September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Along with normal daily chores, chopping hay took up a large portion of the schedule on Aug. 14 for the family that milks 140 cows on their farm, Lone Oak Dairy, near Winona, Minn. Lyle and Cynthia Kammerer farm together with their son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Shelby, who have four children: Evan (8), Avery (6), Levi (5) and Lilly (3). Emily, one of Lyle and Cynthia's daughters, also works at the farm along with her off-the-farm job at a daycare center.
On Aug. 14, Lyle and Cynthia started milking just after 4 a.m. The cows file into the double-8 parallel parlor like they have every morning since January 2000 when the Kammerers first used the new building. It was the same time they built their freestall barn that is attached to the barn.
"Adam wanted to farm so we thought we might as well do it and build new," Lyle said. "Our stanchion barn was getting old and we were fixing the stanchions all the time."
The stanchion barn is on the farmsite where Lyle grew up milking cows with his dad, who bought the original 80-acre farm in 1945. It's also where he said he started his full-time dairying career in 1960 at the age of 10.
"I started early," he said with a smile.
Eight years later, he finished high school and kept farming with his family.
While Lyle and Cynthia started milking on Aug. 14, Adam mixed and fed feed to the cows. Farming has been a lifestyle Adam has loved since he was a toddler.
"I remember milking [in the stanchion barn] when I was little and I could barely reach the pipeline," he said.
When Adam showed an early interest in staying on the farm, Lyle knew he needed to keep the spark alive. Building the new facility helped.
"You have to keep the kids interested or they won't want to stick around," Lyle said.
Although Adam was only 15 when the family decided to invest in a parlor, he knew farming was the right lifestyle for him. Adam graduated from high school in 2002 and followed a similar path as his dad, farming together with his family.
Although the stanchion barn was a place to milk their herd of 60 cows before the parlor, it now houses a portion of the youngstock and 30 chickens.
When Adam had finished feeding the cows, he ventured to the parlor to take over milking duties for his mom, who then headed to the calf barn to start chores there.
Cynthia takes care of the young calves and currently is feeding about 25 calves milk. While most are housed in hutches, a few are housed in a calf condo with individual pens - a structure they purchased earlier this year. They plan to stop using the hutches as soon as they buy more calf condos.
"The hutches get so hot in the summer," Cynthia said. "We almost lost one last year.
Cynthia said it's important to keep updating the farm where they can.
"But sometimes with farming it takes awhile to see improvements," she said.
The Kammerers started using hutches when they built the parlor. Cynthia remembers the transition to the new facility well.
"We moved cows into the new barn on our anniversary so I remember that day," she said. "It sure beats the old fashioned barn."
Normally Emily is also a part of the morning milking tag team, but with hay cut from the day before, she was out in the field merging hay before needing to take off by 9 a.m. to her other job at the daycare center.
"This is my daycare," Shelby said about the farm.
Adam and Shelby's kids spend their time at home on the farm when not in school or at other events. Although Shelby has a part-time off-the-farm job as a massage therapist, she helps on the farm where she can. Her main jobs are moving calves along with helping with calf chores and taking care of the chickens. She also milks and fills in for other chores on busy days.
On Aug. 14, she took the kids with her to bed a calf hutch, move a calf and collect the eggs. Levi jumped in the hutch without shoes and kicked around the bedding, sometimes tossing it up or rolling around in it to get it in the right spots.
"You've got to have a little fun with it, too," Shelby said with a laugh as she watched Levi bed the hutch.
While visiting the chickens, Avery showcased why he received the nickname the Chicken Whisperer when the chickens escaped from their cage. Once rounded up, Lilly and Shelby collected eggs in their shirts to take to the house.
Outside the old stanchion barn, Adam first fed the steers before getting the chopper ready for the day. The Kammerers raise their bulls as steers and sell them at about 1,500 pounds.
By 10 a.m., almost everyone in the family had grabbed a quick breakfast and was out in a tractor to finish third crop chopping. Lyle chopped, Adam hauled wagons and unloaded while Cynthia took over merging after Emily left.
Chopping finished in the early afternoon and their schedule slowed down to normal speed, if only for the rest of the day.
The Kammerers own about 360 acres and rent another 400. Using that crop land, the family raises about 200 acres of alfalfa, 80 acres of grass, 150 acres of soybeans, with the rest being corn.
"Third crop has been great," Adam said. "We got more than we did for second crop."
And Adam thinks it will be better than first crop.
"It wasn't good," Adam said about first crop. "There was a lot of it there, but the quality was down."
They ended up baling a larger portion of first crop than expected because of the lower quality. The large majority of second crop was chopped into a bag as was third crop; however, with a nice stretch of weather, the Kammerers decided to bale more of third crop than expected. With chopping wrapped up on Aug. 14, baling would start the next day.
Until then, Adam went about his afternoon routine, preparing for evening milking. With Evan's help, Adam brought the cows closer to the parlor. The herd is mostly Holstein, although colored breeds are mixed in with the rest of the black and white bovines.
"It's something different," Adam said about why he wants a mix of breeds. "My goal is to get 10 of each of the non-Holstein breeds."
When choosing sires for his herd, Adam likes to have at least a score of two for type and udder, over 1,000 pounds of milk and good feet and legs.
By 4 p.m., the tag-team milking routine started again with Adam taking the first round. When Emily returned home after work, she took over for Adam who went to scrape the freestall barn and do more feeding. When Cynthia finished calf chores, she joined Emily in the parlor. Normally Lyle is also in the mix, but he was out raking hay until about 7 p.m.
"Otherwise we won't get started at a decent hour tomorrow if we don't rake tonight," Cynthia said.
By 7:30, most of the chores were finished for the day and the Kammerers were winding down in order to prepare for the next busy day in the field.
"I like having the kids and grandkids around," Cynthia said. "I feel fortunate that our kids have an interest on the farm."
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