Tony Clasemann sprays down the parlor between groups the morning of Nov. 15. The Clasemanns milk 210 cows on their farm near Long Prairie, Minnesota. 
Tony Clasemann sprays down the parlor between groups the morning of Nov. 15. The Clasemanns milk 210 cows on their farm near Long Prairie, Minnesota. PHOTO BY ANDREA BORGERDING
    LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. – It’s been a long, weary harvest for many farmers this fall. On a normal year, mid-November would have many farmers closing the shed doors for the season. But on Nov. 15, the Clasemann family was planning another full day of harvesting high moisture corn. Just one day after finishing corn silage.
     “It’s been a slow fall,” Tony Clasemann said.
    Clasemann farms with wife, Debi, and son, Marc. The family works in a 50/50 partnership on their dairy farm in Todd County near Long Prairie, Minn. They milk 210 cows and run 700 acres of rented and owned land growing alfalfa, corn and soybeans.
    Chores began at 3 a.m. with Tony checking the cows in the freestall barn. He had two cows to breed and two new calves to tend to.
    “That’s why I’m a little behind today,” Tony said during morning milking.
    Tony began milking at 5 a.m. He milks every morning and has not missed a milking since 2007. Marc arrived at 4:45 a.m. to help with chores. He leaves the farm at 6:30 to help his three children, Aidan, 12, Zoe, 10 and Zeke, 7, get ready for school.
    “I enjoy being with the cows,” Tony said. “I used to like the crops but being with the cows all the time, you start to like them more.”
    Tony milked while a part-time employee brought up cows. The Clasemanns have one full-time employee and four part-time employees.
    By 8 a.m., Marc was back at the farm to mix feed to give to the milking herd.
    In their partnership, Tony and Marc mostly work together to complete the tasks on the farm. During the growing season, Marc’s time is spent mostly doing fieldwork while Tony focuses on the cows.
    At 11 a.m., Tony and Mark met with their herd’s nutritionist, Greg Lefebvre. The three unloaded 12 bags of calf starter pellets. The Clasemanns make their own calf feed using their own oats, corn and roasted soybeans.
    Lefebvre spent the next hour discussing the industry’s feed quality, supply and prices. The Clasemanns finished chopping silage the day before, storing it in a bag, just loose enough to protect it from the elements. The silage tested at 46% moisture. The Clasemanns discussed options with feed inventory and how to rework the ration with more haylage this coming winter and spring to account for less silage.
    “It should still ferment, but we’ll decide what we’re going to do with it after a week,” Marc said of the silage. “It’ll probably be used to feed the heifers and dry cows.”
    Lefebvre agreed.
    “If it’s processed well, that’s good enough energy for the heifers,” he said.
    Despite the challenging year of making quality feed and forages, the Clasemanns have managed to maintain a productive herd. The herd is averaging an 80-85-pound tank average. Tony attributes good milk production to sand bedding and genetics. The Clasemanns’ dairy is not big enough to reclaim sand but they are able to keep their supply of sand.
    “It’s hard on equipment and hard to manage,” Tony said. “But sand is the only way to go for cow comfort.”
    Since taking over his family’s farm in 1988, Tony has learned many skills that help him manage the herd while saving money. Tony does all the breeding and treatments including treating milk fevers and ketosis.
    “I don’t do DA surgeries or vaccinations,” Tony said.
    Between milkings, breeding and treating cows, Tony and Marc, have been working tirelessly to complete the fall harvest. They finished combining soybeans Nov. 8 and wrapped up chopping corn silage on Nov. 14. The Clasemanns have 110 acres of corn to combine in order to finish harvest.
    In the afternoon, Marc started combining corn while Tony hauled grain. They filled up two trucks before switching to grinding the corn for storage. Tony backed up the truck to the grinder mixer to grind the corn.
    At 4 p.m., the school bus dropped off Marc’s children. Debi invited them into the house and served them an afterschool snack of strawberry rhubarb pie.
    While Tony was unloading the last load of corn, Marc began feeding calves. At 5 p.m., Marc helped the three employees start evening milking.
    The Clasemanns were not able to finish high moisture corn on Nov. 15 but were hoping to wrap it up in the days following.
    “Then we will have 55 acres of corn to put in bin,” Tony said. “I can’t wait to get it done.”
    With a difficult harvest nearing the end, the Clasemanns will be remembering this fall for years to come.
    “Farming is hard but it is very rewarding too,” Tony said.
    Jennifer Coyne and Mark Klaphake contributed to this article.