September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
WATERVILLE, Iowa – Morning comes early on the Fossum Family farm.
At 4:30 a.m. you will find the father-son team of Butch and Kevin Fossum starting to milk their 165 cows in a double-8 parallel parlor.
Milking is done between 7 and 7:30 a.m., which is also about the same time Kevin and Julie’s children are getting on the school bus.
Butch purchased the Fossum farm in 1969 and he and his wife, Lois, raised their four children there. Butch said Kevin is the lucky one that ended up farming with him. They farm on shares, and Kevin has been on the farm full time since he graduated from high school in 1984.
On weekdays Butch feeds the calves after the parlor is cleaned up, and Kevin scrapes the holding area and starts on mixing feed. They currently have a lot of calves, more calves than they have huts, so some are housed in a pen in the old part of the barn which once held stanchions.
After that they take a break for breakfast, and start to tackle whatever is on the agenda for the day.
On Monday, May 23, the Fossums were getting ready for hay season. They finished up spring planting on May 17, and they will be cutting hay as soon as the weather cooperates.
This year they planted about 500 acres of corn, 80 acres beans and they have about 250 acres of hay on a combination of owned and rented land. They generally bale on the rented ground, and on their farm they recently started making baleage and have been pleased with the results.
Butch likes to joke that he is old school, and Kevin is the one who keeps up on the latest way of doing things.
On May 23 they were getting the haybine ready, including dealing with a flat tire and putting on some new knives.
Butch ran to Waukon to purchase some weed spray, after he put new bedding in the calf huts. There had been a thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon, and sometimes the water runs down off the hill at their farm and soaks the bedding from the bottom up.
They had April contracts for corn, but the flooding on the Mississippi River held things up. May 23 also found them keeping an eye on the loading of 14 semi-loads of corn. They planned on cleaning out the bins the following day when the corn was all loaded up.
“The field work is done, but it was a busy day anyway,” said Kevin.
The second milking of the day starts at about 4 p.m. and the feeding of calves and mixing of feed precede that.
Milking usually is done about 7 p.m., and Kevin and Julie’s family eats dinner together afterwards, while Butch returns home about two miles away.
The Fossums generally don’t hire help except at planting and harvesting time.
Julie works as a social services coordinator at Thorton Manor Nursing Home in Lansing four days a week. She has Mondays off, and every other Monday she visits her grandmother and does some household shopping afterwards. Monday evening found her tending to the two younger children and cleaning house.
Kevin and Julie have three children, James (12), Elizabeth (6) and Thomas (5). James and Elizabeth are finishing up sixth grade and kindergarten, and Thomas has been attending preschool four days a week.
After school James gets a snack, then puts on his work boots and heads outside. He has helped with milking as needed since he was five years old and had to stand on a bucket.
He does calf chores morning and night on the weekends, and his evening chores include calf care, and helping with fieldwork. “He pretty much does it all,” said Kevin of his oldest son. “He works so hard he makes the rest of us look bad.”
Yet on the “to do” list is working on fencing, but that would have to wait for another day.
Butch serves on the Allamakee-Clayton Electrical Cooperative Board of Directors, something he said is more complicated than most people realize.
By the time this paper is printed, James, and his younger siblings, will be out of school for the summer and helping out more on the farm. James will also be starting to work with his show animals in preparation for the Allamakee County Fair.[[In-content Ad]]
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