Located just north of Wausau on Highway K, the Northcentral Technical College Agriculture Center for Excellence sits on 110 acres of land. It opened up in 2011. From the outside, it resembles your typical farm, but walk inside and you'll find that something sets it apart from most. "The biggest difference here is because it's a school but otherwise the rest of it is pretty much, we try to keep it as close to a regular family farm is what we can," says Dan Radtke, a herdsman.
There are barns, pastures, and even equipment and let's not forget livestock. There are 36 milking cows, 3 dry cows, 28 bred heifers, 18 yearling heifers, and 9 calves. "The need for Agriculture is always going to be there, whether it's directly related to Agriculture through the production side of it or through the feed mills and cooperatives on that side of it," says Katie Mihlbauer, the Ag Sciences Development Manager.
That's why this center was built. Dozens of students enroll each year in four programs offered through NTC. They are Vet Science, Dairy Science, Agribusiness, and an Ag Equipment Technician program. "There's a big variety of classroom followed up by hands on and that's kind of the basis of the program and the whole idea to having this whole facility is that they get that hole hands on training that so much of them desire and that they need," she says.
Students get to spend time with cattle, vaccinating and dehorning them, they even get to learn about the animals. "The biggest thing with the cattle is you have to listen to what they're telling you, not everybody understands that part of it. See how this cow lies at an angle in this stall? She's lying at an angle in this stall because there's a wooden brisket board here and when she gets up she lunges ahead and she hits that brisket board so she tries to lay so she doesn't hit the board," says Radtke.
Students also get to learn some of the latest and greatest farming technology out there, including a robotic milker, robotic feeder, and even farm equipment with GPS. "The biggest challenge we have at the college is not to stay the same but to always have the vision to look ahead of what next is coming and anticipate so we can have the students ready when the technology is here," he says.
But no matter how technology changes, or the challenges the Agricultural industry faces, one thing is certain. "People need to eat, and so the need for Agriculture is always going to be there. What scale it's on, the education and the skills need to be there and they need to be taught," says Mihlbauer.