Andy Fisher runs a successful dairy operation and keeps his cows comfortable and happy. He makes it a priority to reduce the environmental impact of his farm and volunteers in his community. His on- and off-farm achievements earned him the Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer award in 2018.
For Fisher, farming isn’t just a way to make a living. It’s a way of life. “I feel it’s one of the most honest and honorable ways to live on this earth,” he said.
Fisher is also a 1999 graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Farm & Industry Short Course (FISC).
FISC, housed in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), offers more than 30 courses in subjects including crops, dairy, meat animals, soils, agricultural engineering, farm business management, human relations, and communications. After graduation, FISC students find many types of agricultural jobs, including crop assistant, milker, herdsman, and farm manager.
Caring for cows, community
A fourth-generation farmer, Fisher grew up on a dairy farm in Valders, Wis. In January 2004, he co-founded Riverside Dairy LLC in Reedsville. There, along with his business partners and eight employees, Fisher manages almost 800 cattle (with around 400 milking cows) and farms about 750 acres of herd-feeding crops.
Riverside uses research-proven methods to care for cows. As a result, the herd produces an impressive 10 million pounds of milk per year while maintaining high fertility rates and low white blood cell counts, a sign of healthy immune systems and good milk quality.
Fisher also cares for his community by being a good steward of the environment. He participated in the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN program, which promotes conservation and sustainability in dairy farming practices like manure management, energy and water usage, feed rations, and crop production.
Fisher also works with a certified agronomist and follows a nutrient management plan for crop rotation and manure application spreading rates. On highly erodible soils, he plants winter rye as a cover crop, followed by no-till corn in spring. All of this helps keep the soil healthy and productive, and it reduces the runoff of fertilizer into nearby waterways.
Fisher said the Farm & Industry Short Course helped him advance his operation, partly by introducing him to the value of farm trials.
“While attending FISC, I worked at the UW Dairy Cattle Center, mainly doing chores. But I also helped with some of the trials,” he said. “I learned to appreciate research and analyzing data and saw that, although it can be tedious, it pays off in the end.”
Fisher said that through his farming operation, he tries to be a role model for his two sons, who help with the dairy, and he would be proud to pass on his family tradition if they choose to carry farming into a fifth generation.