September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"It breaks the stereotypes," Kalie Klaphake said. "It shows that women are farming, too."
Judy Klaphake and her daughter-in-law, Kalie, do a lot of the work with the dairy cows while Judy's husband, Jeff, and Kalie's husband, Joe, manage Klaphakes Custom Harvest. The Klaphakes milk 230 cows on their dairy farm in Stearns County near Albany, Minn.
With Jeff and Joe busy planting, harvesting and making hay from spring to fall, Kalie and Judy have taken on the management of the dairy farm.
"They couldn't do it with out us and visa versa," Kalie said. "It takes everyone."
"They are busy, but they will help," Judy said about Jeff and Joe. "They are always our backup. We work together and talk about what to do with the cows. They also feed the cows."
Although the women are a strong presence on the dairy farm today, dairy was something Judy and Kalie were not familiar with while growing up.
"I had no concept of dairy farming," Judy said. "I have learned a lot over the last 30 years."
"I didn't know the difference between a cow and heifer," Kalie said. "I didn't know what living on a dairy farm meant, but I knew I wanted to live on a farm."
When Kalie and Joe - who met while in high school - got married, Kalie's wish of living on a farm came true.
When they were married in 2011, Kalie worked as a health unit coordinator at St. Cloud Hospital. Kalie soon left the hospital in 2012 and became an important aspect to the Klaphake farm.
"I wanted to be able to be home more and have more flexibility," Kalie said.
After leaving her job, Kalie started to milk in the family's double-8 parlor built in 2003 and helped feed the calves.
"I loved being outside," Kalie said. "Being able to move around was so nice after coming from a desk job. Everything was new and exciting."
After nine years of having a parlor, the Klaphakes installed four robotic milking units and two automated calf feeders on Dec. 12, 2012.
"I will never forget that day," Judy said. "Hired help was harder to find, so we went towards robots. It was quite a change. We have been learning everything. There is a lot of technology out there. We need to be aware of what is going on to change and make things better."
Kalie took an interest in the robots.
"I like working with computers," Kalie said.
"That's why we hired her," Judy said. "She catches on faster, and she has been teaching us a lot of things. She has come a long way in a short amount of time on this dairy farm."
The first six months of using the robots was a challenge for the Klaphakes.
"It was stressful," Judy said. "But things have slowly been getting better. We are always tweaking things."
Less than a year after the robots were installed, Kalie was in the hospital for 50 days before having her daughter, Peyton (3 months), in October.
"It was more work for me to pick up on," Judy said. "She did a lot of the computer work. I learned a lot."
Although Kalie was in the hospital, that didn't stop her from entering herd information into the computer and monitoring the robots all from an iPad her family brought her.
"This really helped pass the time," Kalie said. "I couldn't sleep at 2 a.m. some nights, so I would log on and check on the robots."
"I would get to the barn at 4:30 a.m. and there would be a list of cows to check on," Judy said. "She would let me know."
Joe would also bring Kalie the herd health records or she would do them over the phone once a week at the hospital to enter it on the computer.
"It was one less thing for me to worry about," Judy said. "It helped a lot."
Now that Kalie is back on the farm, she and Judy are back to their regular routine.
The women are in the calf barn twice a day to check the computer, check the calves, push up anyone that needs to get to the feeder, feed pellets, feed newborn calves bottles and clean the pens once a week.
Although their employees fetch cows that need to go in the robots, Judy and Kalie stay active with the herd by drying cows up once a week and giving vaccinations.
"I like doing the shots. I can pretend to be a nurse out here," Kalie said. "If there are just a few to vaccinate we handle it, otherwise Jeff and Joe are out here helping."
Judy also works a lot with the bookwork for the dairy and the custom business.
"Hauling manure even has to be recorded," Kalie said.
"It is a job in itself," Judy said.
Kalie still monitors the robots, checks on the cows and enters the herd information to the computer and recently started setting up the schedules for their two hired employees.
"I just started that this month," Kalie said.
"We do a lot together," Judy said.
Even though Judy and Kalie stay busy on the farm, they still enjoy working with the dairy cows.
"It is fun to watch a calf I fed now in the barn milking," Kalie said. "I want to stick with it."
"I like working with the cows and seeing what they can do for you," Judy said. "I have been out here so long, I couldn't imagine doing anything different."[[In-content Ad]]
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