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

Hard work has kept Hammell farm successful

Bunkers hold a majority of the forages on the Hammells farm.  They added them in 2003. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
Bunkers hold a majority of the forages on the Hammells farm. They added them in 2003. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

By By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CALEDONIA, Minn. - For the Hammell family, a lot of hard work is what has kept their farm successful.
It's how they managed a move to Minnesota and earned quality awards for their milk. Tony and his wife, Luan, milk 250 cows on their farm near Caledonia, Minn. Of their seven children, their youngest son, Drew (23), works on the farm with them along with employee, Mike Stemper, who has been working on the farm for 17 years.
"They are a big part of the farm," Tony said.
Tony's father bought the 265-acre farm near Caledonia in 1969. They raised 40 dairy cows, 30 beef cows, several chickens and pigs.
"We had everything then," Tony said about the diversified operation.
Before that, the family farm was based in New Albin, Iowa. A big part of the move was because of land. Although the Hammells owned 640 acres in Iowa, only 180 of those acres were tillable.
"Our biggest field was 35 acres," Tony said. "The hills were very steep."
With the move across the border in the 60s, the Hammells gained more tillable land.
After Tony graduated from high school in 1973, he joined the farm to begin his full-time career as a dairy farmer.
"I liked working with cows," Tony said about his draw to be a dairy farmer.
He said he likes to see cows give a lot of milk and stay healthy.
In 1978, the Hammells added 35 more acres and also added on to the barn to create a total of 52 tiestalls.
"It wasn't long before we were switching cows," Tony said.
The Hammells bought the neighboring farm in 1984 to add on 100 more acres.
Tony and Luan were married in 1987. At the same time, Tony's parents, Walter and Betty, sold them the land as they transitioned out of the ownership of the farm.
Expansion came again in 1988 when they added 40 more stalls to the barn for a total of 92 tiestalls.
"Pretty soon we were switching those out, too," Tony said.
Also in 1988, the Hammells started feeding a total mixed ration.
"We saw a big bump in production then," Tony said.
The farm stayed the same for nearly a decade until the Hammells decided to build a sand bedded freestall barn and convert the tiestall barn to a double-6 step up parlor in 1997.
"It was quite an improvement," Tony said. "There was less bending and we could milk the cows in less time."
The sand bedded stalls also made a difference, keeping the cows more comfortable. The Hammells saw an increase in their rolling herd average of nearly 4,000 pounds. The Hammells current RHA is around 27,000.
Around that time, the Hammells hired Stemper, who is still an important part of the farm today. He takes care of the feeding, calves and maintenance.
"And now his kids put a lot of hours in working on the dairy, too," Tony said.
The Hammells had the chance to share dairy farming with others when they hosted the county's breakfast on the farm in 1999.
In 2003, they put up bunkers, and now the Hammells only use one silo.
"Since we went to bunkers we can put up feed a lot quicker. We have it custom harvested," Tony said.
Drew became a full-time worker on the farm after he graduated from high school in May 2007.
A pasteurizer became the newest technology on the farm in 2008.
"The calves really do well with it," Tony said.
Calves are raised on the farm until they reach 400 pounds. At that time, they are sent to a custom raiser until a few weeks before they calve.
The most recent change the Hammells have made has been changing a machine shed into a commodity shed, which has helped keep feed items in one place.
Throughout the years, the Hammells have received milk quality awards from their milk processor. Tony's dad first received an award 30 years ago. Now the youngest generation is part of that success. Two years ago, Drew accepted the quality award on behalf of the farm. The Hammells try to keep their somatic cell count around 100,000. They achieve this by culling chronic cows and keeping cows clean, Tony said.
Taking care of the cows is one of Tony's favorite aspects of dairying.
"For as many calves as I see born on the farm, it's still neat to see how they progress and grow over time," Tony said.
Luan likes the family aspect.
"I like the kids being raised on a farm and given responsibility," said Luan, who takes care of the bookkeeping on the farm.
The future of the farm is still in contemplation for the Hammells.
"Our step up parlor won't last forever and everything depends on the milk price," Tony said.
Until they figure out definite plans, the Hammells will continue to run their farm the best way they know how - with a lot of hard work.
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