September 9, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

Opening the door to his dairy career

Goebel chooses to milk cows

By By Maria Bichler & Mark Klaphake | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Tanner Goebel stands in the barn door Aug. 14 on his family’s farm near Freeport, Minnesota. The 18-year-old plans to farm full time alongside his parents, Dale and Brenda, on their 55-cow dairy. (PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE)


FREEPORT, Minn. — “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Tanner Goebel was posed the question as a kindergarten student. His answer — a dairy farmer — has never wavered.
“I knew this would be my lifestyle someday,” said the 18-year-old from Freeport. “It gets to be long somedays, but I really enjoy it.”

Goebel, who graduated from Melrose Area High School in June, plans to farm full time alongside his parents, Dale and Brenda, on their 55-cow dairy farm in Stearns County.

While Goebel’s friends from high school might be pursuing a trade in welding or construction, or going off to college, he has found contentment returning as the fourth generation of his family to farm their site. Goebel follows an eight-decade tradition started by his great-grandfather, Robert; grandfather, Melvin; and his father before him.

“I don’t want to give the farm up to somebody else,” Goebel said. “It’s always been in the family name. I’m hoping to hit 100 years here.”

Tanner Goebel and his father, Dale, stand in their yard Aug. 14 on their farm near Freeport, Minnesota. Dale has served as a mentor to Tanner, who is returning to the farm full time after graduating from Melrose Area High School in June. (PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE)


The Goebels milk in a 55-cow tiestall barn. Together, father and son work to complete each day’s tasks. For milking, Goebel washes the teats and applies the pre and post dips, and Dale attaches units. The arrangement has been that way for over a decade.

Afterward, Goebel mixes the herd’s total mixed ration that Dale then feeds. During this time, Goebel cleans the barn and feeds calves. Goebel is also involved with fieldwork during the growing season.

“Dad has really taught me to make sure you are keeping up with your cows every day,” Goebel said. “Keep a good milking time schedule, and if you maintain your cows well, they will do good for you. If you don’t comfort them and give them everything they need, they will start going backward.”

Dale’s mentorship has served Goebel well as he plans to work for his parents before slowly transitioning into ownership of the farm’s livestock and machinery.

“Dad also said don’t stress out about the crops and the weather,” Goebel said. “There is nothing you can do about it.”
The determined teenager has plans to someday erect a freestall barn with a robotic milking system to expand the herd to include 120 cows.

Currently, the Goebels are upgrading their calf barn. Previously, calves were housed as groups in pens, which were pitched out by hand. This fall, the 56- by 50-foot barn will be completed and used to house calves up to 5-6 months old.

Goebel is driven by the family’s cows.

Tanner Goebel feeds cows Aug. 14 in his family’s tiestall barn on their farm near Freeport, Minnesota. Goebel said he has known since he was a child that he wanted a career in dairy farming. (PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE)


“Going out in the morning to milk the cows, see the milk production and knowing the cows are going to make you money just makes me happy,” he said. “I’m happy being with the cows and seeing how they are improving.”

The Goebels breed for milk production but also focus on butterfat and protein content, teat length and spacing, legs and stature.

“We have a family of cows that will always be sticking around,” Goebel said. “They have been good producers over the years.”
Goebel aspires to learn to A.I. so that he can further put his skills to use on the farm. That mindset to learn has helped shape Goebel’s character.

“I’ve learned a lot in high school with my shop and my ag classes,” he said. “I’ve learned how to build things in woods class and how to weld stuff. I also learned how to identify soil types, how your crops should be rotated and how to put your fertilizers on the field.”

His main teacher through the years has been his dad. Dale has taught Goebel valuable lessons from a young age, like how to read and balance feed rations as well as analyze feed results. Dale also taught Goebel how to read somatic cell count results, which led to learning how to balance the economics of keeping a cow versus culling those cows that are losing the farm money.
“I check the milk sheet to see if the cows were up or down in milk,” Goebel said. “Usually, I check every other day on my phone to see the butterfat content.”

If Goebel sees numbers going in a negative trend, he monitors the feed in front of the cows to check for moldy corn silage or hay. The inquisitive part of Goebel’s personality helps in his career path as a dairy farmer.

“If I want to get something done, even if it’s going to be a little bit of a struggle, if I put my mind to it, I will get it done,” Goebel said.

Goebel said he is looking forward to fall on the farm. Hauling boxes full of fresh-cut silage and filling the silo puts a smile on his face.

“It’s rewarding when you are sitting in the tractor relaxing, knowing that you have the harvest done and you can sit back and relax until spring,” Goebel said.

He has also learned to face the challenge of days that do not go as planned.

Last fall, when the Goebels were chopping corn silage, the radiator quit working on a tractor. Goebel was able to repair a few hoses to make it operational. After a time, the fan, belt and all the bearings had to be replaced.

“I told Dad, ‘Let’s see if we can do it ourselves,’” Goebel said. “I put all the new bearings and bolts in, and within four hours, we had the tractor up and going again. That was a really good day, knowing that we fixed it and got back to chopping.”

Now, when posed a question about the strenuous workload of a dairy farmer, with work that never quits, Goebel is as enthusiastic as he was as that elementary boy years ago.
“A successful day to me is getting up in the morning to milk cows, then going out in the field and getting a bunch of work done and coming back to milk the cows and then coming in and eating supper, sitting down with the family and relaxing,” he said. “It’s worth it.”


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