The Herd




The cows at Nellie Holsteins live in a state-of-the-art free stall barn designed for maximum comfort throughout the year. They are fed a TMR “Total Mixed Ration” food diet that is made up of alfalfa Haylage, corn silage and protein mix with additional nutrients. The Nelsons grow and harvest all the forages (alfalfa and corn) that the cows consume. An automatic feed pusher moves the feed towards the cows every two hours so that the cows have constant access to feed and don’t ever go hungry.


The cows are milked twice a day – 5am and 5pm. The cows are moved from their pen in the barn to the holding area. Once in the holding area the cows then enter the milking parlor at their own speed and walk into a milking machine place. Once the cows are in place, the bar lowers to keep the cows safe during milking and Doug, Derrick and Miranda clean their teats and place the milking machines on each cow. Once the cow has given all her milk, the milking machines come off, and they are free to return to the barn.


The Nelson’s sell their milk to Dairy Farmers of America “DFA” The milk hauler comes every other day to pick up the milk from the bulk tank where the milk is stored on the dairy. The milk hauler delivers the milk to a processing plant where the milk is mainly turned into cheese.

Nellie Holsteins is a 200-head dairy farm that was expanded in 2018 to be able to support both Doug Nelson and his son and daughter-in-law Derrick and Miranda Nelson. The cows – all Holsteins – live in a tunnel vented barn with automatic fans with sensors that turn the different fans on and off and faster or slower to keep the cows cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The barn has soft, sand-bedded, free stalls the cows can lay on when they like. And they have open access to food all day long that is mixed specially for the herd with corn and alfalfa that is grown on the farm, and then pushed towards them all day long by an automatic feed pusher. Automatic manure scrapers constantly move the manure away from the cows, so the pens stay as clean as possible.

Twice a day the cows are milked in a state-of-the-art double-8 milking parlor with milking machines that measure how much milk each cow produces. At 5am and 5pm the pens are open one at a time and each group of cows moves their way to the parlor. The cows enter the milking parlor in whichever order they please, and once there are eight cows in the milking area, a bar lowers to keep them safe while they are milked. Once they’ve given their milk, the bar raises, and the cows leave the milking parlor and return to their pens in the barn. It takes about two hours to milk all the cows. The milk is pumped into a chilled bulk tank where it stays at 38 degrees Fahrenheit until the milk truck comes to pump it out and take it to the creamery. The creamery uses most of the Nelson’s milk to make cheese.

There are about 175 cows that are giving milk every day. The cows are also artificially inseminated about once a year, so they become pregnant and give birth. It takes about 283 days for a baby cow or calf to be born once the mother cow is pregnant – a little more than 9 months. The female calves, called a heifer calf, then move into calf hutches next to the barn to keep them healthy and safe for just over two months. Then they are moved to the Nelson’s original farm down the road where they live in a barn and on the pasture for about two years until they are ready to have their first baby. Once they have their calf the heifers move back to the big barn for their milk to be harvested.

Each cow wears an activity collar, like a “fitbit,” that measures how much time they eat and ruminate (or chew their cud), how much walking they do, how much time she spends laying down or resting. These collars allow the Nelsons to keep close tabs on the whole herd by looking at the computer program to see which cow might not feel well right away instead of watching all 200 cows in the barn for hours to see if any of the cows (that look pretty similar) are sick. The collars send a notification when the cows are in heat and are ready to be bred to become pregnant. The system also tracks how much milk each cow gives every day, so the farmers can see if something is off or not.

Since the Nelsons moved their dairy herd into the modern barn from the tie-stalled barn, milk production has gone up an average of 15%! That means a cow that used to produce 70 pounds of milk per day now can produce 82 pounds of milk per day because they live in a better barn.

Historical Timeline


The Nelson family came from Germany and settled in Eau Claire establishing the Nelson farm, where Doug Nelson still lives today. In Doug’s parents, Donald and Dorothy Nelson, took over the farm from Dorothy’s parents, Warren and Martha Hanson who milked eleven cows.


Doug Nelson is born – becoming the 4th generation to farm the Nelson Dairy farm. By now they call the farm Nellie Holsteins. In the same year, an addition was added to the barn to hold 37 cows. In the 1960s, Nellie Holsteins becomes the first dairy farm in Eau Claire to use artificial insemination which allows optimum Holstein cattle. Ten years later in 1973 Don and Dorthy add another addition to the barn to have more space to house calves. 20 year later in 1991 Doug takes over the farm from his parents Donald and Dorthy Nelson and Derrick Nelson is born, becoming the 5th generation on the dairy. In 1993 Doug builds a new calf barn and adds stalls to the old calf barn to allow for 19 more cows bringing the herd size to 56 cows.


Derrick Nelson and Miranda Thesing-Ritter get married and decide they want to work on the farm too, carrying on the family tradition of dairy farming once Doug decides to retire. At this time Nellie Holsteins had 56 cows in their herd in a tie stall barn, which did not produce enough milk to support both Doug and his son and daughter-in-law. They decided that in order to keep the dairy farm going, they would need to expand the operation to produce more milk. Doug, Derrick and Miranda start researching new barn and herd management techniques and technologies so they can build the best dairy farm possible. They buy 80 acres down the road from Doug’s farm and start construction in 2017


It’s been 3 years since the Nelsons moved their cows into the new open stall barn with the state of the art fans, feed pushers, activity collars, milking parlors and computer systems. Since then, their herd has grown from 56 cows to almost 200 cows. Doug and Derrick work full time on the farm, and Miranda is a Calf and Heifer Nutrition Specialist for Western Wisconsin Nutrition, doing her farm work morning and night and on the weekends. Today, Nellie Holsteins produces about 5,000,000 pounds of milk per year.

From Farm to Table

Dorthy Nelson’s Famous Cream Puff

Yields: 8-10 Servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time:
Ingredients Instructions
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups milk divided
  • 3 (3.4 ounce) packages Instant French Vanilla Pudding (see recipe note)
  • 8 ounces whipped topping defrosted (like Cool Whip)
  • Chocolate syrup as needed (like Hershey's)
For the Cream Puff Pastry Crust For the Cream Puff Filling
  • 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • 2. Add the butter and water to a heavy saucepan and place over MEDIUM heat. Cook until the butter has melted and then bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a soft ball.
  • 3. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl and let it rest for about 5 minutes to cool slightly. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly with an electric mixer in between additions. Once all eggs have been added, continue to mix for a minute or two or until the mixture is smooth.Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread the sticky dough out evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. To make it easier, spray the backside of an offset spatula with non-stick cooking spray and use it to spread the dough.
  • 4. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until puffed up the sides of the pan and golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  • 1. Place softened cream cheese and 1 cup milk in a large mixing bowl and beat thoroughly with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth. If there are small bits of cream cheese that don’t completely incorporate, it’s fine. Just beat the mixture so that it is as smooth as possible (starting with room temperature cream cheese will make this step easier). Add remaining milk and the pudding mix and beat again for several minutes on high speed until thickened.
  • 2. Spread the pudding mixture over the completely cooled crust. Spread the whipped topping over the pudding mixture and use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth it out. Chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  • 3. Drizzle with chocolate syrup before serving.

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