Sierra Swanson owns a herd of cattle with her sisters near Hutchinson, Minnesota. 
Sierra Swanson owns a herd of cattle with her sisters near Hutchinson, Minnesota. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    HUTCHINSON, Minn. – Ask each of the three Swanson sisters what they love about farming and they will agree that working with family to care for their cows is something they cherish.
    That dedication to cows and to each other has brought three sisters – Sierra, 22, McKenzie, 18, and Shelby, 14 – to build their own dairy herd called Three Sisters Dairy. The dairy consists of 15 cows and 15 heifers housed on the family’s farm owned by their uncle and aunt, Mike and Kacie Kurth, near Hutchinson.
     “We are really proud of the little herd we have here and hope to continue to do what we are doing,” Sierra said.
    Although they did not grow up on the farm site, the Swanson sisters are no strangers to dairying. The three grew up doing chores on what was originally their grandpa’s, LeRoy Kurth’s, farm. Today, their uncle and aunt, Mike and Kacie Kurth, own KurthHaven Farms.
    Their mother, Kari Swanson, milked cows and was a herdsman when their grandpa owned the farm.
    “Me and Mom would start milking and talk about our day during milking,” Sierra said.
    Sierra is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota where she earned a degree in animal science and dairy production.
    Sierra and her sisters began building their herd when they were each gifted a calf from their grandpa. Each one of them went on to show a calf at the Minnesota State Fair. Their participation in the 4-H Dairy Showcase at the state fair spurred the growth of their herd.
    “We earned money being in the showcase and used that to reinvest back into our project and buy some animals of our own,” Sierra said. “That’s how we got started in this.”
    All of the cows have all three of the sisters’ names on them. The herd consists of eight Red and White Holsteins, two Brown Swiss with the remainder being Holsteins.
    Each sister claims a favorite breed in the herd.
Sierra received a Brown Swiss as a gift when she was 3 years old which fueled a love for the breed.
    “That was the start of my own animals,” Sierra said.
    Younger sister McKenzie claims the Red and White Holsteins as her favorite.
    McKenzie is a senior at Hutchinson High School where she is active in FFA and serves as the chapter’s secretary. She is also the secretary for the local 4-H group as well as the treasurer for the McLeod County Junior Holstein Association. After graduation, she plans to attend Minnesota West Community and Technical College in the dental assisting program.
    “I enjoy working with family and doing everything I love with family,” McKenzie said.
    McKenzie’s main tasks on the dairy include milking pen and fresh cows, bedding the pens and helping with calves. She plans to continue helping the dairy when she goes to college in the fall.
    The show ring is where McKenzie finds her real passion for dairy.
    “Showing at the fair is one of my favorite things,” McKenzie said.
    The three sisters have gained a positive show ring reputation at local fairs where they are known as “the sisters.” The entire family, including their cousins, the Kurths, bring up to 20 animals to the county fair.
    Their reputation in the show ring carries into their breeding and caring for quality cattle, which is something the Swansons hope continues to grow.
    “We want to keep improving the quality of our herd,” Sierra said.
    Youngest sister Shelby has also found success in the show ring at a young age.
    Shelby is an eighth grader at Immanuel Lutheran School where she participates in dance, basketball and softball in addition to being the reporter for the 4-H club. She is also a McLeod County Dairy Ambassador. Shelby said she enjoys working and being with the cows every day.
    “I help wherever I’m needed,” Shelby said. “I get to do a variety of jobs and I’m Grandpa’s right-hand man.”
    Shelby’s favorite cows are the Holsteins. She bought her first Holstein, Josie, with the money she earned the first year participating in the dairy showcase at the state fair.
    “I started with that one calf I bought and now she just calved with a heifer,” Shelby said. “I’m so excited.”
    Despite their individual preferences, the sisters agree when it comes to growing and improving their herd. When one of their cows is due, they all are present for the calving. Living five minutes from the farm, the Swansons will check on a cow every night at 1 a.m. until she freshens.
    “We are all in this together so we all get up to check a cow,” McKenzie said. “It’s very exciting when we get heifer calves. Sometimes we are out here all night moving the calf and milking the cow. We are just smiling and happy our herd is growing.”
    Last December, the Swansons had several cows due. They had three heifers born each night Dec. 15-17, 2019.
    “We are very proud of those winter calves,” Sierra said. “It was very cold during that time, and we all got very little sleep.”
    Three Sisters Dairy operates under an agreement with their uncle, who milks 85 cows.     
    “We each have our own fund, and then we have a sister fund, too, so that if we sell one cow we can all decide what to do next,” Sierra said.
    The sisters’ hard work and dedication to dairying is something their mother is proud of.
    “I have some super kids, and I get to work with them every day,” Kari said.
    Kari works mornings and evenings at the dairy. During the day, she works with husband, David, at their insurance agency in Fairfax.
    “If I want to hang out with the kids, I need to work with the cows,” Kari said.
    The Swanson sisters will be at the farm every day after school and on the weekends. Their passion for dairy clearly shows through their efforts.
    “We want to continue to work with the family we have here and develop our herd,” Sierra said. “We are trying to breed good cow families so we can show and produce well.”
    Sierra plans to continue dairying on her family’s farm and hopes to have her own farm some day. She is also planning on obtaining a job within the dairy industry while continuing to grow her herd.
    With family dedication and three sisters’ passion for dairy, the future of Three Sisters Dairy looks promising.