Paula and Wade Thaemert, and their children – Hannah and Carter – milk 75 cows in Carver County near Mayer, Minn.
Paula and Wade Thaemert, and their children – Hannah and Carter – milk 75 cows in Carver County near Mayer, Minn. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
    MAYER, Minn. – The morning of May 7 began like any other for Wade and Paula Thaemert, but the day was going to be different than most in recent months.
    With clear skies and warm temperatures, the Thaemerts were itching to finish planting small grains before spring showers were expected in the forecast.
      “We got in the fields [May 4], and we seeded about 11 acres of wheat last night and have about 8 [acres] to go,” Wade said. “If all goes well, we’ll also get some alfalfa and barley in.”
    Wade and Paula run 220 acres of corn, wheat, alfalfa and barley on their 75-cow dairy in Carver County near Mayer, Minn.
    The day began at 5:30 a.m., when Wade made his way to the barn for morning milking.
    As he started milking the first group of older cows in the 36-stall stanchion barn, Paula helped their daughter, Hannah, 6, get ready for school.
    “I usually make my way out to the barn a little before 7 a.m. on days I have off,” said Paula, who works four days a week as a nurse with Ridgeview Medical Center.
    With Hannah ready for school and eating breakfast with her grandparents, Curtis and Lanette Thaemert, Paula retreated to the barn to finish milking. Wade and her kicked out the first group of cows and brought in the young heifers from the bedded pack just as the local veterinarian completed a routine herd check.
    “We have it down so it takes about an hour a group to get through milking,” Wade said. “We start with the older cows because they know what to do and are OK being in the barn overnight. The second group is mostly heifers, so I don’t want them in the barn until I know they can get up and are comfortable in the stalls.”
    As Wade preps a few cows and puts milkers on them, Paula is post-dipping cows and moving milkers to a new group.
    “We just watch what each other does and there are no hiccups,” said Paula about their milking routine.
    The Thaemerts have been farming together since they were married in October 2010, but Wade has been in the dairy industry all his life.
    Curtis and Lanette milked cows from 1965 until 1991, and then raised heifers for the six years that followed. When Wade graduated high school in 1997, he purchased two milking cows and started his dairying career.
    “I rented everything from Dad until six years ago when Paula and I purchased the farm,” Wade said.
    Most recently, the Thaemerts have increased their herd size from about 40 milking cows to 75.
    “Dad never milked more than the barn could hold, but with the prices it’s nice to have more,” Wade said. “But, more is also difficult. We’ve found a herd of 75 cows is enough with this setup.”
    Paula agreed.
    “Seventy-five is our sweet number,” she said. “It keeps us busy, but we don’t have to worry about labor.”
    The Thaemerts are also raising all of their youngstock and selling their bull calves shortly after birth.
    By mid-morning, Paula bottle-fed the three calves on milk as Wade and Curtis began cleaning the barn. Before Paula joined the men in the cleaning process, she went back to the house and grabbed their youngest, Carter, 3, who was spending his morning with Lanette.
    Together, Paula and Carter swept out the feed mangers as Curtis and Wade hauled manure out of the bedded packs.
    “There are a bunch of things I like about farming,” Paula said. … “At such a young age, our kids are doing chores and learning the mentality of work.”
    The day continued with Curtis spreading manure, Paula bedding the stalls with fresh straw, and Wade mixing feed for the lactating herd. Using a TMR, Wade put together a ration consisting of corn silage, haylage, high moisture corn, dry hay and a protein mix.
    “Every day it’s the same job, but never the same routine,” said Wade about the daily schedule. “There are so many things to get done, you just have to decide where to go from here.”
    Ever since Wade was a child he enjoyed the variety of work that comes with dairy farming.
    “I have to be outside doing something,” he said. … “When it’s 80s and sunny, it’s not my style to be inside. And I like my fair trade of work between cows and tractors.”
    By noon, the Thaemerts were on schedule to return to the field – the animals were all taken care of and the drill was filled with fresh bags of wheat seeds.
    Due to the late winter and spring snowstorm, fieldwork was about two weeks behind schedule, Wade said as Curtis prepared to spend his afternoon on the Case IH 686 planter.
    “It’s all I’ve ever known,” said the 82-year-old. “I like farming and help when I can.”
    As Curtis runs the planter, Wade is responsible for cultivating and keeping the planter filled.
    When Hannah returned home from kindergarten in the late afternoon, she helped her father and grandpa fill the 12-inch drill once more – this time with barley.
    “She really likes to help,” said Paula, laughing.
    The Thaemerts wanted to finish a 25-acre field with barley underseeded with alfalfa.
    “We’ve had a lot of really good luck with it,” said Wade about the barley and alfalfa.
    As evening fell, Curtis retired for the day and Wade’s brother, Charles, took over to finish planting.
    With many hands helping, the Thaemerts completed planting small grains May 7 – just in time for the arrival of rain the next day.