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

Work before play helps with Wagners' success

Webster, Minn., family hosts Extension Successful Dairy System Field Day
Cows that are not housed in the tiestall barn are kept in loose housing sheds that have fans and are  bedded with cornstalks.  <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
Cows that are not housed in the tiestall barn are kept in loose housing sheds that have fans and are bedded with cornstalks. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

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

WEBSTER, Minn. - The Wagners have taught their kids the value of hard work.
"We've always known we have to work before we can do fun stuff," LouAnn Wagner said about their family's philosophy on farming.
To show the results of their hard work, the Wagners hosted a University of Minnesota-Extension Successful Dairy System Field Day on July 31 on their Webster, Minn., dairy farm. Randy and LouAnn milk 150 cows in a tiestall barn. Their daughter, Megan, works with them full-time on their farm while their son, Brian, does fieldwork. Their youngest child, Amanda, will be a senior at St. Cloud State University and assists on the farm when she is not busy at school.
In addition to family, the Wagners have one full-time employee.
"We try to handle labor with what we've got. It works out most of the time," Randy said.
They each try to take off at least one morning each week. In the winter, they will occasionally bring in one person for part-time help.
The family milks their herd in a tiestall barn with room for 88 cows. The original portion of the barn was built in 1918. Randy's parents added onto the barn in 1964.
"We need three people to milk," Randy said.
Two people milk the cows using 12 milking units that have automatic takeoffs. One person is always there to help switch cows in and out. It takes the family about two hours and 10 minutes to finish the job.
"We move fairly well, especially with 12 units," Randy said.
Some of the herd is housed in the tiestall barn, which has rubber mats in the stalls bedded with straw. Lime is also sprinkled on the platform underneath the straw. Six tunnel ventilation fans keeps air flowing through the barn.
"They keep it pretty cool in the barn. That was one of the best investments we made," Randy said about installing the fans about 10 years ago.
The rest of the cows are housed in two loose-housing sheds bedded with corn stalks. To keep the cows cool, one barn has two 50-inch fans and the other has two 50-inch fans and one 36-inch fan, which the Wagners installed this year.
"They used to bunch a lot," Randy said about the cows in loose housing before putting in the extra fan. "Now they're pretty comfortable."
The cows in the tiestall barn are let outside three times a day - twice when the other cows are switched in to be milked and once in the morning so the barn can be scraped and bedded.
One area the Wagners have excelled in is reproduction. Their herd currently has a 21 percent pregnancy rate. The family attributes this success to the g6g program they started using about one year ago.
"It's really helped a lot with getting cows bred," Randy said. "With this program, we don't have to watch the cows (for heat) as much. They don't show heats as well as they used to and strictly using Lutalyse wasn't working like we wanted it to work."
The g6g program is short-timed 18-day breeding program. With their new way of breeding, the Wagners now give shots to cows three days each week.
"It's a lot to keep track of, but it has really worked," LouAnn said. "The cows were getting too far in milk without being bred and we wanted to shorten the number of days they were open. Now we are."
Wagners breed their heifers at about 13 to 14 months old. Their breeding philosophy focuses on udders, and feet and legs.
"We're not worried much about size," LouAnn said.
Dry cows and heifers close to calving are housed in an open sided, corn stalk-bedded barn with window ventilation in the back. They are fed a ration of corn silage, wheat, canary grass and minerals. They calve in this barn unless the weather is too bad in the winter; during that time, cows calve in a lean-to on the side of the tiestall barn.
Both heifer and bull calves are raised in hutches. The heifers are given 20/20 milk replacer and weaned at 10 weeks, while the bulls are given dump milk and weaned at eight weeks. All the calves are given one gallon of milk per day and water two times during the warmer months. The hutches are bedded with sand.
"It works well for us," Randy said about the sand, which the Wagners have been using in the hutches for the past 13 years. "The fronts can get a little muddy, but the packs stay pretty clean inside."
When the calves are weaned, the heifers are moved to two different open sided sheds as they grow until they are about breeding age. The bulls are raised on Randy's father's farmsite.
In the future, the Wagners hope to build a new freestall barn for their milking herd; however, at the time, they don't have the right spot on the farm and are still researching different options. There is also the possibility of Amanda joining the operation in the future.
Whatever their future holds, the Wagners keep striving for improvements and keep their farming philosophy of work before play.
"We never pushed anyone to stay here," LouAnn said about her family. "Farming is something you really have to like to do. And we do."[[In-content Ad]]


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