The Hensels – Diane and Gary with their grandchildren, DeVyana, Garrett and Ava – stand in the yard of their family farm near Park Rapids, Minnesota. The Hensels milk 49 cows.
The Hensels – Diane and Gary with their grandchildren, DeVyana, Garrett and Ava – stand in the yard of their family farm near Park Rapids, Minnesota. The Hensels milk 49 cows. PHOTO BY ANDREA BORGERDING
    PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – The day started sunny and warm, a perfect day for baling hay on Gary and Diane Hensel’s farm near Park Rapids. But as July 17 wore on, the building humidity and looming thunderstorms in the forecast threatened to alter their plans to finish baling the last of their first crop hay.
    The Hensels started chores at 6 Friday morning. Like every other day, it began with feeding cows and youngstock before Diane starts milking their herd of 49 Holsteins and a few Jerseys at 7:30. While she milks, Gary cleans the barn and hauls manure.
    Gary and Diane have been dairying together for 38 years. They raise 300 acres of corn, alfalfa and oats. They milk cows in the tiestall barn Gary’s family built in 1979.
    “I didn’t think we would be milking this long,” Diane said during morning milking. “But, I like milking. I don’t have to go anywhere.”
    Diane has been doing the majority of the milking for the past 15 years. While she milks, Gary will bed the cows with straw and will clean the milking units and the pipeline after milking.
    “We make a good team after all these years,” Gary said.
    After milking, Diane feeds calves. This time of year is very busy as their herd freshens seasonally. They have had 21 calves since May 1. Eleven of the cows that freshened were heifers. They have six heifers yet to freshen. Besides feeding the heifer calves, the Hensels also keep their bull calves until they are 300 pounds.
    Adding to her milking time, Diane had four cows to milk with a bucket – including fresh cows and a chronic mastitis cow.
    “She is on my cull list,” Diane said with a smile.
    The backed-up beef market has extended the stay for about a dozen cows in the Hensel herd. The influx of heifers is maxing out space in the barn and adding to the workload for the Hensels.
    On the morning of July 17, Diane fed two bottle calves and nine calves with a milk bucket.
    At 10:30, the Hensel’s son’s, Tim’s, children, DeVyana, 13, Garrett, 8, and Ava, 6, came to spend the day on the farm. The grandchildren are a welcome arrival for Gary and Diane. The grandchildren live 11 miles away and visit frequently.
    Having children around is not uncommon. Before she had grandchildren, Diane spent much of her career doing daycare for nieces and nephews in addition to dairying.
    At 11 a.m., the Hensels wrapped up morning chores and managed to take time off to eat and talk with a cousin who stopped by to visit.
    Gary went to rake at 12:30 p.m. Hay on a 20-acre field across the road from the farm site lay drying and was ready to be round baled. At 2 p.m., Tim stopped by to lend a hand. Gary started baling while Tim finished raking the field.
    Diane spent the afternoon visiting on the phone and watching over the grandkids. When time allows, she enjoys gardening, baking and cooking among her daily tasks of laundry and making meals for people helping do fieldwork.
    As the afternoon went on, Gary continued baling with just one minor hang up. The twine in the baler needed to be fixed as it was not tying properly.
    “It was just a small fix,” Gary said.
    At 4 p.m., Diane started afternoon chores with feeding calves. Tim finished raking and went to the barn to help feed the cows silage. He stayed to help until 5 p.m.
    Diane started milking cows at 5. By this time, thunderstorm warnings were being posted for Hubbard County where the farm is located.
    Gary finished baling at 6:30 p.m. He got 50 bales from the alfalfa field.
    “I got back to the yard and started putting equipment in the sheds and tucked away anything we had left sitting out,” Gary said of the impending storm.
    Gary was caught in the calf barn when the storm hit the farm at 7:30. He waited out the storm and made his way to the milking barn after 15 minutes when the rain lightened up.
    The storm added to the workload for the Hensels. Rain blew into the barn doors so Gary and Diane cleaned up the water pooling in the barn.
    Together the Hensels finished chores and were ready to leave the barn at 10 p.m. when they noticed a bloated heifer calf.
    “I didn’t have any Bloat-Eze so I had to use a hypodermic needle to poke her and let the air out,” Gary said. “She was looking better when we left the barn.”
    Finishing up a long day of chores and fieldwork, Gary and Diane finally went to bed at midnight.
    “Chores take a little longer when I’m busy in the field,” Gary said.
    The Hensels received no property damage from the storms that rolled through the evening of July 17, but they did tally 2.3 inches of rain.
    “It didn’t hurt getting the rain,” Gary said. “Around here we always need rain.”
    Despite it taking longer to get chores done, the Hensels considered it a successful day in that they finished first crop hay.