September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A day in the life at Vogt Dairy

Brothers, father prepare for a busy calving season
Right after morning milking, Aaron walks the freestall barn to check cows.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN
Right after morning milking, Aaron walks the freestall barn to check cows.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN

By By Andrea Borgerding- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

SAUK CENTRE, Minn. - Three years ago, the Vogts were having a streak of bad luck. A long string of bull calves forced their decision to try sexed semen and today, Aaron, his brother Ethan and their father, Ken, are finding themselves in a very busy calving season.
"From now until April we have about 84 cows and heifers coming fresh," Aaron said. "We are having at least one cow calve per day right now."
The Vogts have been putting in some long days with the extra work of freshening cows and Jan. 17 was shaping up to be no different.
They start every day with milking at 4 a.m. On Thursday morning, Ethan and Aaron were milking while Ken helped by bringing cows up to the holding area and scraping the barn.
The Vogts milk 208 cows in a double-10 parlor on their dairy farm near Sauk Centre, Minn. in Stearns County. They farm 790 acres of owned and rented land where they raise corn, alfalfa, wheat and barley.
Brothers, Aaron (32) and Ethan (27), each took time to go to college before returning to the family farm. Both agree there really was no question on whether they would come back to the farm.
"I knew I always wanted to," Aaron said. "I really enjoyed growing up and working on our farm. We were really fortunate to grow up on a farm the way Dad managed it."
"Once Aaron came back to the farm," Ethan said. "I saw things progressing and I was excited to come back."
"It has been outstanding watching them [Aaron and Ethan] work together," Ken said. "It's been more difficult for me to keep my ideas to myself and let them try things they want."
With the Vogts now working in a partnership, they have been able to expand from 45 cows to today's 208 cows and hope to be milking 350 someday.
In the past 10 years, they have gone from milking cows in a 57-cow tiestall barn to retrofitting a parlor into the tiestall barn, building a sand-bedded freestall barn, building a calf barn and most recently, building a transition barn. Through it all, they managed to save a lot of money by doing much of the work themselves.
"It was a scary time for me," Ken said of the expansion. "It worried me when we were building the barn and trying to get our farmwork done."
Ken said today he feels he still hasn't made the transition from the years of managing his 57-cow dairy to what Vogt Dairy is today.
"I can't work the way I used to and it makes me mad," Ken said.
"It was a big jump in herd numbers," Aaron said. "Volume dairying is different."
Despite the transition in management styles, the expanded facilities have definitely made farming easier throughout the Vogts' internal herd growth.
By 8 a.m. on Jan. 17, the Vogts were done milking and moved on to cleaning the holding area, scraping the barn and bedding calves. At 9 a.m., Aaron began mixing feed for the youngstock, milking herd and dry cows.
With their change in luck in heifer calves, the Vogts are also finding themselves housing calves wherever they can find room. Ethan will spend much of his mornings feeding, bedding and watering calves.
Overall, Ethan works a lot with maintenance and fieldwork along with helping with milkings and feeding calves.
Aaron's role has completely reversed since he came back to farm 10 years ago this spring.
"I used to do a lot of fieldwork but when I came back, I switched to doing a lot with the cows," Aaron said. "Now Ethan and Dad do all the crops and I tell them what I need for feeding the cows."
The Vogts use all of their alfalfa for haylage and buy all of their dry hay. They have purchased hay from a hay grower for several years and found it to be a great alternative to making their own hay.
"It was getting hard to bale quality hay on time," Ethan said. "We found a great supplier we work with."
Aaron and Ethan also do a lot of the herd reproduction work themselves with the help of an AI mating service program.
After nine years of trial and error, the Vogts have managed to significantly reduce their somatic cell count. They have been holding steady around 80,000 since August 2012.
"Continuity," Ken said as to how they have managed to lower the SCC. "We have the same people milking the cows every day."
In addition to the milking consistency, the Vogts attribute much of the low SCC to the sand bedding. While building the transition barn, their dry cows have been housed in the sand-bedded freestall.
"We'll find out what a difference it makes when we move the transition cows back to a bedding back in the new barn," Aaron said.
After a quick lunch at noon, Aaron and Ethan, caught up on maintenance around the farm. An overhead door on the freestall barn needed repairing - which ended up taking the majority of the afternoon.
Ken left the dairy at 2 p.m. to get ready for a wrestling match in Melrose, Minn. later that evening. Ken is the co-head coach for the Sauk Centre-Melrose wrestling team. He has been a part of the Sauk Centre coaching team for many years while also dairy farming. Ken and his wife, Sally, have been farming for the past 37 years. They raised Aaron, Ethan and their daughter, Ann, on the third generation dairy farm.
At 3:30 p.m., two employees, Weston Wander and Donovan Pawlicky, arrived to start evening milking. By 4 p.m., Ethan helped with milking by scraping and bringing up cows while Aaron began spraying and cleaning calf hutches to make more room for calves.
By 8 p.m., Aaron and Ethan managed to wrap up the day without a cow or heifer coming fresh - which may not be the case for many days to come for the Vogts.
Aaron is married to Nicole and together have three children, Pyper (5), Afton (2) and Abe (11 months). Ethan also has a son, Jeran, (6) who enjoys "helping" on the farm when he is able.[[In-content Ad]]


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