Finding a way
Hendricksons expand barn, herd for next generation to farm
The Hendricksons – (front, from left) Sarah, Lynn and Jill; (back, from left) Ryan, Peter-Mark and Bradley – recently added 50 stalls on to their tiestall barn near Menahga, Minnesota. The addition was built to accomodate Ryan and Sarah’s interest in farming. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
MENAHGA, Minn. – If there was a will for Peter-Mark and Lynn Hendrickson’s children to farm, the couple was going to find a way.
It has been one year since the family built an addition onto their tiestall barn to accommodate a growing herd – and more importantly, the next generation’s return to the dairy.
“If it wasn’t for these rascals, I don’t think we would have done this,” Peter-Mark said. “We felt it was our obligation to give them a chance if they really wanted to try dairy farming.”
Peter-Mark and Lynn milk 113 cows with their four children – Ryan, 20, Sarah, 18, Bradley, 16, and Jill, 14 – on their farm in Wadena County near Menahga.
Last fall, the Hendricksons built a 50-stall addition on to their tiestall barn so the farm could better support Ryan and Sarah as they committed to working with the family full time.
“Dairy farming is all Ryan has ever talked about,” Peter-Mark said. “I’m not old myself, so we knew the setup would be good for both of us.”
The 40- by 120-foot addition sits to the south of the original tiestall barn. It includes 50 mattress stalls bedded with sawdust, a carrier rail for the milking units, a wide feed alley for the self-propelled feeding cart, and six 50-inch fans and two 30-inch fans for ample ventilation.
“The old part of the barn used to get a little stuffy in the summer,” Peter-Mark said. “With this part added on now, the entire barn got better with the ventilation.”
The Hendricksons began construction on the addition Sept. 20, 2020; cows came in to the barn Dec. 1, 2020.
“Ryan helped design and do a lot of this work,” Peter-Mark said. “We did most of the interior work.”
At 15 years old, Ryan purchased his first milking cow. For a few years, he grew his herd and became more involved in the family operation. Today, he owns 15 milking cows and a handful of youngstock.
“I’ve been around cows my whole life,” Ryan said. “It’s rewarding to me to grow the crops that feed the cows and see all that come together. Dairy farming is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
During Ryan’s senior year of high school, the Hendricksons began switching cows.
While switching cows was doable, it was also challenging and an inefficient use of the Hendricksons’ time.
“It was just becoming too much,” Ryan said. “I started adding a couple cows and then it snowballed.”
When the addition became operational, the Hendricksons were switching 35 cows. Each milking shift would take two hours with three family members milking on seven units and the three other family members moving cattle in and out of the barn.
The additional stalls did not eliminate any time, but the workload looks different.
“It’s the speed,” Peter-Mark said. “Now, we take turns milking. While three are on for milking, the other three can go deer hunting. Then, the next day, the others will milk and its someone else’s turn to hunt.”
For Sarah, the addition created an opportunity for her to invest in her own animals. Last March, she brought heifers to the farm and began milking this past summer.
“I was working off the farm out of school and then decided to come here,” Sarah said. “I’ve never cared much about fieldwork, but I missed the cows. I like milking.”
Like her brother, Sarah owns a portion of the herd; seven milking cows and a few calves and heifers.
Together, Ryan and Sarah receive a portion of the milk check for H Pine Acres.
While Ryan takes care of a variety of tasks on the farm, his main responsibility is feeding cows and operating equipment.
“I like dairy farming because I can milk cows and also do other things I like,” Ryan said. “Every day there is something different to do on the farm.”
Sarah enjoys her time in the barn and has recently taken on overseeing her family’s breeding decisions for the herd. Traits she selects for include udder composite and calving ease.
“I judged dairy cattle in FFA. I know what I’m looking at, and what I want out of a breeding and the things I don’t like that could be evened out a bit,” Sarah said. “It’s fun to see a calf grow up and see how you did on that mating.”
The Hendricksons also place great importance on producing high quality milk. Many times, they have made the state’s list for low somatic cell count.
“That’s important to us,” Peter-Mark said. “We’re always working on the health of our cows and the quality of milk they’re producing. We get less worried about the somatic cell count number because that comes with the other two.”
Over the last year, the barn addition has benefited the farm in more ways than one. The herd has increased in milk production while decreasing feed intake, and the spacious, bright barn has made it fun for the Hendricksons to work in.
Most importantly, Peter-Mark and Lynn found a way to achieve their children’s wishes of dairy farming.
“We love having all the kids around,” Lynn said.
“It’s really good to have the whole crew,” he said. “Man, it’s a lot of fun with them all here now.”