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

Back at it

Nelson starts milking cows again, gives sons chance to dairy farm
Blake sweeps up feed to the cows before evening milking. Mixing and feeding TMR are Blake’s main chores.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Blake sweeps up feed to the cows before evening milking. Mixing and feeding TMR are Blake’s main chores.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA

By By Krista Kuzma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BLOOMING PRAIRIE, Minn. - When Bruce Nelson stopped milking cows in 2008, he told people he would get back into it.
"My first love was milking cows," Bruce said. "It was sad for me when I had to sell the cows, but it was too much work for me then."
After six years without cows, Bruce is back in the dairy business, but this time he's not alone. His two sons, Blake (17) and Colin (15), are now a part of the 30-cow dairy on the Nelsons' farm near Blooming Prairie, Minn.
"I did this for them," Bruce said.
Bruce wanted to give Blake and Colin the opportunity to dairy farm in the future.
"I wanted to at least try it because maybe it was something they liked doing," Bruce said.
Although Blake, a junior at Blooming Prairie High School, and Colin, a freshman, both remember the cows from the first time their dad milked, they weren't as involved.
"They were too young to help much at the time," Bruce said.
But now they are an integral part of the farm. Since they started milking their herd April 3, Blake has been in charge of mixing the total mixed ration and feeding it to the cows while Colin is in charge of milking with his dad. All three do calf chores and Bruce breeds the cows, although he is teaching Colin and Blake.
"I really liked the cows from when we were growing up," Colin said. "I enjoy it now."
Blake and Colin are usually out in the barn by 5:15 each morning to do chores before school. In the evening, after they get home, chores are their first priority.
"I thought it (the milking schedule) would be hard at first, but we got used it," Blake said.
Although the brothers aren't involved in sports at school, they are active in their FFA chapter.
Colin and Blake are enjoying their new dairying venture, which has been successful so far.
"It's been going well," Bruce said. "The cows are milking well."
The Nelsons milk their herd in a 40-cow tiestall barn that Bruce built with his dad in 1988. Although Bruce had the majority of the equipment still in the barn from his previous herd, there were still upgrades that needed to be made. They had to put in a pulsation system, install manger liners and put in mats for the stalls. They also bought a TMR mixer.
"Before we didn't feed TMR," Bruce said. "Now, we have to have a mixer to break up the hay bales."
To prepare for the cows, the Nelsons used their 250 acres to bale hay, make corn silage and bale straw for bedding. Originally, the Nelsons planned to start last fall.
"It got too cold too quickly," Bruce said.
In the years to come, the Nelsons are going to start making haylage from their alfalfa fields. They plan to add a feed room to their barn, among other projects.
"We'll do more work this summer," Bruce said.
However, work on their dairy isn't all they have to do on their farm.
"We're very diversified," Bruce said.
The Nelsons have a small herd of beef cows, raise chickens, buy 100 bull calves each year to sell as feeders and have two barns of hogs - 4,200 in a nursery barn and 2,000 in a finisher barn.
Despite the long hours and the hard work, the Nelsons said they enjoy farming.
"I like to be my own boss," Bruce said. "And now with dairy cows, I can be in a warm barn on a cold rainy day."
He also likes that he can make his own decisions, with the help of Blake and Colin, about the dairy herd.
The brothers like that they are involved in their dad's business and lifestyle.
"We like that we can have a job on the farm and still make money here rather than getting a job in town," Colin said.
Along with a few building projects this summer, the Nelsons' goal is to milk a barn full of cows. After that, their plans are to expand in the future and look into robots or a parlor.
Eventually, the dairy will be transitioned to Blake and Colin to take over and manage.
"We're saving up our money to work on things for the farm," Colin said. "We're excited to expand our own business."
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