Susie is in her 10th lactation at the Grubers’ dairy farm near Pierz, Minnesota. She has a lifetime production record of 286,589 pounds of milk, 10,542 pounds of fat and 8,433 pounds of protein.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER COYNE
Susie is in her 10th lactation at the Grubers’ dairy farm near Pierz, Minnesota. She has a lifetime production record of 286,589 pounds of milk, 10,542 pounds of fat and 8,433 pounds of protein. PHOTO BY JENNIFER COYNE
    PIERZ, Minn. – When Bob and Kaylie Gruber began their dairying career in 2009, they bought cows to grow the herd and gave little concern to what type of dairy animal they were purchasing. Eleven years later, one cow from that original sale remains.
    Susie is a 14-year-old Holstein known for her easy-going disposition, hardy longevity and superior health on the Grubers’ 200-cow dairy farm in Morrison County near Pierz.
    “She’s one of those cows you just don’t notice,” Bob said. “She causes no troubles. She minds her business, comes in to get milked and then goes right back out. She knows her job.”
    Bob and Kaylie purchased Susie as a first-calf heifer. In her lifetime at Gruber Dairy, she has produced only two daughters and numerous bull calves. Yet, those two daughters have continued to help build the herd.
    Her first daughter was 11 years old when the Grubers decided it was time for her to leave the farm. That animal gave six daughters, most who are still present today. The other daughter is Susie’s penmate.
    “This morning, Susie and her daughter were standing right next to each other in the parlor,” Bob said. “It’s neat to see those kinds of things.”
    The impact Susie has on the herd is rich. Bob and Kaylie have eight granddaughters, five great-granddaughters and two great-great-granddaughters on the farm.
    “Susie only gave us two daughters, but those two daughters have been impressive,” Bob said.
    All of her offspring have created value for the farm.
    “Susie has good genetics, and she’s always given us nice calves whether they’re heifers or bulls,” Kaylie said.
    The matriarch of the farm has a lifetime production record of 286,589 pounds of milk, a lifetime butterfat of 10,542 pounds and a lifetime protein of 8,433 pounds over 10 lactations. Her merited lifetime value is at $39,415, according to the most recent farm records.
    “When you look at her overall history of lactations, there’s nothing too great about her,” Bob said. “But, when she was milking good, she was right up there with the best of (the herd).”
    Susie’s last milk test showed production at about 80-90 pounds and a somatic cell count of 23,000.
    “She’s never had mastitis and we’ve never had to treat her,” Kaylie said.
    Bob agreed.
    “She’s always had a low SCC,” he said. “That’s what makes her so impressive. Susie has always been trouble free.”
    While Susie’s place in the barn is warranted now, it might be fate that brought her there.
    The Grubers spent the first year of dairy farming focused on building their herd from its original 40 cows. At the same time, Susie aborted her second calf. When the couple bred her back, she came in with little milk.
    “She didn’t have much of an udder,” Bob said. “We really should’ve sold her, but we had room for dry cows. In my opinion, it’s cheaper to keep dry cows around than buy more heifers.”
    Susie managed through the Grubers’ expansion and easily transitioned from a tiestall to a freestall and straw to sand bedding. She is now milked in a retrofitted rapid-flow flat parlor with walk-through head gates.
    “The biggest thing was that we were looking for efficiency,” Bob said. “Susie has been through all of our changes; she’s seen it all. And, she’s still the same cow she was back before then.”
    Kaylie agreed.
    “Susie is just Susie,” she said. “Now, Avery (our daughter) can help put the milking unit on her. She’s the only cow in the barn that we let Avery put the unit on.”
    The cow’s mellow temperament is noteworthy. Susie is one of the tamest cows in the barn, making her a far cry from the herd’s boss cow.  
    “I don’t think she likes confrontations,” Kaylie said. “She is just so easy-going. She has been a good, long-lasting producer.”
    Susie is about seven years older than the average age of her herdmates. As the oldest cow in the herd, Susie’s age is starting to show. She moves a little slower, she has had minor issues with her feet, and she is harder to catch in heat. Yet, her longevity and overall health at Gruber Dairy speak volumes.
    “She’s one of those cows that I don’t know if she’d be happy out on pasture,” Bob said. “She’s proven this is where she belongs, and she’ll always be our favorite.”