Introducing the team- Francisco

There is no I in team may be a cliche but it’s true. I am going to introduce you to some of the people here at Majestic Crossing that I work with each day. Majestic Crossing Dairy wouldn’t be what it is today without the work and dedication of many people coming together with a common goal.

Darin Strauss

My name is Francisco Miguel I am a herdsman and manager at Majestic Crossing Dairy, I came to the US in February of 2000 from Veracruz, Mexico when I was 21 years old. 

I never really planned on leaving Mexico, but my brother asked me to come and help him out and I ended up staying. I found a job at a golf course and I really enjoyed it because I like to be outside. In the fall of 2008 I decided I would try working on a farm while the golf course was closed for winter and I ended up here at Majestic Crossing. 

The work we do here on the farm is hard work, we are always busy but I like that. My job here on the farm is to both manage people and work with the cows. I take care of our fresh cows, I make sure our milkers know what to do, but I also do anything else that needs to be done. I went from not knowing anything about cows to learning how to care for them. I never really planned on staying here at the farm, I thought once the golf course opened in the spring I would go back there. In Mexico I worked in crops and I didn’t know anything about cows. I started here on the dairy part-time because my wife was still in school and we had young daughters. But after a while, it worked out for me to be here full time. So I went from not planning on being here for a long time to now I am a herdsman and manager and my wife and I and our 4 daughters live here on the farm. I had my own plans but God had a different plan for me.

I like my job here, but I decided to stay here because of the people. The people I work with make me want to stay here- the people keep you here. I feel important and respected here. Early on in my career here Darin told me that he wanted me to be the herdsman here one day. I didn’t believe him because like I said, I didn’t know anything about cows. But he said he meant it and then he started teaching me all about the cows. He showed me how to deliver calves, how to take care of our fresh cows and I realized I really liked it. That changed how I thought about this job. Instead of this being a temporary job, I started thinking about what I needed to learn or do to become a manager here. 

Today Darin is my boss, but he is also my friend. He has helped me so much. I remember one day he asked me how I was doing and I told him I was stuck. I had been working on trying to get my residency here in the US but I didn’t have a sponsor. He immediately offered to be my sponsor. I was so surprised that he would offer to do that for me. A lot of people would think he might have offered as a way to keep me here on the farm. But he told me “I’m going to do this because I want to help you. Don’t think I’m going to hold you after you get a social security card you have to stay here with me. If you have a better opportunity you can take it.” 

He did that for me and in 2011, I got my green card. I am able to go back to Mexico and visit my family now. When my Mom called me to tell me my Dad was really sick Darin was supposed to be leaving for vacation. I told him what was happening and he told me he could go fishing another time but my family was more important. He missed his trip so that I could be with my Dad before he died, that meant a lot to me. 

I took a chance to come to work on a dairy farm when I didn’t know anything about cows. But because I did I get to raise my daughters on this farm and they really love the cows. I can’t force them to do what I do, but they love the cows too.  Sometimes we just walk together through the barns and look at them. One of my daughters talks about being a veterinarian one day. She’s still young but so she might change her mind, but maybe she will work with cows one day too. 

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I am an Outdoorsman and a Farmer

After my brother Dean passed away and I took over writing this blog I never really introduced myself. I thought I would share a little more about who I am.

My brother Dean wasn’t a big outdoorsman, but somehow he managed to land a 30” walleye. That was his one claim to fame as an outdoorsman and the mount now hangs in our farm office. While outside of farming Dean wasn’t really drawn to the outdoors, I am. Like many of you reading this, there isn’t a season where you won’t find me outdoors. Whether it’s bow hunting, ice fishing, turkey hunting, or working in my garden, I am the happiest when I am outside. 

Around the farm they like to joke and call me the Fish and Game Manager. It’s a good thing that my role on the farm is focused on caring for our cows and the day to day operations, more than the crops because I might have a little bit of a conflict of interest, wanting to keep a patch of corn here or plant a food plot there.

So what does this all have to do with farming? Actually, I think being an outdoorsman and a farmer really go hand in hand. I’m passionate about every aspect of the food we eat. I grow a garden. I enjoy cooking and canning. In the early spring we tap maples and then make syrup with our employees and their families. I take pride in the food I produce, not just what I grow and harvest for my own family, but the delicious dairy products our cows provide for your family. 

As a farmer I see the cycles of nature in our crops and our cows. As an outdoorsman I see the seasons in a different but no less remarkable way. I am thankful to have both perspectives. 

-Darin Strauss

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Our world still spins, because it has to.

Obviously COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds right now. Our farm has not been called on to dump milk but seeing others in that position and seeing the milk markets drop as they have is very unsettling. We are of course taking extra precautions like limiting visitors and making sure our employees can reasonably social distance while still caring for the animals here. We want to make sure everyone on the farm stays healthy.

There has been a lot said about essential workers and we fall under that heading. We know we are on the front lines, but we think of ourselves as more of the people supporting everyone else. As farmers, it is our job to make the products so that grocery stores and restaurants can supply everyone else with the food they need. We are just one link in the chain and we are doing our best to keep our link strong.

On the farm, it is mostly business as usual. From a day to day perspective our focus is the task at hand, caring for our animals, and gearing up for spring planting, so life feels mostly normal. Things have definitely changed, our milk market, the dynamics of our industry, we’ve been thrown a wild card, but everybody’s been thrown a wild card no matter what job you’re in.

I think our current state has been a bit of a wake-up call for all of us. We are so used to being able to get just about anything we want at the grocery store, order something from Amazon and have it on our doorstep the next day. From the outside it looks simple, don’t have to get off the couch or get in the car and we have the world at our fingertips. But our current situation has really brought supply chains and how complex they are to the forefront and people are seeing that life isn’t quite as simple as it seemed. Maybe we will walk away from this a little more grounded and with more understanding of our world.  

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Animals are our first priority

Keeping our cows cozy.

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.

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Farming replenishes the earth

Harvesting silage at Majestic Crossing Dairy

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 continues

Darin Strauss and the families and employees of Majestic Crossing Dairy are committed to sharing the story of life on the farm

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 possible.

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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