Kenzie Brantner

Hired Before Graduation

Name: Mackenzie "Kenzie" Brantner
Company: Herdsman, Hay Creek Dairy
Hometown: Eau Galle, Wis.
Major: Dairy Science, Agricultural Business Minor

Kenzie Brantner's path to being hired before graduation is a little different than most. After commencement, she will be returning to her family farm, Hay Creek Dairy, to take over operation of the farm.

"The farm is really where my heart is," says Kenzie. "I want to be there all the time. I was determined to get a job right after graduation. I thought I wanted to get away from the farm but this is where I want to be."

Kenzie, a dairy science major from Eau Galle, Wis., will start as a herdsman but has big plans for the family operation.

"It's a small family farm. My grandpa and uncle are the ones who run it now and they've been doing it for years. It's the same farm that my grandpa grew up on," she explains. "Over time, you start doing the same thing over and over again. I see a lot of improvement that can be done on the farm and that's what I'm aiming to do."

Using her UW-River Falls education is key to Kenzie's plans.  

"Honestly, the amount of stuff that I have learned here is amazing," she says. "Coming from a smaller farm, you don't really realize what all is out there but I have learned so much about the dairy industry throughout my four years here."

When asked about the experiences on campus that have contributed the most to her education, Kenzie is quick to reference classes within her major.

"I took an advanced dairy management class with Dr. [Steve] Kelm last semester. In that class you do a big project where you go out to a farm and you evaluate the farm completely and then present on your findings," she explains. "I think that really helped me realize that I really do want to farm. I always thought about it but that class pushed me over the line."

"Taking Reproductive Physiology with Dr. [Casie] Bass has really helped me better understand the reproductive side of farming," she adds. "This is for sure something that I want to improve on the farm. Now that I have a much better understanding of it, I feel as if I can do just that. Although I've only taken one class with her, she has been one of my favorite professors here. You can tell she is very passionate about what she does."

The dairy industry is evolving and Kenzie is aware of the challenges currently facing many farmers. Despite the concerns, she feels ready to face whatever comes her way.

"Pursuing a minor in ag business has most readily prepared me for future challenges on the farm. These classes were a bit of a challenge for me in the first place, since I don't really consider myself to have that type of 'business thinking,'" she says. "Taking these classes has taught me to use more of a strategic planning strategy. They taught me to always be ready and to think of any possible problems that could arise."

Kenzie is candid about her concerns, but feels secure knowing she will have a degree from UW-River Falls in hand.

"The dairy industry can be a little scary right now. We have 55 cows and we are a very small farm. I'm nervous, but I am willing to try. If I didn't at least try my hand at farming, at running the family farm, I think I would regret it," she says. "With my four-year degree from UW-River Falls in hand, I will feel much more confident. I know I've learned the skills I am going to need. I've had to think critically about farming and I'm ready for whatever comes my way.

Kenzie also knows that returning to the family farm may be a slightly uncommon – but not unorthodox – approach to seeking employment post-graduation.

"If you are going back to the family farm, don't ever feel bad about it. It's a job after graduation and it's a very important one. We have to carry these family farms into the future," she says. "For a lot of dairy students, myself included, it's where their heart lies. Don't be scared to try it."


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