Dale Pederson, Hayward, Wisconsin, makes a lifetime habit out of personal achievement. In National Farmers and in the Dairy Herd Improvement Association in Wisconsin, he’s among the top performers for milk quality.
Pederson’s familiar with triumphs beyond the dairy arena, too. Around the world, cross-country ski enthusiasts are familiar with his hometown of Hayward. Nestled in northwestern Wisconsin, it hosts the Slumberland American Birkebeiner, the world’s largest cross country ski race, capping entrants at 10,000. The course runs from Cable, Wisconsin to Hayward, Wisconsin — 50 kilometers for skaters and 55K for classic skiers. Dale completed the race seven times as a classic skier; his dad, Ted, raced it about four and his mother, Vivian, completed two.
The Birkie trail almost borders the Pederson property, coming within about one-quarter mile. A few years ago, this athletic event transitioned into a choice for Pederson. He turned his focus even more to his dairy farm.
“I hung up my skis. It’s quite a commitment to keep your body in that kind of condition to compete, and farm, too. And this trail is no easy course. You’ve got to train to finish it. It’s quite a challenge,” he said. “If it’s 10 below on race morning, that’s a new challenge, but you train in that weather, too, and you know how to dress.”
Although Pederson is no longer competing in competitions, he still skis for fun. So, to interpret that he hung up his skis entirely wouldn’t be accurate. However, his dairy farm now has his full attention. “My goal is to put quality milk out there, quality food,” he says.
Farming in the North Woods, Pederson says the hunting opportunities are generous, with deer, turkey and black bear to name a few. “We sometimes call this the big food plot up here,” Pederson says. “We’ve got like 330 acres of food plot here.” The overall farm exceeds 600 acres, but the 330 acres are tillable.
Pederson grew up on the farm where he lives and milks 60 head. Dale runs the overall dairy farm today, but his father started the operation. “I wouldn’t be here today without all [of my parents’] support, and they even gifted me the farm,” he says. “Mother still does the bookwork and paperwork. That can’t be left out. That’s very important. And she takes care of the home,” Pederson says.
Pederson’s dad takes care of the chickens and maintenance, and takes out the manure. “You have to keep moving. Dad was born in ’32.” Sometimes people don’t stay active as they age, but he has, Pederson says. “He still keeps the fire going in the outside boiler, and runs the chainsaw.”
As Pederson talks about farming, he says, “It’s just like Miss USA. And it’s a challenge just like that ski race, always trying to better yourself. It’s a challenge to do better. It keeps your mind thinking ahead. You’re not dwelling on something you did wrong,” Pederson explains.
Dale minds his animal nutrition and animal health p’s and q’s, too. “My nutritionist keeps my feed checked. He balances the pellet to what the feed tests,” he says. The animals receive the feed that’s right for their ages.
Growing the crops, they raise alfalfa and corn, rotate the crops and assure a good stand of alfalfa year-in and year-out. They purchase their soybean supplement.
“Everything here is hand fed. There are advantages. You can tell cows that need attention through every feeding you do. You can get at the problems if you notice diet changes,” he said.
Family help proves handy for the operation, too. Pederson’s two nephews work for him, milking twice daily and alternating weeks. Kevin and Jacob, 22-year-old twins, grew up on their own farm, also a dairy operation.
“We’ve gotten many quality awards at this farm,” Pederson says. Through National Farmers, their milk handler, the farm receives quality awards every year. Along with his skiing accomplishments, producing quality milk is something Pederson has always been proud of.