Animals 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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Our hearts are fragile

Photo by Len Villano

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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The value of farm tours

Our visitors call our robotic feed pusher a Roomba!

By Darin Strauss

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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What do cows eat?

By Darin Strauss

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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