A day in the life of the Grewes

Many hands help as family prepares for sale

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    CUMBERLAND, Wis. – The month of May is filled with busy days on any Wisconsin dairy farm. This year, for the Grewe family of Valley Gem Farms, the month has been even more busy than normal as the family hosted the Generations of Gems sale celebrating their family’s successes in breeding registered dairy cattle.
    Valley Gem Farms is home to a 170-cow herd of Guernseys, Jerseys and Holsteins and is operated by Roy and Gina Grewe and their son and daughter-in-law, Brandon and Kim, near Cumberland. They also farm 500 acres.
    The morning of May 19 dawned cool, but the bustling activity in every corner of the farm warmed everyone up quickly.
    On the main farm, the barn lights were turned on around 5 a.m., as Roy set about starting chores for the day. On the adjacent heifer farm where Brandon and Kim live, a full crew set about caring for the nearly 90 additional animals housed at the farm for the week ahead of the sale set for May 21.
    The Valley Gem herd has become a well-known breeding establishment in the last couple of years following the successes of Valley-Gem Atlas Malt EX-96, who is a two-time World Dairy Expo grand champion Guernsey.
    “Last spring, we set a date and decided to go ahead and do it,” said Brandon of the sale as he waited for the skid loader to drive by with a load of fresh shavings for the pack. “We have a lot of positive things going on with our own genetics. We have been very successful at shows the last couple of years, especially with Malt’s successes. And our friends and peers in the industry were great, giving us their very best for consignments.”
    After helping get the youngest calves cared for, Kim headed off to drop their daughter, Brynn, at daycare and then purchased a booster to improve internet at the sale location.
    “We took videos of some of the lots yesterday, and we weren’t able to get anything to load, so now that all has to be done today,” Kim said. “Plus, we have Cowbuyer providing live bidding during the sale, so our internet has to be top-notch.”
    After milking was completed and all the feed was delivered, Roy ran to town to pick up new hydraulic hoses for the chisel plow. Then, he got ready for the custom planter that was due to come later in the day.
    “When Brandon and Kim set the date for May 21, we had figured we’d have the corn in, but that hasn’t been the case this year. So, we’ll just have to work that in with everything else,” Roy said.
    Once Roy got the new hoses on, he headed to the fields for several hours before needing to stop again for afternoon chores.
    Back over at the heifer farm, six fitters worked together to clip animals in two grooming chutes. Several other members kept the animals clean and eating hay. Brandon fielded a bevy of calls about the animals selling. Kim’s sister, Shannon Kleiboeker, and the couple’s friend, Katie Schmitt, took videos of consignments to post on social media.
    While sale-week preparations were going smoothly for the Grewe family, the early days of sale planning had been fraught with second thoughts that had left them wondering if they should proceed following Brynn’s bout with a serious urinary tract infection that led to sepsis and the eventual amputation of portions of her legs, feet and hands.
    “We didn’t really know what to do about the sale,” Kim said. “We talked about it as a family a lot last summer while Brynn was in the hospital, and we decided that if there was any way to move forward with it, that was the right choice.”
    Around lunchtime, Roy encountered his second snafu in less than 24 hours, having issues with an alternator repair that had recently been made on the tractor.
    Not one to let grass grow under his feet, Roy moved onto the next project at hand, making his parts run dual-purpose. He picked up the pig that would be roasted in the pre-sale hospitality event May 20.
    “At least I have enough ground ready to keep the custom planter busy for a while until I can get up and running again,” Roy said.
    Once he returned with the pig, Roy got out the bedding chopper and added bedding to the pack barn where many of the herd’s top cows live and then spent time walking through the barns to check cows.
    As evening chores approached, two of the farm’s employees arrived to begin the tasks associated with evening chores. Kelli Lehman filled calf bottles. High school student employee Ethan Witscher stopped at the heifer farm on his way to work to look over the consignments then he headed to the pasture to start bringing cows back to the barn for the evening milking before pushing up feed.
    After the pre-milking chores were completed, Lehman and Witscher began milking while Roy worked on getting the tractor up and running again. Up the road, the sale crew set about the task of leading the heifers to water, fixing the bedding packs and feeding more hay.
    As the sun began to sink into the evening sky, the Grewe family and their crew gathered to enjoy another home-cooked meal and fellowship while enjoying the rewarding feeling that comes from accomplishing much from a long day of work.

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