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NEWS & EVENTS

News and Events

2023 Forage Symposium Feb. 20-22
Posted On: November 21, 2022
The Symposium brings together members from WCO, MFA and PNAAW along with industry, extension and research professionals from across the Midwest. In 2023 the event will be held at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.
Read the fall issue of the Custom News
Posted On: November 19, 2022
The fall issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: WCO fundraising auction
  • Issues to watch
  • Nutrient management education
  • New product showcase
  • WCO board elections
From the President's Cab: blessed to have each other
Posted On: November 19, 2022

By Raymond Liska

Shaking, rattling, grinding, knocking, are all too familiar to farm equipment operators. Torn belts, loose bolts, and failed bearings are just a few things that could be wrong and must be dealt with immediately. 

Having a good sense for something going wrong is as important as being able to turn the wheel when the harvest is on the line. Operators use their skills and experiences to manage their machines persistently day in and day out. 

Online equipment auction benefits WCO; Nov. 22-Dec. 6
Posted On: November 19, 2022

WCO is proud to announce an online auction, Nov. 22–Dec. 6th, coordinated by Hansen Auction Group. The auction includes machinery typical for custom operators, but virtually all items will be considered.

As an association, WCO is looking for creative ways to maintain a strong financial position. Like all of our members, WCO’s investments have taken a hit and membership is slowly recovering from the pandemic. In addition, we have ideas for several new programs that could become a reality with additional funds. 

 

New product showcase: new manure spreaders and an in-line wrapper
Posted On: November 19, 2022

KUHN recently introduced new larger spreader models, extending the popular ProPush® line for commercial producers and custom operators.

The new KUHN Knight HP 170 M and HPX 195 ProPush® high-capacity, commercial hydraulic push spreaders provide large operations and custom operators with reliable, heavy-duty machines designed for high usage. The HP 170 M, with a heaped capacity of 700 ft³, and the HPX 195, with a heaped capacity of 950 ft³, are designed for agricultural and commercial applications that haul a wide array of semi-solid and solid materials, including gutter manure, yard scrapings, bedding pack and feedlot manure. 

Read the summer issue of the Custom News
Posted On: July 28, 2022
The summer issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Touch a Truck
  • Safety expert retires
  • WCO news
  • December fundraising auction
  • Issues to watch
From the President’s Cab: don’t focus on the low spots
Posted On: July 28, 2022

By Raymond Liska

A slow start for fast-paced crews across the region was the kick-off for the 2022 cropping season. From north to south and east to west, a variety of weather patterns left both people and machinery idling patiently, waiting for the opportunity to get to work. As always, the weather finally broke and the dust began to fly, hoses were reeled in and out, planters and tillage tools crept along from one end of the field to the other, and the buzzing of tanker trucks continued in perfect rhythm from sunup until.…the sun came up again.

2,000 urban residents ‘Touch a Truck’ with help from WCO members
Posted On: July 28, 2022

By Maria Woldt for WCO

As a dairy farmer and agriculture professional, cows, crops, manure, trucks, and tractors are part of my every day life. Having grown up in the city, I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to have this life and for the opportunity to share it with my girls. 

People are often surprised to hear that I didn’t grow up on a farm. They are even more surprised to hear the story of how I got involved with agriculture. Spending time at the Minnesota State Fair in the animal barns and agriculture buildings sparked something inside me, and I knew that agriculture was my career path. 

Safety expert has long and productive career
Posted On: July 28, 2022

By John Shutske, UW-Madison

Cheryl Skjolaas is a familiar face and a trusted resource in agriculture safety. After a 38-year career with Extension and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at UW-Madison, Cheryl will retire this summer.

Cheryl started as an interim 4-H Youth Agent in Pierce County in 1984 and then moved to St. Croix County where she led programs for 800+ youth and 350 adult volunteers. In December of 1990, Cheryl was recruited to join a team in Biological Systems Engineering in CALS with Dr. Ron Schuler and others.

WCO honors additional scholarship winner
Posted On: July 28, 2022

The WCO board feels strongly that supporting the custom farming community and allied  agriculture partners are  a good use of WCO’s membership and sponsorship dollars. To this end, WCO gives scholarships and other awards to deserving students, community groups and crew members.

WCO recently awarded two scholarships to students pursuing further education. The WCO scholarship and awards committee selected one additional student for the 2021 scholarship cohort. 

Read the spring issue of the Custom News
Posted On: March 28, 2022
The spring issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: WCO makes board changes
  • Policy corner
  • WCO awards scholarships
  • WCO news 
From the President’s Cab: a grassroots movement
Posted On: March 28, 2022
By Raymond Liska

Years ago, a group of individuals sat down together in a town hall style fashion because they wanted to change the outcome of their situation. 
Ideas and goals were discussed, alliances were formed, decisions were made, and from that meeting came a group of individuals with the motivation to make a difference. 

And while they weren’t drafting the declaration of independence, they were drafting what would eventually become Wisconsin Act 377; giving agriculture on the highways the definition and clarity it needed to propel the Wisconsin agricultural machine to become one of the greatest fleets in the world. 
Issues to watch: Farm Service CDL
Posted On: March 28, 2022

Like many agricultural supply chain partners, custom farmers struggle to find qualified CDL drivers. This is an ongoing problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and increased demand for drivers. Two years ago, during Dairy Day at the Capitol, WCO members discussed this issue with their elected leaders. Fast forward to today, with the pandemic hopefully in the rearview, WCO is working with fellow ag groups to address ongoing CDL challenges.

WCO honors Scidmore and Dahl; scholarship apps due May 1
Posted On: March 13, 2022
The Wisconsin Custom Operators, Inc. (WCO) recently awarded two scholarships to students pursuing further education. These students were selected based on leadership, civic engagement, academics and volunteer activities related to agriculture. Students also submitted essays detailing their educational and vocational plans for the future. Scholarship winners are required to have ties to the WCO – either as a member, relative or employee of a member, or as a relative of a member client. Students received a $1,000 or $1,500 scholarship.
Two directors elected to WCO board, retiring directors honored
Posted On: March 06, 2022
Wisconsin Custom Operators members elected two directors, welcomed an advisor and honored retiring directors during the group’s annual business meeting on Feb. 23, held in conjunction with the Forage Symposium at the Chula Vista Resort. 
Shinners reflects on career: “the students made it fun!”
Posted On: November 22, 2021
By Maria Woldt

In the world of agricultural equipment, most people know Kevin Shinners. He’s been a professor of biological systems engineering at UW-Madison since 1985. 

During that time, he’s done all the things that equal a successful career in academia, like mentor 53 graduate students, brought in $7.2 million in research funding, publications, book chapters etc. But it’s his passion for farmers and students that have always stood out. 
From the President’s Cab: behind the scenes
Posted On: November 22, 2021

By Raymond Liska

What happens behind the scenes of a custom farming operation is something that often goes unseen to many who pass through the countryside. 

As the season’s end draws nearer, the charismatic rhythm of choppers and combines in the field, along with the steady flow of trucks and tractors on the road and the miles of hose laying in the ditch will be cleaned, repaired, rolled up, and stored away. While the keys on our machines may be turned off, our minds are not. 

Mixed outcomes from the 2021 corn harvest for silage
Posted On: November 22, 2021

By Dr. John Goeser, PAS, Dipl. ACAN, Rock River Laboratory, Inc., UW-Madison, animal and dairy sciences

There were two common themes to 2021 in growing corn for silage: continued variation in growing conditions and plenty of heat units. 

And over the last few years, variation seems to be the only consistent factor. In 2018 and 2019, wet spring or wet fall contributed toward more variation. Now with the 2021 growing season in the books for silage, the crop looks to be yielding variable outcomes, depending on your local growing conditions. 

Read the fall issue of the Custom News
Posted On: November 22, 2021
The fall issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Kevin Shinners: "the students made it fun"
  • Policy corner
  • Feature: Corn silage harvest a mixed bag
  • WCO news and board nominations
Read the summer issue of the Custom News
Posted On: July 20, 2021
The summer issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Truck, trailer safety
  • Policy corner
  • Feature: Welcome back Forage Symposium
  • WCO additional scholarship and mini-grant winner
Good truck, trailer maintenance helps prevent accidents on the road
Posted On: July 19, 2021

By Mary Hookham for WCO

Driving down the road pulling a trailer appears simple at first glance. But doing so safely is actually quite an accomplishment. Many truck drivers experience complications, and even accidents, if they don’t complete a list of safety protocols before hitting the pavement. This is the only way to ensure trailers won’t disengage and go rogue to cause accidents.

“You can’t plan for everything but you can do your best,” said Fred Whitford, clinical engagement professor in botany and plant pathology at Purdue University and director of the college’s pesticide programs.

From the President’s Cab - Summer 2021
Posted On: July 19, 2021
By Ray Liska

Greetings to all of you, outstanding in your fields! It is great to see the amazing custom ag fleet going full throttle throughout the Midwest and beyond. I feel an immense sense of pride watching our crews undertaking what has been and will be another triumphant season. Yes, there will be challenges, but we will always get the job done one way or another. 
Welcome back to Forage Symposium
Posted On: July 19, 2021
By Maria Woldt
 

February just wasn’t the same this year without our annual trip to Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells. Midwest Forage Association did an excellent job facilitating a virtual conference with educational topics and even a trade show, and we all agree, it’s not the same as being together in person.

We are excited to host the 2022 Forage Symposium in person, February 21-23 again at Chula Vista Resort. The event follows President’s Day weekend which seems to be popular as many kids are off school, and attendees bring their families to enjoy the waterpark.

WCO honors additional scholarship winner, selects first mini-grant recipient
Posted On: July 19, 2021
The WCO board feels strongly that supporting the custom farming community and allied agriculture partners is a good use of WCO’s membership and sponsorship dollars. To this end, WCO gives scholarships to 3-4 students every year and recently created a minigrant program.
Read the spring issue of the Custom News
Posted On: April 07, 2021
The spring issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Suicide: another pandemic
  • WCO elections
  • Feature: What's new in mergers
  • WCO scholarship winners; applications due May 1
Suicide: another pandemic
Posted On: April 07, 2021

By Mary Hookham for WCO

The rate of death by suicide increases every year in the farming community, a rate that could be reduced if there was more hope. People can offer that hope to one another through positive, kind actions, and by becoming trained in the Question, Persuade and Refer concept.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” said Jeff Ditzenberger, a certified QPR trainer. “Giving someone in trouble your time and attention might make all the difference and restore hope.

Latest hay merger technology offers options to farmers
Posted On: April 07, 2021

Hay mergers come in a variety of shapes and sizes from several different companies. Farmers can find features and benefits that will best serve their needs while improving efficiency.

“Serviceability is a big thing on hay mergers,” said Ben Craker, senior product manager with Kuhn North America. 

WCO honors VanRite and Olson; Scholarship apps due May 1
Posted On: March 17, 2021
The Wisconsin Custom Operators, Inc. (WCO) recently awarded two scholarships to students pursuing further education. These students were selected based on leadership, civic engagement, academics and volunteer activities related to agriculture. Students also submitted essays detailing their educational and vocational plans for the future. Scholarship winners are required to have ties to the WCO – either as a member, relative of a member or employee of a member. Students received a $1,000 or $1,500 scholarship. 
 
WCO members elect directors, new officers
Posted On: February 02, 2021
Wisconsin Custom Operators members elected two directors and new officers during the group’s annual business meeting held virtually on Jan. 27.
 
William Smith, owner of Smith Custom Farming LLC in Darlington and Pat Johnson, co-owner of Number 2 Injection LLC were elected as operator directors. Smith was re-elected to a second term and Johnson is a new addition to the WCO board.
 
Read the fall issue of the Custom News
Posted On: November 03, 2020
The fall issue of the Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Professionalism, consistency focus of Argentinean custom farming business 
  • No in-person Symposium
  • Feature: Taking extra care
  • WCO Crew of the Year
Professionalism, consistency focus of Argentinean farm business
Posted On: November 03, 2020
Patricio Aguirre Saravia of Buenos Aires, Argentina has built his custom farming business from the ground up using professionalism, hard work and consistency. His open mind and attitude of gaining knowledge to do better for his customers continues to serve him well.

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that you have to work to be the best, but you don’t have to be arrogant,” Saravia said. “You must learn every day.”
Take care of physical and mental health
Posted On: November 03, 2020
As much as we want our work to be “business as usual” these days, it’s not. Farmers and custom farmers are essential workers, which means that that for most of us, the workload hasn’t diminished during quarantine. In some cases, it may have increased as you implemented additional safety measures.

Like virtually everyone, I’ve had neighbors, friends, service providers and extended family contract the virus. If you haven’t already, it’s time to take additional care – for you and the safety of your employees.
In-person Forage Symposium canceled for 2021
Posted On: October 10, 2020
Dear WCO family,
 
After thoughtful consideration and discussion, the WCO, MFA and PNAAW boards made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person Forage Symposium that was scheduled for mid-February. 

This is not a decision that was taken lightly because we know the Symposium is our premier networking opportunity that members and sponsors look forward to all year. At a time when public health and safety information is changing and evolving rapidly, we realized that canceling the event was the best decision for our organization – and for the safety of our members.
WCO creates mini-grant program to fund farmer and community outreach
Posted On: September 16, 2020
The Wisconsin Custom Operators, Inc. (WCO) recently created a grant program to provide smaller, more flexible awards to assist with important projects or programs that will benefit custom farming and the ag community as a whole.
 
WCO Crew of the Year - Apps due Dec. 1
Posted On: September 09, 2020
Nominate your favorite crew by December 1 and enter to win $1,000 plus prizes and custom apparel!
Hemp provides diversification options
Posted On: July 07, 2020
By Mary Hookham, for WCO
As hemp production becomes more popular and streamlined in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Custom Operators are exploring the crop as a possibility for custom operators. The 2020 Symposium for the Midwest Forage Association, Wisconsin Custom Operators and Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin offered a panel of hemp producers and experts to discuss current hemp-related laws and growing practices.
 
Staying safe in the cab during the COVID-19 pandemic
Posted On: July 07, 2020

By John Shutske, Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Specialist

With COVID-19 dominating news cycles everywhere on the planet, there are a few questions that have come up for minimizing risk for those who operate farm tractors, trucks, and other enclosed ag equipment—especially when the same machine is being operated over the course of a day or work week by multiple people. When you have employees or others who might be trading off and using the same machine it’s important to minimize risk. Even if a person appears healthy, shared equipment should be cleaned between operators.
Read the summer issue of the Custom News!
Posted On: July 06, 2020
The summer Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Hemp provides diversification options
  • Remembering Keith Bolsen
  • Feature: Staying safe in the cab during the pandemic
  • WCO launches Mini-grant program
COVID-19 Information
Posted On: March 26, 2020
WCO is a small association dedicated to the success, health and wellbeing of our members and your employees. We leverage partnerships with other ag organizations to bring you the best information available on issues that matter to you. 

We will be posting updates to our social media channels and website as they are available. 
Ditzenberger: Take time to be kind
Posted On: March 25, 2020

By Mary Hookham for WCO

Jeff Ditzenberger, founder of the Talking, Understanding, Growing, Supporting (T.U.G.S.) program for mental health, believes basic human kindness can cure many issues, but especially mental health issues. He emphasizes the ever-growing need for comprehensive mental health care for farmers and all workers in agricultural-related industries. He started his program to provide support for anybody struggling with mental issues and is specifically catering to men who find it challenging to talk about their feelings.

“Everybody has depression, everybody has bad days, and everybody has those moments where they just want somebody to talk to,” he said. “This is important because we’re losing farmers every single day to suicide.”

Annual symposium equips farmers with more tools
Posted On: March 25, 2020

By Mary Hookham for WCO

The 2020 Forage Symposium highlighted the new decade of agriculture with presentations on large-scale forage operations, nutrient management regulation updates, farm diversification options, the economics of silage bag use and the latest in equipment technology.

Patricio Aguirre Saravia of Buenos Aires, Argentina told his story of growing up on a farm near the small town of Carlos Casares and working closely with his brother on an entrepreneurial adventure. In 1983 the brothers started the Duckas Group, which provided silage services to area farmers. Although his brother passed away in 2006, Saravia has continued his family business enterprise, now operating three custom farming services under the Duckas Group with a team of employees. He prides himself on setting a great example of professionalism for his employees to mimic every day.

WCO honors Cross and Osterhaus; Scholarship apps due May 1
Posted On: March 18, 2020
The Wisconsin Custom Operators, Inc. (WCO) recently awarded two scholarships to students pursuing further education. These students were selected based on leadership, civic engagement, academics and volunteer activities related to agriculture. Students also submitted essays detailing their educational and vocational plans for the future. Scholarship winners are required to have ties to the WCO – either as a member, relative of a member or employee of a member. Students received a $1000 scholarship
WCO members re-elect directors, officers
Posted On: March 08, 2020
Wisconsin Custom Operators members re-elected three directors during the group’s annual business meeting on Feb. 19, held in conjunction with the Forage Symposium at the Chula Vista Resort. 
 
Ray Liska, owner of Apollo-Vale Enterprizes in Cochrane and Derek Ducat, from Ducat Farms Custom Work in Kewaunee were re-elected as operator directors. Josh Bartholomew, territory manager for Oxbo International, was re-elected as a corporate director.
Read the fall issue of the Custom News
Posted On: November 05, 2019
The fall Custom News is here!

In this issue:
  • Feature: Silage safety revisited
  • Crew of the Year
  • Feature: Grain dust safety
  • Feature: Farmer stress
Silage safety - revisited
Posted On: November 05, 2019

By Keith K. Bolsen, Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University

I will begin my 50th year of working in the silage industry on January 1, 2020. This includes 32 years as a professor at Kansas State University, where I conducted over 300 research trials on silage production and management, and 18 years as a silage consultant for dairies, feedyards, and companies who provide silage-related products and services.

Health concerns from grain dusts during harvest: One assistive technology tool to help
Posted On: November 05, 2019

By Amanda Harguth, AgrAbility of Wisconsin

With the fall harvest in full swing, and if you produce corn, soybeans, or other crops in Wisconsin, dust exposure while working is inevitable. Breathing in grain dust can affect the health and overall comfort for grain farmers and others who work in the grain industry. Exposures can occur: in the combine, in bins, while unloading, during drying or processing and while grinding/mixing grain and other feed products.

Asking a question can save a life
Posted On: November 05, 2019

By Maria Woldt for WCO

There is a stigma surrounding mental health, and farmers and farm service providers can be somewhat dismissive of the topic. As farmers, we often have the mindset that hard work fixes everything. But when someone is experiencing chronic, long-term stress, just “working harder” isn’t going to fix the problem.

Protect your business with written contracts
Posted On: July 05, 2019
Collecting on past due accounts can be a serious challenge in any business but especially in custom operating businesses. David Krekeler of Krekeler Strother, S.C. of Madison provided attendees at the Wisconsin Custom Operators 2019 symposium with challenges, opportunities and options when it comes to collecting on past due accounts.
 
Wisconsin Injury to Highway law & state budget update
Posted On: July 05, 2019
Year after year, it seems like the same spots on the same town and county roads are being patched. But new roads require funds that local governments don’t have. At the same time, the ag equipment we use has gotten larger and heavier. While many people benefit from using the local roads, some are quick to cast the blame for worsening roads on our agriculture equipment. As local roads grow worse, funds diminish, pressure  increases to make visible users of the road pay the price. 
Silage handling safety a must on the farm
Posted On: March 21, 2019
Keith Bolsen had two close calls while handling silage at Kansas State University during his teaching and research career there. In one instance, he lost parts of three fingers on his right hand. In the other instance, he nearly overturned a pack tractor. Now he works to educate farmers on safe silage handling techniques in hopes of preventing other accidents.
Positive attitude, commitment to customers earns Kowitz top employee award
Posted On: March 09, 2019
The Wisconsin Custom Operators (WCO) recently honored a Norwalk man for his hard work and dedication to a custom farming business. WCO’s 2019 Employee of the Year award was given to Norm Kowitz, an employee of Sullivan Custom Farming in Sparta on Feb. 20 during the organization’s annual meeting at the Forage Symposium at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

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