The Barfnechts – (from left) Tyler, Brett, Doug, Daryl and Betty – take a break from farm work Jan. 19 on their dairy near Mayer, Minnesota. The three generations of Barfnecht complete most of the work on their dairy farm. 
The Barfnechts – (from left) Tyler, Brett, Doug, Daryl and Betty – take a break from farm work Jan. 19 on their dairy near Mayer, Minnesota. The three generations of Barfnecht complete most of the work on their dairy farm. PHTOO YB MARK KLAPHAKE

MAYER, Minn. – As the Barfnecht family thinks about their future in the dairy industry, they credit much of what has become of the farm to each other. 
“Dad once told me he was sorry he wasn’t a better dad and that we didn’t do more,” Daryl Barfnecht said. “But we got to work together every day of my life, and now I’m working with my children every day. And, we’ve accomplished all of this.”

The Barfnechts – Betty and her two sons, Doug and Daryl; and Daryl’s wife, Michelle, and sons, Brett and Tyler – milk 460 cows and run 3,000 acres in Carver County near Mayer. 
Since the farm’s beginning in 1974, it has been family who have been the workhorses behind the operation. Even today, the Barfnechts are the farm’s only full-time employees.
“We’ve had some part-time help or people who help out once in a while, but the day-to-day chores are always us,” Brett said. “Even when we’re milking.”
Brett’s involvement in the farm is focused heavily on the grain operation. Outside of the planting and harvest seasons, he is responsible for mixing the total mixed ration and feeding the milking herd.
His younger brother, Tyler, serves as the assistant herdsman on the farm, while Daryl is the acting herdsman. Doug is in charge of the youngstock, while Michelle does the farm’s bookwork. Since Michelle has taken on the bookwork, Betty has taken a small step back from the dairy and focuses much of her time keeping up the farm’s curb appeal. 
All four men are at the farm at 4:30 a.m. every day. 
“Just as milking is done, so is feeding and taking care of the calves,” Daryl said. “Then, we come in and all eat breakfast together before we’re off again.”
Doug agreed.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “All of it. The time we spend together.”
Doug and Daryl work in a LLC partnership on the dairy, while Daryl’s sons are employed by the farm. 
Both Daryl and Doug joined their parents following high school in 1988 and 1995, respectively. Up until 1995, the Barfnechts milked in a tiestall barn. Betty and her late husband, Dale, expanded over the years and were milking 120 cows in an L-shaped barn when a fire took it all. 
They rebuilt with a 200-stall freestall barn and double-10 step-up parlor, which they still use today. 
Over the years, the Barfnechts have made calculated decisions to expand the herd and add on to the farm with housing facilities, structures that aid in efficiency and land. 
“With the cows, Dad only bought the best cows,” Daryl said. “We’ve built this herd for the best.”
Betty agreed.
“As we grew and made changes, everyone knew what we had to do to make it,” she said. “There was no leeway.”
The Barfnechts continue to breed for high productivity and long-lasting animals. Tyler helps make those decisions, including the use of sexed semen on their top-end cows and virgin heifers, and Angus to the remainder of the herd. 
“We’re trying to speed up the genetics,” Tyler said. “Heifers used to be a cash crop, but that’s not the case anymore.” 
For the younger generation of Barfnechts, not only do they value working with family and carrying on a family tradition, they are also eager to see how the farm will be shaped in the coming years. 
Tyler, particularly, has taken an interest in the dairy herd.
“I like working with cattle and my family,” he said. “I like to see where we can get to at the end of a day.”
He has approached the idea of robotic milking systems as an avenue for the family to continue milking in a more efficient manner. 
“It would be a step for their future,” Daryl said. “Dad built the parlor, and now we need to think about what their future will look like.”
Tyler agreed.
“We all trust each other and our ability to make decisions,” he said. “It means a lot to me that they’ll take my ideas in to consideration.”
Updating the milking system with automation would help alleviate the Barfnechts’ time at the dairy. Right now, the farm is functioning with one person per 100 cows. 
“We’ve made everything as fast-paced as possible, but we don’t work fast enough that we wreck things,” Daryl said. “We’re fast and efficient.”
Before the Barfnechts make any decisions, whether that is with new technology, a breeding strategy or purchasing equipment, they ask for advice from fellow farmers. And that understanding and willingness to learn is what they feel has helped them over the years. 
“We’ve had our fair share of troubles,” said Daryl, mentioning significant damaging storms. “And we’ve been able to make things work because we ask around. We know we can’t possibly know it all.”
As the Barfnechts reflect on the farm’s development and the generations before them, they have big plans for the future. They want to make decisions for the farm – both dairy herd and land – that will keep them viable for generations to come. 
If their past is any indication, nothing will deter the family.
“We grew up pushing for being better,” Daryl said. “Dad always said nothing was free and that we had to work to get what we wanted.”
Betty agreed.
“This is because of years of working together,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing what’s happened with hard work and dedication.”