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A Typical Day – Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

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Years ago, it was normal for practically everyone to be raised on a farm.  And if you were a “town kid”, your grandparents probably still farmed.  But as the generations have progressed, family farms are becoming more scarce in many parts of the world.  So whenever we mention that we are dairy farmers, it tends to peak a lot of interest.  So much so, that I decided I’d share a little bit of our winter life on a Minnesota dairy farm today!

Early To Bed, Early To Rise.  Makes A Man Healthy Wealthy And Wise

Well, the first part of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is most certainly true for farmers!  Most of the time any ways.  My husband would argue the fact that he never quite makes it to bed earlier enough though.  (And to be fair, I could never survive on the little bit of sleep that man gets!)

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm {Background}

Welcome to our winter life on a Minnesota dairy farm.  Our milking cows are housed in a large free-stall barn.  And we currently milk about 95 cows in our swing 12 parlor.  All young stock are born here on the farm.  And then the heifers are raised by us.  We do sell our young bull calves as we just don’t currently have the space to raise up steers at the moment.

I hope you enjoy your day with us!

Wake Up – 3:30 AM

The farmer wakes early as he’s up before the world awakes.  Most mornings, he’s out of bed by 3:30am.  Unless that snooze button gets the best of him if it was a later, than normal, night.  After a quick snack of a cookie or glass of milk, it’s out the door.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Check Baby Calves And Dry Cows – 4 AM

After heading out the door, it’s a quick stop at the calf barn just to make sure all is well.  Then a stop at the dry cow pen to see if there are any new calf arrivals or any cows in labor.

Mix Feed – 4:15 AM

Because we are a working dairy farm, the animals are a huge part of our lives.  And before milking, Mike takes time to mix feed.  He has to get haylage and corn silage from the bags then add all the feed components to our TMR (total mixed rations) mixer.   (Think of a TMR as a large Kitchen Aid mixer.)  Once the feed rations are measured and mixed in, the feed is then placed before the cattle.  The cows and heifers all receive fresh feed for the day.

Milking Time – 6 AM

At about 5:30, it’s time to start bringing the cows down to the parlor and get ready for milking.  All the milking cattle are brought down from the free stall barn.  They are placed in the holding pen and then 12 cows are loaded into each side of the parlor.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Once the first side is full, those cows’ teats are cleaned.  Then, each cow is “started”.  This means that you gently squeeze milk out of each teat to let them know it’s time to let their milk drop.  After a quick wipe to dry them, the milkers are placed on and each cow is milked.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

After the first side of 12 are all on and being milked, it’s time to load the second side.  And then just repeat until every cow is milked.   {This style parlor is called a swing 12 since you milk 12 cows on one side. Then simply swing the milkers over to the other and do it again.}

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Once a cow is finished being milked, their teats are dipped with a post teat dip.  This helps to keep the teat soft and protected from germs.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Clean Up – about 8:00 AM

Once all the cows are milked and sent back up to the free stall barn, it’s time to clean up.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

The entire parlor needs to be hosed down with our fireman’s hose.  Milkers need to be cleaned as well.  Everything needs to be put back into tip-top shape.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Feed And Check Calves – 8:30 AM

Our calves are housed in a small calf barn in the middle of our farm.  When they are first born, they are fed by bottle for a couple of days before being moved to our automatic calf feeder.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

The automatic calf feeder is set to “credits”.  Each calf is allowed a certain amount of credits, depending on age.  As the calf gets older, they start getting more feed and their credits decrease as they are weaned.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Adding milk replacer to the calf feeder.

So Mike takes time to clean the feeder, check on how much each calf is eating, and give feed.  This is an important time to monitor behavior and the calves’ health to ensure there that none are getting sick.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

And then just standing and watching each calf for a few minutes to make sure everyone is healthy is also a huge part of checking on the calves each morning.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

The youngest calves are all wearing jackets. Once they are a little older and graduate to the next pen, the jackets are removed.

Scrape Holding Pen And Push Up Feed – 8:45 AM

Back to the barn now.  Of course, while the cows are waiting to be milked, some decide to poop and pee.  So after each milking, the holding pen is scraped with the skid loader and scraper to keep it as clean as possible.  {I’ll save you from photos of that job.}

Then, a quick switch of skid loader attachments and feed is pushed up with the feed scraper.  **It’s important to push the cows feed up multiple times a day.  Because as they eat, some remaining feed gets pushed out of their reach.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

A really great thing about having a free stall barn now is that the cows can walk around as they wish. Which means they can also come up and eat in any of the headlocks as well. (They are set to open so the cows can stick their heads in and out.)

Breakfast Break – 9 AM

After all that work, it’s time for a quick breakfast break.  Many days, I’ll whip up some sort of egg for Mike.  He typically eats, takes a quick 15-30 minute nap, and then heads back out to winter life on a dairy farm again.  {However, on really busy days, I make him an egg sandwich and bring it outside for him.  Those days, he skips his break and eats as he works.}

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

General Farm Work – 9:30 to 11:55 AM

  • Cleaning Pens
  • Bedding Down
  • Necessary Repairs
  • Parts Run

And any other things that need to be done often such as herd health checks, sick cow treatments, vet visit, etc.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Lunch Time – Noon

Because we homeschool and farm, lunch is our big family meal.  It’s the meal that many families would eat at supper.  I tend to make most things from scratch.  So you’ll usually find us sitting down to our big home-cooked meal together around noon almost every day of the week.  Meals such as Simple Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken with sides or even pork chops.

Mexican Chicken Recipe

Power Nap – 12:45 to 1:30 PM

After putting in 7 1/2 hours of work already, it’s time for another quick power nap.  Because many nights, Mike only gets about 5 hours of sleep, he counts on these power naps to get him through the day.

General Farm Upkeep With A Little Fun

In the afternoon hours, you’ll find Mike doing a variety of things, depending on the day.  This includes:

  • Bookkeeping Paperwork
  • Snow Pushing
  • Errands
  • Oil Changes On Tractors Or Vehicles
  • Any Additional Urgent General Farm Work That Didn’t Get Done In The Morning

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

During the winter months, we typically take an hour or so as family time as well.  So you can find us playing a board game together, playing outside, or just hanging out talking.  We try to take advantage of this time because spring and fall field work time doesn’t allow this luxury.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Snack Time – 4 PM

We usually see Mike run back to the house again around 4 each afternoon.  Since we don’t do a large supper most days, he just grabs a snack at this time.  So he’ll sit down at the counter, chat, and eat his snack with some milk.

Chore Time – 4:30 PM

Well, here we are again!  It’s time to push up feed, check and feed baby calves, and check dry cows again for any new calves.  And just take a general look around the farm to make sure all is well.

Evening Milking And Clean Up – 5:15 to 7:30 PM

Our cows get milked twice a day.  So it’s back into the barn for another round of milking and clean up.  Milking procedures are the same for both morning and night milking.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Head To The House – 7:45 PM

After a final look around the barn to ensure all is cleaned up and back in place for the next day, it’s time to head into the house.

Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm

Once inside, Mike will grab a snack or bowl of cereal and hang out with everyone for a little bit before jumping in the shower.  Then it’s pajamas for everyone, teeth brushing, and heading to bedrooms.

Call It A Day – 9 PM

By this time, the farmer is exhausted!  So it’s time for bed.

So tell me, did you grow up on a farm?  Or have you ever visited one?  What do you think of our Winter Life On A Minnesota Dairy Farm?  Is it what you expected?

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