Lori and Mike Zimmermann and their children – (from left) Daisy, 11, Holly, 4, Tina, 2, Beth, 8, and Joe, 10 – milk 100 cows in Stearns County near Sauk Centre, Minn. The family hosted the University of Minnesota Extension field day. 
PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL
Lori and Mike Zimmermann and their children – (from left) Daisy, 11, Holly, 4, Tina, 2, Beth, 8, and Joe, 10 – milk 100 cows in Stearns County near Sauk Centre, Minn. The family hosted the University of Minnesota Extension field day. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL
    SAUK CENTRE, Minn. – Family values are a powerful influence in maintaining cost efficiency and labor management on Lori and Mike Zimmermann’s farm.
    “We make things work; he likes this and I like that,” Lori said. “But we always make our decisions together.”
    The Zimmermanns milk 100 cows on their family farm with the help of their children – Daisy, 11, Joe, 10, Beth, 8, Holly, 4, and Tina, 2 – near Sauk Centre, Minn.
    Area dairy farmers and business professionals visited the farm for the Stearns County Dairy Field Day July 24. The University of Minnesota Extension sponsored the event.
    During the field day, the Zimmermanns spoke on how their family values help create a strong family partnership, which is a huge relief when it comes chore time.
    “Mike has always enjoyed tractor work, so he likes to focus his time on that,” Lori said. “Whereas, I will do anything if it doesn’t involve operating large equipment.”
    When it comes to decision-making, Lori and Mike balance each other out.
    “I’m definitely the worrier,” Lori said. “But, Mike has this way of calmly looking at the options and making the right decision.”
    These ethics showed through as the Zimmermanns explained the history of their farm and gave a tour of the facilities to those in attendance.
    “Four years before this place, we were renting a barn just outside of Sauk Centre and milking 40 cows,” Mike said. “I was also helping with the crop portion of my dad’s farm.”
    In 2010, the Zimmermanns moved to their current location.
    “We were milking 95 cows in a 48 stall barn built for Jerseys and had to have hired help at night,” Mike said. “Neither Lori or I liked that since good labor was so hard to find.”
    Two years ago, the Zimmermanns purchased a used double-8 parlor in order to lower the costs of hired help. Now, only one person is needed for milking.
    “I do most of the milking by myself with the kids helping in the morning. Daisy and Joe are in charge of the calf chores and they also help me wash up in the parlor,” Lori said. “Meanwhile, Mike is out feeding and bedding the cows.”
    When installing the parlor, the Zimmermans poured all of the cement leading up to and around the parlor facilities.
    “The whole project took 17 days from start to finish; we had to milk in the 24 back stalls,” Mike said. “Looking back, I wish we would’ve put in floor heating in.”
    The Zimmermanns ultimately decided to install a parlor because it was less money and more time could be spent with the cows without having to hire help.
    “I like to be able to sleep at night, so I didn’t want to take out a loan for something that we would be worrying about all the time,” Lori said. “We could financially do a parlor.”
    Existing stalls at the farm site were too small for the Zimmermanns’ Holstein herd, so a corn stalk bedded pack was also used.
    “The barn wasn’t tall enough for us to put in a compost barn, and my family has enough acres of corn to bale straw off it, so this was just an easier route for us,” Mike said.
    In the future, the Zimmermanns hope to build a new freestall barn for their cows.
    “We don’t really want anything bigger because then we’d have to start hiring help and I don’t like that,” Mike said.
    Instead, Lori has other areas of the farm she hopes to improve without increasing cow numbers.
    “I always tell Mike I would like a calf barn, freestall barn and cement,” Lori said. “If he were to get cement for my birthday or anniversary, I would be very happy.”
    Looking back on their new facilities and years dairy farming, the Zimmermanns are truly thankful.
    “My sister once told me it doesn’t matter if you have a beautiful, brand new facility, what matters is that you try your best to not go backwards,” Lori said.
    Currently, the Zimmermanns house their calves in hutches where they are fed colostrum shortly after birth and given Calf Guard. The calves are fed milk replacer twice a day, given unlimited starter feed and water, and then weaned at two months.
    “It all just really depends on where we are in life,” Lori said. “If the kids want to keep milking down the road, we might keep a parlor for a while and then look into our other options.”
    Family values are what drive the Zimmermanns to push through each day and show their children what it truly means to be a dairy farmer.
    “What matters most is that we both have the same end goal,” Lori said. “We want to be milking 20 years from now.”