Client Highlight: Robert Makovec

Makovec Continues Century-Old Tradition in Style

Nestled in the midst of the green hills in Southwestern Wisconsin, “Lazy M Acres,” a 101-year-old farm is run by Robert Makovec of Muscoda, Wis.  Makovec’s grandfather bought the original 40 acres many years ago to begin the strong tradition of the Makovec dairy operation.  The farm was honored at the 2003 Wisconsin State Fair when it became a Century Farm.

“I was born and raised on this farm,” said Makovec as he looked across the barnyard to the rolling hills that surrounded his land.  The 230 acres of corn, alfalfa and soybeans, along with the 65 head of dairy cows keeps Makovec busy almost every minute of the day.

About 12 years ago, Makovec began to have problems with his knees.  He began by getting a quarter-knee replacement, but in 1999, the entire knee was replaced.  In 2002, his hip was replaced with a steel plate, making it more difficult to accomplish everyday tasks at “Lazy M Acres.”

“When you get a hip replaced, there’s so many “do’s” and “don’ts,” it’s unreal,” said Makovec.  His doctor warned him not to bend over 90 degrees, and to stay centered throughout his work.  “He (the doctor) told me that I can’t jump, can’t climb, and can’t carry over 50 pounds.”

A picture of the TMR mixer Robert received

The restrictions on Makovec’s movement forced him to employ a hired hand to help with the milking, lifting and climbing.  “It was hard for me to go into a manager role instead of a laborer,” said Makovec, “Some days you just want to do it (the jobs) yourself, and you shouldn’t, but you end up paying for it.”

Makovec began to work with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and AgrAbility of Wisconsin after learning about the programs from a friend.  After contacting Allan Hein, a DVR counselor in Prairie du Chein, Makovec began working with Hein and Bruce Whitmore, a Rehabilitation Specialist for the Easter Seals FARM Program.

Makovec used to spend two hours everyday hauling silage for his cattle in a small skid loader bucket.  “It was really bad for my knees and my hip—running a skid loader for that long is hard on anyone,” said Makovec.  Together, Whitmore, Hien and Makovec were able to make adjustments to the daily farm routines, allowing Makovec to feed his cattle with ease

Makovec posing on his Kawasaki Mule.

A new feed bunk was constructed with conveyors for silage, eliminating much of the strain that was being placed on Makovec in the skid loader.  A TMR mixer and a battery-powered feed cart were also added to “Lazy M Acres.”

            “The solution to the problem of feeding and excessive time in the skid loader was the bunk and TMR combination.  The conveyors coming from the two silos were kind of incidentals to get feed into the TMR wagon because we had the old bunk and auger feeder removed,” said Whitmore.

The feed cart, which is computerized, allows Makovec to ration every individual cow’s feed separately as he steers the cart down the barn aisles.  An automatic gate will soon accompany the Kawasaki Mule that Makovec uses to travel across the farmyard.  “It was about time for an update,” said Makovec about the modifications.

Today, Makovec is looking forward to the future at “Lazy M Acres.”  A modification to his daily routine, along with the addition of some equipment, has helped to continue the strong traditions in agriculture that the Makovec Family started over a century ago.  “I didn’t think anything would come of it (when I contacted AgrAbility of Wisconsin and DVR),” said Makovec.  “They bent over backwards to take care of me—I was surprised and very pleased.”