PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
SAUK CENTRE, Minn. – Aug. 30 was a bittersweet day for brothers Josh and Joel Groetsch.
The two were blessed because they had the hard working hands of their boys to help them with their busy day which included making hay on their 120-cow dairy near Sauk Centre. But unfortunately, the next day, Aug. 31, all five boys would return back to school in Sauk Centre.
“I am going to miss them a lot,” Joel said. “It takes a lot longer when they aren’t here. The extra help is always handy.”
Josh and his wife, Stacy, have two boys, Blake and Hayden, and Joel and his wife, Crystal, have three boys, Clayton, Logan and Jack. During the summer months, the boys run side-by-side with their dads, assisting with a variety of chores and work on their robotic dairy where they farm 800 acres and raise bulls. Both wives work full time off the farm.
Joel and Josh are the second generation on the farm. They started working with their parents, Florence and Ken, right out of high school and now own the farm.
On this Tuesday, the seven Groetsches had big plans. They were hoping to chop a 25-acre field of hay, possibly start chopping on a different field of alfalfa and give some guidance on a tiling project being done near the manure pit.
Well before the work began and the stars were illuminating from the sky at 2 a.m., Josh got a call from one of the robots and had to go down to the barn to do some maintenance. They have been milking with two robotic milking systems since Sept. 11, 2012.
By 6:30 a.m., all seven headed to their freestall barn to handle a varying array of chores.
A couple of the boys, Hayden and Logan, swept mattresses in the barn. Clayton helped Joel with mixing feed and cleaning out some heifer lots. Blake helped fetch cows for the robot, and Jack went into the chicken pen to feed the chickens and pick up eggs. Josh stayed in the barn and did some A.I. Then, with the help of Logan, Josh bedded the herd.
“It’s handy having them here all day even if it’s just to open the gates,” Joel said.
Shortly after 9 a.m., the families had breakfast at their respective houses before coming back to the farm, where Josh and his family live.
The rest of the morning consisted of getting their haying equipment, which includes a self-propelled chopper and three boxes, greased and ready for chopping hay sometime in the afternoon. The boys played around on the farm and helped when needed.
“They are all brothers, and they fight like it,” Josh said.
For lunch, the Groetsches took their sons to eat dinner at the Padua Pub. The restaurant is a popular place for the Groetsches to eat, especially when they have a busy afternoon planned.
“During the summer time, we take the boys to Padua to eat lunch,” Joel said. “It’s quicker than trying to prepare something ourselves.”
In the early afternoon, Josh checked the hay while Joel made an order of four loads of canola for the herd’s ration. Shortly after dinner, Blake was merging five rows into one to accelerate their chopping plans. The boys all know the importance of pitching in.
“Working on the farm teaches the kids important life lessons such as a hard-work ethic and chosing right from wrong,” Joel said.  
By 2 p.m., the boys were heading to the field to chop haylage. Logan rode with Joel in the chopper, and Blake and Clayton hauled loads while Josh stayed in the yard to run the blower and unload into the 20-by-70 silo. Josh and Joel’s dad, Ken, showed up around 3 p.m. to knock down a couple more fields of hay.
Several loads into the harvest, things went awry; two of the belts on a box snapped, and Stacy, who had the day off from her job, had to run to get parts. The Groetsches proceeded to haul with just two boxes.
“Today was one of those days when something went wrong, it went wrong twice,” Josh said.
A short time later, Logan discovered two calves had been born in the maternity pen, and he helped get them out in the yard near their huts.
Josh was also sidelined by some needed conversations with a tiling company and the manure pit project. By 5:30 p.m., the 25-acre field was chopped, and Joel returned to the yard to place new belts on the box and unload the last load of haylage. Josh and the boys, minus Hayden, who was at football practice, headed to the barn to get chores done. They also had to feed the newborn calves bottles of milk.
“I like the feeling of done when you start a project and get it done,” Josh said.
When they checked their other field of alfalfa, they deemed it was too wet for harvesting.
Just before 7 p.m., they had a good handle on the day’s work and had just a few minor things to do.
Then they had supper, and the families put the finishing touches on getting everything ready for the first day of school.
“Farming makes more sense to me [than school],” Clayton said.
During the school year, the boys enjoy helping on the farm at night and during the weekend. As each gets older, Josh and Joel hope some of them will take an interest in the farm.
“That’s your goal in life... to have kids to take over the farm,” Josh said.