By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Outweighing the competition: Milking contest draws spectators
Two Brown Swiss cows are milked during the milking competition at Cheese Days Saturday. There were four cows in the milking contest, along with substitutes. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Without milk, there would be no cheese, after all.

Spectators lined the bleachers from all angles and sat along curbsides to get a good view of milking team members try their hands at the udders of four separate cows to milk the old-fashioned way during the Cheese Days contest on Saturday.

The sun was shining down as the shouting of "milk, milk, milk" echoed the street in front of the Monroe Post Office. Pam Wyss stood in front of the four animals, reading off the names of teams, calling on the crowd to chant as each milker took their minute under a Holstein, Brown Swiss or Jersey. Four members from each of the 24 teams squeezed to add as much milk as possible to their buckets in one minute, some supporting one another by holding the bucket close to the cow, before rotating on to the next cow.

Juda FFA Alumni took home the ultimate bragging rights. The team, placed in the Experienced/Professional Milkers category, poured out more than 5 pounds of milk in the allotted time - more than any other team in the competition.

Cow Tippers of Badger State Ethanol, members of the Cheese Days Sponsors category, followed with 4.425 pounds. In the Community/Business category, Bank of Brodhead won out with 2.67 pounds, while the Green County Dairy Queens won the Royalty category with 1.65 pounds of milk.

The milking contest has been held during Cheese Days since 1970. This year the event had new leadership with Kelsi and Jeremy Mayer, husband and wife farmers who had been support staff to Pam and Randy Wyss, the previous organizers for the contest, since 2012. This year they took over the reigns as coordinators. Jeremy emceed the event, entertaining the crowd and announcing winners. Kelsi darted along the edge, showing people where to stand and answering questions from volunteers.

"We pretty much have it down to a science at this point," Kelsi said. "There are always things that come up. One thing that does get to be a bit of a challenge is that we have so much interest in the contest."

The Mayers said there is always more demand than how much time can be made for the contest. She even had people contacting her during the days leading up to Cheese Days, but had to turn them away. Kelsi encouraged anyone who was not able to form a team in time to plan for the next Cheese Days.

Kelsi said the event would not have been a success without the Dale Foster family, who donated the use of the Jersey cows, and Randy and Pam Wyss, who brought Holsteins to the contest in addition to the Mayers' Brown Swiss. She said a number of volunteers were also needed, from the Monroe Police and Fire Departments to the Green and Rock County Dairy Herd Improvement Association Managers and Russ and Nadine Brown for their permission to use the parking lot where the milk weighing tent was stationed.

A bonus this year was an early finish: Jeremy said roughly 30 spectators gathered around the cows at the end of the contest to take a shot at hand milking at 3 p.m. The excitement of the crowd only bolstered the coordinators' positive feelings about the teams who took part beforehand.

"We had a great day," Kelsi said. "I would definitely say it was very successful. The teams were excited and had fun. It was neat to see everyone's passion."