A dairy farm family with a long history of soil conservation has been chosen to receive the Leopold Conservation Award from the Sand County Foundation and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

The award announcement was made during today's meeting of the state Natural Resources Board. The Koepke family, from Oconomowoc, Wis., will receive the $10,000 award and a Leopold crystal Dec. 4 at the WFBF Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells.

Koepke FamilyNO-TILL LEADERS. The Koepke family of Oconomowoc will receive the Leopold Conservation Award Dec. 4 at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Wisconsin Dells.

"The Koepkes have made conservation a family tradition," said Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President.

"From their soil and water management techniques to their community outreach efforts, they are a prime example of the innovative, dedicated and determined farm families that can be found across Wisconsin."

Koepke Farms Inc. is a partnership between brothers Alan, David, Jim, and Jim's son John. Together, they milk 320 cows and operate 1,000 acres of cropland plus another 150 acres of woods and wetlands.

A No-Till Pioneer

As one of the first farms in their area to adopt a completely no-till system, the family has incorporated grassed waterways, contour strip cropping, diversified crop rotation, nutrient management, cover crops and barnyard runoff control into their farming practices.

Research conducted on the farm by the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farms Program from 2005 to 2008 resulted in the Koepkes making the decision to build a manure storage structure.

They have altered the dairy herd's feed rations so that the manure does not contain excessive levels of phosphorus, without impacting milk production. As proof, a Holstein named "Granny" from the farm holds the world record for lifetime milk production.

The Koepkes are members of the Waukesha County Farm Bureau and were also named the 2011 Dairymen of the Year at World Dairy Expo in Madison.

They were one of four finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award.