September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Matt and Sonya milk about 200 head and farm about 1,000 acres on their family operation located northwest of Dell Rapids. Matt and Sonya have four children: Bergen (12), Andrew (10), Lane (7) and Grace (5).
Matt and Sonya farm with Matt's parents, Jim and Nancy. Nancy handles the bookkeeping duties and Jim helps out around the farm wherever he is needed. The Weilands also have three full-time and three part-time employees.
After a morning of chores, Matt and Sonya and their children sat down for a hearty noon meal of roast beef and potatoes along with fresh peas from their garden. Tyler Giese, one of their hired men, joined them at the table.
"We're running a little bit late because I had visitors this morning," said Sonya as she dished up the food. "A friend of mine came out from town to show her daughter how things work on a dairy farm. I think it's important to let people see how we treat our animals and how a modern dairy operates. We host several tours each year for groups such as the Boy Scouts and local 4-H clubs."
The noon meal was soon tucked away. Matt then went back out to the farmyard and climbed into the cab of one of their farm trucks to fetch a load of washed sand from a local sand pit. The Weilands bed with sand in the 280-cow free stall barn that they built in 2006.
"This farm has been in our family since Grandpa purchased it in 1945," said Matt as he drove his truck to the sand pit. "Grandpa came to America from Luxembourg with his parents when he was four years old. When he first bought the home place, he had a typical operation that included chickens, hogs and dairy cows. I understand that Grandpa once milked as many as 19 head, all by hand."
About half an hour after he left the Weiland dairy farm, Matt was back with a load of fresh sand. As the truck emptied, his cell phone rang. Matt is on the Dell Rapids school board. His school board duties and managing the innumerable facets of their dairy farm keeps Matt on his cell phone almost constantly.
Meanwhile, Bergen, Andrew and Lane headed out to the chicken coop to care for their flock of layer and broiler chickens.
"We got the chickens because we thought that the kids needed to learn responsibility," said Matt. "Besides, it's hard to beat the taste of fresh eggs and fresh chicken."
In the farm kitchen, Sonya was cooking apples down into applesauce while Grace superintended. A pan of fresh brownies lounged temptingly on the countertop as a batch of zucchini bars sat nearby. The Weilands keep a large garden and preserve as much as possible of their fresh fruits and vegetables.
"My goal is to can at least 104 quarts of tomatoes each summer," said Sonya. "That way, we can have something with tomatoes in it twice a week. The garden is doing great even though we haven't had time to tend it properly this summer because of all the kids' activities."
It has been a hectic summer at the Weiland household, with their children taking swimming lessons and playing softball and baseball. And football practice has already begun.
"Grace starts kindergarten this year," said Sonya. "It's going to be really different without the kids here all day."
Jim, who had been helping a hired man power wash calf huts, went to the farm shop where Matt was servicing a tractor. They decided that Jim needed to take one of their trucks to the ethanol plant in nearby Wentworth to pick up a 9.5 ton load of wet distillers grains.
As the men spoke, Lane walked his bicycle into the shop to report that his bike's drive chain had jumped off its sprockets. Jim squatted down to reinstall the chain and Lane was soon back on his way.
"I have lived on this farm since I was four years old," said Jim, who will turn 73 this fall. "Things have sure changed from when I was young. One thing is the same, though. You have to love dairy farming if you're going to stick with it."
Back in the shop, Matt finished changing oil on the 4-wheel drive dozer tractor they will use for packing silage. Matt and his cousin, Nathan Weiland, who dairy farms about six miles away, own a self-propelled silage chopper together. The Weilands will chop about 125 acres of corn for themselves and will do about 150 acres of custom chopping.
"We're lucky that we have enough land to grow all our own feed," said Matt. "All we buy is a little protein. We even had enough feed last year, and it was pretty dry in this area."
The Weilands raise all their own replacement heifers and will feed out their steers when it makes economic sense. Matt estimated that they will begin chopping this fall's corn silage in about three weeks.
Late in the afternoon, Matt got into a tractor that was hitched to a sprayer and drove out to one of his alfalfa fields to apply a tank mix of insecticide and foliar fertilizer.
"We have had excellent hay this year," he said as he unfolded the sprayer's booms. "This field was a new seeding this spring and we have taken two crops off of it."
The time soon came for evening chores to begin. Matt walked the free stall barn, checking for cows in heat. He then hopped into the skid steer loader to push up feed.
"Dad and my uncle built a 70-cow free stall barn and a double-4 milking parlor in 1975," said Matt. "We've had to upgrade the parlor a couple of times, but it's still going strong. And we did most of the work ourselves when we built the new free stall barn."
Some of the farm's employees began to arrive for evening chores. The Weilands milk at 6:00 in the morning and 6:00 at night. Lane and Grace stood nearby and listened in as Matt gave a new hired man instructions for feeding baby calves.
And so the summer sun began to set on a day that was chock-full of activity at the Weiland dairy farm - a day that the Weiland family didn't think was very busy at all.[[In-content Ad]]
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