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

A day in the life of the Voorhees family

Rain allows finalization of expansion plans
Joe Fordyce (left) of Fordyce Construction and Kevin Voorhees go over the plans for a compost barn Voorhees wants to construct this fall. (photo by Mark Klaphake)
Joe Fordyce (left) of Fordyce Construction and Kevin Voorhees go over the plans for a compost barn Voorhees wants to construct this fall. (photo by Mark Klaphake)

By Jennifer Burggraff- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BENSON, Minn. - Rain came earlier than expected on Oct. 5, 2009, but that did not slow Benson, Minn., dairy producer Kevin Voorhees. Instead, it allowed him time to finalize details for an expansion Voorhees has been planning for more than one year.

Voorhees owns and operates a 200-cow dairy - including dry cows - which is spread between three farm sites. The original Voorhees farm site where Voorhees' parents, Leonard and Margaret, live houses the milking herd, dry cows and baby calves. Yearlings and bred heifers are housed just three-fourths of a mile from the home farm along with an 80-head cow/calf beef operation and a 200-head feedlot with beef and dairy steers. All feedstuffs are also housed and mixed on this farm. Ten to 12-month-old calves are housed on the farm where Voorhees and his family - including wife, Kim, and children, Chelsea, a sophomore at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn.; Kaylee, a senior in high school; and Cole, a sixth grader - reside. A 30-ewe flock of sheep that began as a 4-H project is also housed on Voorhees' farm.

Originally, Voorhees owned the dairy in a partnership with his parents and his brother, Craig. Seven years ago, however, Craig suffered a stroke and had to be put into a group home. Since then, Voorhees has been slowly buying out his brother's and parents' shares.

This chain of events not only affected the ownership of the farm, but the labor force as well.

"We went from total family labor to instantly having to hire labor," Voorhees said.

Currently, Voorhees has five full time employees - sisters Deanne and Stephanie Larson, Jose Botello Sr., and his wife, Maria, and their nephew, Jose Botello Jr. Voorhees' mother keeps the books on the farm; his wife works off the farm as a second grade teacher in Hancock.

On Oct. 5, while Voorhees kept busy with management issues, his employees handled the majority of the farm chores.

The day began around 6 a.m. on Oct. 5. Jose Sr., milked the 180-cow milking herd in a swing-eight parlor the Voorheeses installed when they expanded in 1999.

While Jose Jr., pushed cows through the parlor, Maria and Deanne fed 57 baby calves milk replacer. Stephanie dumped feed for the dairy cows before walking through the herd to check for sick cows. When she was finished, Stephanie went to the heifer farm/feedlot to begin mixing feed for the day. Once Deanne was done with calf chores, she bedded the 125-cow freestall barn with fresh separated manure solids Voorhees purchases from a nearby 5,000-cow dairy.

"I like working with the animals and not being in a building all day," Deanne said of why she enjoys dairying. "I like being outside."

By 9 a.m. all the cows were milked except 10 fresh heifers. Although one person can usually handle the milking, Voorhees and Deanne helped Jose Sr., with the heifers.

Milking was completed by 9:30 a.m. While the Botellos cleaned the parlor and milking equipment before going home until evening chores, Deanne hauled out a load of liquid manure. Voorhees met with his adult farm business management instructor, Richard Bonde, to sign some papers concerning his soybean test plot before heading over to the heifer farm/feedlot.

When he arrived at the farm site, Stephanie was busy unloading a semi load of hay. Although Voorhees runs 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, small grains and pasture, he purchases all his baled hay.

"I try to buy as local as possible," he said.

At 10:15 a.m., Voorhees got his chopper and box out and headed to the cornfield to chop a load of green chop silage for feeding to his beef calves. On his way back to the farm with a full load of silage, he was met by a doe and fawn wandering through the field.

"I like being outdoors, watching things grow and watching the seasons come and go," Voorhees said of what he appreciates most about farming.

Out of the approximately 120 acres of corn he put in for silage, Voorhees said he has nearly 60 acres left to chop. He hasn't started harvesting his soybeans yet.

"I got caught," he said of chopping silage this year. "First the corn was too green and now it got hit with wind and rain."

And with more rain beginning around 10 a.m. on Oct. 5 and continuing throughout the day, Voorhees didn't figure on getting into the fields to finish any time soon.

Voorhees and the Larson sisters spent the remainder of the morning mixing and feeding TMR to various groups of cattle.

"I like the feed mixing," Stephanie said. "It is one of my main jobs, although I do a little of everything."

After lunch, the trio spent a couple hours in the shop fixing machinery before moving some weaned calves from the home farm to Voorhees's farm around 2 p.m. Although Voorhees began helping move calves, he was interrupted after a short time by the arrival of his carpenter, Joe Fordyce of Fordyce Construction. Voorhees left the task in the capable hands of the Larson sisters and spent the rest of the afternoon - until around 7:30 p.m. - talking details about the 352-by-80 foot compost barn he hopes to put up yet this year.

"I'm going to expand another 200-head," Voorhees said. "I decided on a compost barn for cow comfort and manure storage."

After the carpenter left, Voorhees went back to his place to bed calves while the Botellos and the Larsons took care of evening chores on the home farm. By the time he arrived at his home, Voorhees' children had the calves and ewes fed for the evening.

Oct. 5 wrapped up without any problems. A cow freshened around 8 p.m., giving birth to a healthy bull calf. After tending to the cow and calf, Voorhees bred three cows before hauling a second load of liquid manure for the day around 9 p.m. and checking in for the night at 9:30 p.m.[[In-content Ad]]


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