UW Degree(s) and Year(s): Dairy Science and Agricultural Economics, December 1995
Current City: Mukwonago, Wis.
Hometown: Reedsville, Wis.
Current Position & Company: Managing Editor, Hoard’s Dairyman
Past Work Experience: Associate: 20 years with Hoard’s Dairyman, serving as associate editor, senior associate editor, assistant managing editor
What is your agriculture background? Grew up on a 376-acre farm with 130 Registered Holsteins. Even though I am fully employed with Hoard’s Dairyman, I am part owner in that operation and work there periodically. My wife’s family, Krista Knigge, also was the first dairy in the U.S. to install robots. We are close to that dairy herd too as well as the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm.
What made you want to be a dairy science major at UW? To be honest, my parents. Mom and Dad both said I could not return to the farm without attending college. After meeting Dr. Dave Dickson at our county fair when I was 16 years old, the decision was made and UW-Madison was the only school to which I applied. With a 26 ACT and fourth-class ranking, I gained admittance.
How has a degree in dairy science at UW been a benefit to you in the workplace? My dual major opened so many doors. Not only did I learn the inner workings of cow care, I learned a great deal about finances. This, in combination with an internship where I wrote extensively, allowed me too weave a career that involves cows, economics and communications.
What clubs/activities were you involved in on campus? The combination of academics and activities provide an excellent foundation for launching a career. I joined Alpha Gamma Rho and later served as president; in Badger Dairy Club I was a two-time cheese stand chair and a vice president; served as the UW Senior Class Secretary; a senator in the Associated Students of Madison (student government); and was a member of the second place dairy cattle judging team at the 1994 World Dairy Expo. I also was a member of Alpha Zeta and the CALS Student Council.
What within these clubs/activities have made a big difference in your life after college? These activities took classroom work and allowed me to gain leadership skills and hone financial and personnel management (cheese stand and AGR). Also, each activity provided outstanding networking opportunities and exposed me to industry leaders.
What was one of your favorite dairy science courses, and do you have any specific memories from it that you would like to share? I’ve never shied away from work. So when Dr. John Parrishh dropped two large binders on the desk during the first day of Animal/Dairy Science 375 and said, “We are going to learn all of this in the next three months. If this scares you, I’d suggest leaving through that door.” That may not have been the exact quote. However, it set the tone and I learned more about reproduction than I ever expected.
Also, I took a capstone dairy foods processing course with Dr. Robert Bradley that involved manufacturing dairy foods and designing a processing plant. While that didn’t become my chosen career, it gave this farm boy a firmer appreciation on what’s involved with taking milk and manufacturing it into consumer products. That’s our ultimate goal.
If you could give advice to your college-aged-self, what would it be? Quite simple . . . Get involved. Try more new things. Stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. College provides a safe opportunity to practice new skills.
What do you like most about your job? Variety. Covering the full spectrum of the American and global dairy industry for an English, Spanish, and Japanese publication that goes to 95 percent of the U.S. dairy industry with subscribers in 60-plus countries. During the past 20 years, I have traveled to 46 states, seven countries and been a part of two U.S. Dairy Export Council trade missions.
What are your goals for the future? Grow the U.S. dairy industry through though-provoking editorial comments and industry leadership. Unique among dairy media coverage, Hoard’s Dairyman publishes 59 editorial comments each year. These pieces help shape the future and I enjoy authoring them along with my industry involvement.
It is very clear that staying actively involved with UW is a priority of yours. What advice could you give alumna to step forward and maintain a relationship with their alma mater? Cultivate the next generation to grow both on-farm and off-farm talent. I often hear we don’t have enough young people to join the agricultural work force. To that I ask, “When was the last time you encouraged a young person to take a campus tour?” Not everyone I reach out to attends the school, but it opens the doors to the grand variety of careers in our dairy industry and all of agriculture.
You’ve also made a strong effort to continue to give back to UW. Whether it’s through volunteering at Badger Dairy Camp, holding a position on the CALS Board of Visitors, or participating in other college functions. Why is this one of your top priorities? Both Krista and I were blessed by alumni and facility who provided learning opportunities and scholarships. In the same vein, we believe providing leadership, a helping hand and money are all important. It’s one of the reasons Krista and I recently started the “Grateful Badgers” scholarship at the UW Foundation, which will support CALS students.