Mel Pittman was born and raised on the Pierce County farm where he still lives, the seventh of 13 children.
His dad, Clarence, purchased the original 120-acre farm in 1942 with help from his father. A year later, Mel's parents were married.
There was always plenty of work to be done on the farm for the home-grown workforce, Mel recalls. "Dad built an addition on the barn in the early 1960s. By then we were milking 50 cows. He could do that because he always had four or five sons around to do work."
Like several of his older siblings, after graduating from high school Mel attended University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He majored in animal science and planned to work off the farm after getting his bachelor's degree. While attending UW-River Falls, Mel met fellow classmate Pat Dushek, a native of Fond du Lac. She was majoring in general agriculture with plans of becoming a meat inspector after graduation.
"It wasn't until we graduated from UW-River Falls in May 1976 that my dad said he wanted to step back and retire," Mel explains. A month after graduation, Mel and Pat were married. They worked for Mel's parents for two years before they started buying the farm, cattle and machinery in January 1979.
"Dad continued to help with fieldwork after he sold the farm to us," Mel says.
Over the years, Mel and Pat upgraded their dairy facilities, increased their herd size and bought more land. Today, the couple owns 407 acres and milks 82 Holstein cows. Their herd averages 23,000 pounds of milk. The couple has made milk quality a priority. Their somatic cell count has averaged 80,000 for more than a decade. In 2012, the SCC was 67,000.
Cow comfort has also been a priority. Ten years ago, they built a double-six herringbone milking parlor and a 75-stall freestall barn that features large stalls, rubber mats and rubber-filled mattresses. Up to 20 special-needs cows are kept in the adjoining tiestall barn. Cows are fed a total mixed ration twice a day, which has helped boost milk production and cow health.