Cows walk in from the pasture June 17 on the Dux family’s dairy near Stewartville, Minnesota. The Dux family has rotationally grazed their dairy herd for the past 31 years.
Cows walk in from the pasture June 17 on the Dux family’s dairy near Stewartville, Minnesota. The Dux family has rotationally grazed their dairy herd for the past 31 years. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
    STEWARTVILLE, Minn. – When the Dux family took ownership of their current farmsite 100 years ago, the world was also experiencing a pandemic, just as it is today.
    “When my dad was 1 year old, he lost his baby sister, mother and grandmother all within a week from the flu,” Willie Dux said about his family in early 1920. “Then, my grandfather moved here, and it was just the two of them left.”
    Now the fourth generation to own the farm, Willie and Kathy Dux milk 30 cows on their dairy near Stewartville. Their farm and family are being recognized as a century farm this year.
    The original farm purchased consisted of 160 acres. After Gordon purchased another piece of property in 1953, the farm acres increased to 330, which is what it is today.
    Willie’s great grandparents, August and Wilhelmenia Dux, purchased the farm in the fall of 1919. Their son and his wife, Emil and Agatha, along with their son, Gordon, lived on a farm next to the Mayowood Mansion, a now historical home and recognizable landmark that once belonged to the Mayo family who started the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
    After Wilhelmenia, Agatha and her unnamed baby girl passed away from the flu, Emil and Gordon moved to the family’s current farmsite. Since Emil had to continue farming while raising his young son, he relied on his family around him.
    “Since my dad was only 1, he bounced around the family for a number of years,” Willie said.
    In 1938, when Gordon was in his first semester of college, Emil suffered a heart attack. Gordon quit school to help his dad manage the farm. When Emil died in 1948, Gordon took over.
    Since first purchasing the farm in 1919, the Duxes milked cows in the original stone barn on the site; however, because the barn continued to deteriorate, the Duxes converted a shed into a parlor in 1984. That is when they switched from cans to a pipeline and bulk tank.
    “It was exciting,” Willie said. “Part of the reason (for the switch from cans) was the milk production.”
    Dairy cows have always been a part of the farm, Willie said. And they will be on the farm as long as Willie is there.
    “It’s in his blood,” Kathy said. “It’s going to be a long time before the cows go down the road. Something major would have to happen on the farm for the cows to go away. The milk price isn’t doing it.”
    The dairy cows rank at the top of Willie’s list of favorite animals on his family’s farm, above the beef cows and sheep.
    “I love milking,” he said. “It’s the same from day to day and something to do. I like the routine.”
    He likes the size of his herd and barn to be able to interact individually with all the cows to see their personalities.
    “In a stall barn, you can see the end,” he said. “In a parlor, they just keep coming and coming.”
    When Willie joined the farm after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1979, he had new ideas to present to his dad.
    “He likes to read a lot to keep up on things,” Kathy said.
    That is how he discovered rotational grazing. After one particularly frustrating hay crop, Willie decided to turn an 8-acre field into pasture.
    “The field was rough and steep,” Willie said. “It didn’t work well to bale it, and we ended up (accidentally) dumping our hay wagon while on the field.”
    Willie gathered the materials and put up a fence to create the pastures.
    “His dad was not so happy about it when Willie went through the hay field,” Kathy said.
    But the venture has turned out to be a good switch for the Duxes as they still rotationally graze on those 8 acres 31 years later.
    “Cows are prairie dwellers, not cave dwellers,” Willie said. “That’s where they’re supposed to be is outside.”
    When he is not in a hurry, Willie will ride his bike out to move the fence in the pasture. He likes the fresh air and being on top of the hill to look out on the panoramic view of their farm.
    Rotational grazing is also a good way to reduce labor, Willie said.
    “They don’t give as much in milk production, but it (rotational grazing) doesn’t cost as much,” Willie said. “It’s cheap feed, too.”
    Along with the pasture of an alfalfa and grass mix, the Duxes grind their own corn and soybeans to feed to their herd along with oats they grow. A protein and mineral mix is the only portion of the ration purchased.
    “We always use whatever we have to feed the cows,” Kathy said. “This helps keep cost low. We’re self-sufficient.”
    Willie and Kathy were married in 1983. Although Kathy works on the farm, she has nearly always worked a job off the farm. The couple has four adult children, Ginesa, Yolanda, Clara and Kenny, who all have jobs away from the dairy; however, 25-year-old Kenny would like to return and take over at some point in the future as a crop farmer.
    “It makes you a little more determined to make it work,” Kathy said about what it means to be the fourth generation of Duxes on the farm. “It gives you a little more pride in it, too.”
    Willie and Kathy took ownership of the farm in 2000 and are proud knowing another generation wants to continue, pandemic and all.