the animals.

Some of the students in a business class also will be visiting the Family Birth Center at Mayo Clinic. On the weekend, the students were going to a powwow in Hayward, and next week they will be going to the Beaver Creek Nature Reserve, Christensen said.

At the end of the visit, Dennis and Karl handed out Swiss Miss pudding to the students.

Denmark Dairy ships milk to Swiss Miss, and it was quite possible the pudding the students received was made from milk that came from the cows they had just seen.