Winter goes pretty quickly even though Mother Nature
challenges us with extreme cold and snow. Any measurable snow makes it
difficult to keep the farmyards clean for our team to get in and out. We own
our own snowplows on the front of pickup trucks. In the winter, we also use our
front loaders to not only feed the cows, but to move snow.
The animals are our first priority. The side curtains come
down on our barn to keep the cows out of the wind, sleet and snow. Cows like
cooler temperatures, but not the driving wind.
When our cows give birth, the calving team takes extra
attention and care. It’s important to get the calf dried off quickly and into
clean, fresh fluffy straw where they can nestle in and get warm. We put a calf
jacket on them to help retain their body heat. We have dedicated staff to care
for the calves and cows 24/7. We can’t forget that people are fighting the
cold, as well. Their ambition and dedication to care for the calves goes above
and beyond. They put the cow’s and calf’s needs ahead of their own.
Farms can’t close during a snowstorm. In extreme weather,
I’ve had to go get staff to help get them here. Everything works well at zero
degrees, but at 10 to 15 below zero, you have to be on your toes.
Harvest was a struggle. The rainy weather started in the
spring before planting. This fall, during silage harvest, we fought the same
elements to get the crops out of the fields. The rain forced us to shorten our
growing season. That means, we lose yield, which means less feed for our
animals. We have one window each year to provide enough feed for our cows for a
full year. We have had three wet years in a row, so feed inventories are low.
We started harvest on October 7th. Usually, we
start on September 12th. Most of our days start at 7 a.m. with pre-maintenance
on the chopper which includes fueling up, greasing the chopper, filling the
tires, and sharpening knives on the front that chop the corn. It’s important to
do an equipment check so all our tools for that day are at 100% working
capacity. We start chopping at 8 a.m. Normally, we run to 10:00 p.m. at night.
In previous years, we chop directly into a semi-trailer.
This year, we had to use a tractor and dump cart, and dump the silage into the semi-trailer
on the road because the ground was too wet to bring it in the fields. That
required three additional employees and three more pieces of machinery, which
meant higher fuel costs, wages and wear and tear on machinery.
Farms operate in a rhythm. Starting late affects everything
on the farm. It especially affects manure hauling. We need that fertilizer to
keep the farm recycling running. We feed crops to our animals, who produce meat
and milk, the cows produce manure and the cycle begins again.
We finished harvesting silage on October 24th. There
is still plenty to do on the farm. We have to harvest our corn and soybeans.
I believe farming replenishes the earth, especially the
soil. It all comes back to feed us.
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Work on the farm never stops. No matter what happens, there are cows to feed and crops to tend to. The afternoon of Dean’s funeral service, we were chopping silage and feeding cows within hours. During the past few months, we have key team members who stepped up to keep everything going. On a farm, there is always the next day to plan for, the next tractor to maintain, the next cow to give birth … Time moves on.
The families and employees who own and operate Majestic Crossing Dairy are committed to continue to share what agriculture and the dairy community is all about on our blog and Facebook page. We want to help build understanding on where food comes from and how we produce milk, which is made into Wisconsin cheese.
I’m Darin. I’ve always joked that I’m the taller, younger,
better-looking brother. I will be writing the blog and posting on Facebook. I’m
the dairy operation manager, so anything that lives and breathes on the farm,
including the cows and our dedicated team of people, I manage. I make sure the
cows are healthy, including managing vaccinations, medical checkups, making
sure the cows eat a balanced diet, are milked and cared for as well as
I look forward to sharing the story of life on our farm. I
welcome your questions and comments. We will continue on.
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It is with heavy hearts that we update you on Dean. Our son,
brother, husband and uncle is in his final days. Dean has been moved to Sharon
Richardson Community Hospice in Sheboygan Falls. If you would like to visit to
say your goodbye, please limit your visit to ten minutes. Our hearts are
fragile. Your words of support extended to our family have been overwhelming.
We thank you for your comfort and your prayers. Our faith comes up against the
fear of death. We trust that our Father will do what is right, what is loving.
– The Strauss Family
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We continue to host farm tours regularly. We receive requests from Sartori Cheese, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and school groups — sometimes on one day’s notice! But, we always try to make time to accommodate the request because we enjoy hosting tours and educating the public about modern farming practices.
Six representatives from a pizza company in Philadelphia toured our farm last spring. They were crazy about cheese! They had a good experience on our farm, and now, they can help tell the story of modern dairy farming in the big city. They were amazed by our robotic feed pusher. They kept calling it a Roomba. The group took pictures and placed it on their social media accounts reaching people in cities. Taking the dairy story to audiences outside of agriculture is important.
Even when we are super busy, it’s always worth our time to do a
tour. We can’t say enough about the tours and the positive impact they make.
We encourage farmers to open their farms to tours. It’s an
investment in our future.
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Our cows’ diet is developed by a nutritionist in order to feed them
the best diet possible. It’s a better diet than I eat, actually. We feed our
cows like elite athletes. That way, they produce fresh, high-quality milk. Our
cows eat a mixture of corn, hay, grain and nutritional supplements.
The nutritionist knows exactly how many nutrients are in our crops
and how much the cows need.
For example, we grow hay. There is a sugar component in hay. Sugar
is energy. If you get a big crop and then it rains, it can wash a certain
percentage of that energy away. That’s why farmers work hard. They work late
into the night to beat the next rain storm. We need the sugar in the hay to
help it go through a curing period. We need certain numbers to meet a cow’s
nutritional needs in a cost effective manner. If everything goes right, there
is a nice fermentation process. If you don’t get the sugar in the crop, you
don’t get fermentation.
When we grow a crop, it is based on getting that crop to a certain
quality. None of it is in our control. We won’t know the nutrient content until
October. Farming requires an optimistic attitude that Mother Nature will
cooperate. It’s always a gamble, but it pays off when we see our cows enjoying
their fresh, high-quality feed every day.
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In 2011, four families that had been dairy farming in the area for generations came together to form Majestic Crossing Dairy. This partnership has allowed us to support all four families, expand our sustainability efforts, and invest back in our community.
We are proud to know that every glass of milk we produce on our farm contributes both jobs and income for local community members, including our milk truck drivers, veterinarian, animal nutritionist, and area bankers.