HASTINGS, Minn. – The Kieffer family is used to a hectic farming schedule; however, Sept. 19 proved to be a day that upped the intensity.
    “Every day is busy when you’re farming, but it’s not usually this crazy,” Kevin Kieffer said.
    Kevin and his brother, Tim, along with their parents, Wayne and Bernie, milk 350 cows on their dairy farm in Dakota County near Hastings, Minn. While the focus of the day was chopping corn, the family also had other tasks come up to attend to that made for a 17-hour day.
    At 4:30, Kevin started his morning feeding calves while Tim and an employee milked cows. On a normal day, Tim would not be in the parlor; however, one of the milkers could not make it in for the first and second shifts.
    “That’s just how it goes sometimes,” Tim said.
    The Kieffers milk their herd three times a day at 4 a.m., noon and 7:30 p.m. They have six full-time and five part-time employees.  
    During milking, other employees mixed and fed TMR and scraped the freestall barns. Once most of the morning chores were completed, their veterinarian, Curt Nelson, from Goodhue Veterinary Clinic, arrived at about 9 a.m. for herd check.
    Nelson, along with the Kieffers’ herdsman, Shane Yelle, Tim and Kevin worked together to ultrasound 34 cows and heifers.
    “Normally the number is in the upper 40s, so it’s a good day to have a short check,” Tim said.
     During herd check, two-year employee Louis Luna bedded the heifers.
    After herd check, everyone dispersed for a short break. Kevin had to take his 7-month-old puppy, Geno, to the veterinarian in Hastings at the recommendation of Nelson. Geno’s nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid, had rolled out of place. The puppy had to be sedated for the veterinarian to correct it.  
    Although the day’s high humidity and no breeze made the Kieffers question whether they would get started with chopping corn on time, they were able to continue the schedule as planned. The equipment rolled into the field at noon.
    The family had started the corn chopping process two days before, but had to take a break due to rain on Sept. 18.
    “That’s the way it goes,” Kevin said. “We always have to be ready for changing plans.”
    In prior years, the Kieffers had helped the Ottes, another area dairy farm family, with merging their hay each summer. This year, the two families decided to create a partnership when it comes to chopping hay and corn. They sat down at the beginning of the season and planned their corn planting dates in order to adequately time harvest.
    They also planned equipment. While the Kieffers already owned a triple merger, they sold their chopper and windrower in order to buy a triple cutter. The Ottes kept their chopper. Each family owns a set of wagons.
    “We haven’t combined that part yet, but we probably will in the future,” Kevin said. “It’s gone really well and the Ottes are really easy to work with.”
    One of the biggest benefits of the partnership is how fast they are able to chop. Part of that is due to both families being able to provide enough labor for all the equipment. While Blake Otte ran the chopper, the Kieffers’ two neighbors drove wagons. Luna also drove a wagon until Tim was done milking second shift. Kevin and Eric Otte drove pack tractors. Bret Otte, who is also the Kieffers’ nutritionist from River Country Co-op, came to take samples and check on the process.
    Since Blake’s monitor read 72% moisture for the first field, the team moved to another one, where the moisture was closer to 68%.
    “That’s better,” he said. “We have a lot of acres to get done so we have to keep going.”
    While the Kieffers have about 300 acres for corn silage, the Ottes have about 400 to chop. Kevin said the corn silage harvest seemed to be good.
    “Yields are average or above average,” he said.
    They weren’t so fortunate with their alfalfa crop.
    “The haylage isn’t as good this year,” Kevin said. “There is not as much of it and it’s not as high in protein.”
    In addition to corn and alfalfa, the Kieffers raise sweet corn followed by peas.
    “There’s lots of canning crops around here,” Kevin said.
    The corn silage had been stored in an earthen-based bunker until this year when they covered the ground with rock and lime.
    “Hopefully that makes it better because we were in the mud and could only feed it in the cold winter months,” Kevin said. “It will be our biggest corn silage pile we’ve ever done.”  
    Also in the field was the Kieffers’ custom manure haulers, Brandon Otto. Kevin admits they had not planned to be hauling manure at this time, but the various amounts of rain that filled the pit made them change their plans.
    “He’s making a little bit of a mess out there, but it’s better than the pit overflowing,” Kevin said.
    Once Otto is done hauling out about 500,000 gallons of manure, the Kieffers will get the rest out with a payloader.
    “After the liquid comes out it, most of it is sand at the bottom,” Tim said.
    Corn chopping consumed the rest of the afternoon and into the evening hours for the Keiffers and Ottes. By 9 p.m., the chopper stopped and by 9:30, the rest of the crew was done, too.
    “Us packers usually have to go a little bit longer,” Kevin said.
    Although the 17-hour work day on Sept. 19 was tiresome, the Kieffers know it is all part of the harvest season.
    “I’m just glad we’re making progress,” Kevin said.