The evening chore crew at Moorse Dairy includes – (from left) Brittany, Becky, Brooke, Grady and Bernie. The Moorse family milks their 90-cow herd of Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss in a tiestall barn on their farm near Minneota, Minn.
The evening chore crew at Moorse Dairy includes – (from left) Brittany, Becky, Brooke, Grady and Bernie. The Moorse family milks their 90-cow herd of Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss in a tiestall barn on their farm near Minneota, Minn. PHOTO BY JERRY NELSON
    MINNEOTA, Minn. – Every day is a swirl of activity at Moorse Dairy. But Sept. 11 was especially hectic as the Moorse family focused their energies on finishing this year’s corn silage chopping.
    Moorse Dairy includes Bernie Moorse and his brother, Greg, along with Greg’s wife, Becky, and their children, Brittany, 27, Grant, 25, Garrett, 21, Gared, 18, Grady, 16, and Brooke, 14.
    The Moorse family milks 90 cows in a tiestall barn. They farm about 1,200 acres, which includes 850 acres of tillable ground.
    The day began at 5 a.m. with the morning milking. Bernie and Becky usually handle milking duties.
    “Our grandparents got their start on this farm,” Bernie said. “They rented the place at first and were eventually able to buy it.”
    While Bernie and Becky milked, Greg fed the cattle. In addition to their dry cows and replacement animals, the Moorses have several hundred head of fat cattle. The fat cattle are kept at Greg and Becky’s farm, located about one mile south of Bernie’s place. There are about 1,000 head of cattle on the Moorse farm at any one time.
    That morning, Garrett took cull cows to Pipestone Livestock Auction Market, in Pipestone, Minn. His return was delayed by a flat tire on their stock trailer and by lug nuts that were rusted in place.  
    “One of the guys at Gorter’s Clay and Dairy used his cutting torch to convince the lug nuts that they had to move,” Garrett said.
    The Moorses turn their milk cows out of the barn every morning. While the barn is empty, they run the gutter cleaner, replenish the bedding in the stalls and use a motorized feed cart to spool out fresh TMR.
    Once the barn was clean, Bernie opened the door and the cows filed in. Bernie announced each cow’s name as she sauntered to her assigned stall. Greg and Garret guided the cows as necessary and clipped their leather neck collars to a chain.
    Morning chores were completed shortly after noon. The Moorses then threw themselves into the push to complete silage chopping.
    “We bagged two 200-foot bags of silage yesterday,” Greg said. “We’re going to pile the rest of our silage on the ground. It’s cheaper and faster than bagging. We’ll feed the pile first, so losses should be minimal.”
    Greg and Garrett readied their self-propelled silage chopper. Greg fueled up the giant machine and washed its windows while Garrett cleaned its radiator with an air hose. The two men carefully inspected the chopper, looking for any signs of trouble.
    “Yesterday was a long day,” Greg said. “After we finished those two bags, I sharpened the cutter’s knives. It was after midnight when I got back to the house.”
    Satisfied that everything was ready, Greg clambered into the chopper’s cab and hitched the machine to a silage wagon. He drove to Bernie’s place and began chopping a new field of corn.   
    “This has been the wettest year we’ve ever had,” Greg said as he piloted the chopper around squishy areas at the edge of the field. “One day at the end of June, we got 6.5 inches of rain. Our pastures were even underwater. We’ve never seen that before.”
    Once the field was opened up, Greg began to pump silage into trucks that drove alongside the chopper.
    “Silage chopping is my favorite time of year,” Greg said. “We do a lot of exchange work with our neighbors. Last fall, one of them asked me to chop earlage for him. I said fine, as long as you combine my beans for me. At the end of the day, I had chopped all of his earlage and he had combined a quarter-section of our soybeans. Everybody came out ahead.”
    At about 4 in the afternoon, Garrett quit hauling silage so he could milk two dozen of his goats. Garrett owns about 100 dairy goats.
    “I bought the mother of my top goat for $100 when she was just a few days old,” Garrett said. “I took one look at her pedigree and knew that I had to own her.”
    Garrett’s dairy goats earned several top awards at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair. The Moorse family has been involved in showing animals for many years. They have also been leasing some of their goats, rabbits and cattle to 4-H members. The Moorse family has helped Lyon County win the state fair’s dairy herdsmanship award for four years in a row.
    Garrett blended the fresh goat milk with cow’s milk, water and milk replacer. He fed the mixture to the purchased bull calves that are being raised in huts on Greg and Becky’s farm. The Moorses’ baby heifer and bull calves that are born to their dairy are kept at Bernie’s farm.
    The silage pile began to grow as a neighbor’s four-wheel-drive tractor and dozer packed the fresh, green fodder. Bernie paused to chat for a moment with his cousin, Luke Moorse, who was helping with the silage-making operation.  
    Bernie drove to his farm to begin setting up for the evening milking and Becky soon joined him.
    “Grain farmers harvest once a year in the fall,” Bernie said. “Dairy farmers harvest every day of the year.”
    Later, Brittany arrived at the dairy barn and warmed up milk for the Moorses’ baby heifer calves. Brittany works for the local newspaper, The Minneota Mascot, and writes a column, called Milk Maid. Her duties at the farm include feeding weaned calves, helping with milking and managing herd records.
    “I feed our baby heifers every morning before I go to work and every evening as soon as I get home,” Brittany said. “Those are my favorite times of the day.”
    Grady, who had been at football practice, and Brooke arrived at the dairy barn to see if their mother and uncle needed help. They chatted about the day’s events and the football team’s prospects.
    Reflecting on the bustling day at Moorse Dairy, Brittany said, “Our motto around here is, ‘Every day is an adventure. You never know what to expect.’”