Located just north of NTC’s Wausau campus on County Road K in the Village of Maine, the Agriculture Center of Excellence is the only working dairy farm and learning laboratory in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Thanks to a unique collaboration of partners in the agriculture industry, government and education, the Agriculture Center of Excellence provides the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the management of the herd, nutrition, crops, equipment, facilities and agri-business.

At this fully operating, 110-acre dairy farm, students receive a rich learning experience through working first-hand with animals, equipment and crops.

Programs Offered

A number of programs are offered at the Agriculture Center of Excellence, including:

An agriculture student does some harvesting, driving a red tractor in the field.
The Agriculture Center of Excellence officially opened in June 2011 and features not only cropland and pastureland, but also woodlands and wetlands.

Cows

The herd consists of both lactating and dry cows. The average cow is milked three times per day, with at least one refusal, and the average production is approximately 90 pounds of milk per cow, per day. In addition to receiving a pelleted feed in the robotic milking machine, the cows are fed a partially mixed ration in the freestyle barn consisting of corn and hay silage and dry hay along with vitamins, minerals and molasses through a Lely automatic feeding system.

Calves are place in an individual pen or calf hutch, where they are bottle fed by hand. After a few days calves in the individual pens are moved to another pen and fed by the automatic calf feeder. At approximately three months of age claves are weaned and moved to the adjoining heifer facility.

Two cows laying in the barn.

Robotic Milking Machine

One of the most impressive pieces of machinery on-site is the robotic milking machine. This equipment allows for the cows to enter at will, and cow position is measured by the weight sensors in the robot’s floor.

Each cow is equipped with a collar with a small computerized chip that helps identify the cow and determine if it is her turn to be milked. A predetermined feed ration is dispensed as the cow is milked, and upon completion the cows are sprayed with a teat sanitizer and released as data about the cow is stored in the computer system.

A large red milking machine sits in the corner of the shed. A cow is inside it being milked.

Cropland

Students utilizing the facility are exposed to the latest agriculture equipment and precision farming technology, allowing them to take full advantage of the 83 acres of tillable land to plant peas, oats, alfalfa, red clover, grass, turnips, radishes, and corn.

A view of a field used for crops at the Agriculture Center of Excellence.

Sustainability

The Center features three wind turbines, which serve as instructional aids. Combined with the solar panels already in place on the barn roof, during a sunny, high-wind day the alternative energy sources on the farm should carry the farm’s full electrical load. If additional electricity is generated, it is sold back to Wisconsin Public Service.

Agriculture Center of Excellence