September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
This ease of working with family has earned the Reuters the Dakota County Farm Family of the Year Award. Dennis and Carl Reuter milk 120 cows on their farm near Hastings, Minn. They received a framed certificate from the county in a ceremony on July 12.
"It's nice to be recognized," Carl said.
"And it's not like we set out to win anything. We just go about doing what we're doing," Dennis said.
Dennis and Carl are the second generation of their family to farm their current farmsite.
"And it's the first farm our family has actually owned. Before my dad bought this place (in 1948) everyone rented," Dennis said.
Dennis and Carl grew up learning the ropes of farming from their parents, Ethel and William. By the time each of them were in high school, they knew farming would be their future career. In 1977, Carl graduated, bought some land and started farming with his dad. Dennis followed the same path when he graduated in 1981. They farmed together until 1987, when the brothers formed a partnership and their mom and dad retired.
The same year they formed the partnership, Carl and Dennis started making changes to the barn. They converted a storage area into seven tiestalls. With the 26 original stanchions, the barn had a total of 33 cows.
Two years later they decided to make more changes, replacing the rest of the stanchions with tiestalls. Because of the size difference, only 22 stalls could replace the 26 stanchions, making the barn capacity 29 cows. The Reuters also installed a barn cleaner.
"Before, we were shoveling manure out by hand with a manure track," Dennis said. "After we made these changes we thought life was good milking cows this way."
The cows thought it was good, too. The Reuters said the cows were more comfortable and longevity increased. Production also increased, which put a strain on their milking facilities. At the time, the Reuters did not have a pipeline.
"They were flooding out the 60-pound floor pails so we had to buy the 80-pound floor pails instead. We could hardly lift them to dump them," Dennis said.
The Reuters had intentions of installing a pipeline, but knew they wanted to build a different facility in the future as their growing herd of 56 cows was quickly outgrowing their current 29-stall barn.
"We had priced out a pipeline but at the time, the milk price was low. We had plans to expand so we decided to wait to upgrade until then," Dennis said.
In 1999, the Reuters built a hoop barn with freestalls and a slatted floor along with a double-6 parallel parlor.
"I guess we skipped a step. We went from milking with buckets right to the parlor," Dennis said.
A slatted floor with an underground pit was necessary for their location. Their barn sits right along the bluff line above a 20-acre spring-fed lake, with the Vermillion and Mississippi Rivers just east of it.
"This is a critical area with all the water so we had to be prepared in case we couldn't spread manure in the winter," Dennis said.
The Reuters have enjoyed farming even more since their change in facilities. They now house calves in the tiestall barn.
"We grew baby steps at a time," Dennis said.
From the start, both brothers knew they needed to play on their strengths. Dennis enjoys the cows and manages most of the herd work while Carl enjoys the machinery side and manages the crops; however, both help out with all aspects of the farm, working together during planting and harvest seasons and always milking together.
"We have our own little worlds," Carl said about splitting the responsibilities.
Day-to-day decisions are made by Carl for the crops and Dennis for the dairy. Big purchases are decided on together.
"We have a list of what needs to be replaced over the year. We set priorities and if it's a good year we might be able to purchase some things," Carl said.
The brothers admit they do have their squabbles. But they work through them and move on.
"There aren't any more challenges [working with family] than there would be working with strangers," Carl said. "It's the personalities that work out. We work well together. We're alike in a lot of ways."
They said communicating and working together as a team is key to being a successful farm.
"You have to be able to get along together. Everyone has a difference of opinion. You have to listen to those opinions, work out the differences and hash it out from there to carry out the best plan of action," Dennis said.
Working with family also gave them a better opportunity to choose a career they love.
"It was easier to join together, take over the farm and transition from there than to cut ourselves off from the family and go out on our own," Dennis said. "We wanted to be close by."
The Reuters said they like dairying because there's something different every day.
"Most days are different and you never really know what it's going to be like," Carl said.
Those different days and steady work has led them to their biggest accomplishment - growth.
"We started with 26 cows in a stanchion barn. Now we're up to 120 cows in a freestall and parlor and have doubled our rolling herd average from when we started our partnership." Dennis said.
For the Reuters, results from hard work are better than any other award.[[In-content Ad]]