Farm animals, Today on the Farm, tour, Uncategorized

This calf is not small, she’s fun-sized!

We just keep getting surprises here at Hansen’s Dairy.

Three months after our surprise first set of surviving triplet heifers, now we have another unique calf.

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Coffee Bean, a full-blood Wagyu calf, weighed only 20 pounds at birth. Here she is compared to a normal-sized calf born the same day.

This cute little calf was born on Aug. 27, weighing in at only 20 pounds. She is a full-blood Wagyu beef cow, the result of an embryo transfer (carried by surrogate mother who is a Holstein). A normal Wagyu calf weighs around 65 pounds.

Wagyu, cattle, miniature, Hansen's Dairy
Glacier was the surrogate mother of the full-blood Wagyu calf that weighed only 20 pounds.

As soon as the mother, Glacier, started giving birth, herd manager Blake Hansen knew something wasn’t right. A normal cow going into labor usually has udder swelling and softening of ligaments around the birth canal, which didn’t happen with Glacier. She was also nine days overdue, so this baby was not premature.

Soon enough, this little peanut was born. We first thought she had a form of dwarfism, but usually cattle with this condition have disproportionately short legs. She looks like a normal calf, just a miniature version! We decided to name her Coffee Bean. Check out a couple videos of her on our Instagram page.

She does have one abnormality though — her lower jaw is shorter than her upper jaw, so she has an extreme overbite. Blake fed her with a kangaroo bottle nipple because it’s longer and narrower, which seemed to fit her mouth just right. She looks like a little fawn, with her small stature and narrow nose.

wagyu, miniature, cattle, Hansen's Dairy
Coffee Bean was born with a jaw abnormality. Her lower jaw is exceptionally short, which gives her an extreme overbite.

The first night, we kept her in the house just to monitor her. She spent the night in a laundry basket. 🙂

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Coffee Bean spent her first night in the house. Most normal sized calves don’t fit in a laundry basket!

The next day she hung out in our front yard. She looked like a puppy sitting there! She was walking, but certainly not very fast so we weren’t concerned about her escaping. She’s grown stronger with each day, and Blake decided to put her in the kangaroo pen so he could watch her more closely than having her with the rest of the calves in the huts. It’s been fun watching how the kangaroos respond to this new creature in their pen.

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One of these things is not like the other! Scooter, our female kangaroo, checks out Coffee Bean, our new Wagyu calf.

So, it will be interesting to see if Coffee Bean grows into a normal sized cow or if she will always be miniature. One thing is for sure, she has a fighting spirit and has been seen kicking up her heels in the kangaroo pen!

Just another day taking care of creatures great and small here at Hansen’s Dairy!

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Herd manager Blake Hansen feeds Coffee Bean, a super small Wagyu calf, by kangaroo bottle. The longer, narrower nipple fits her mouth better than a normal calf nipple.
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Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: Butter makes everything better!

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We make salted and unsalted butter in our Hansen’s Dairy creamery.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we are posting a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. For our final week, we are featuring our rich, creamy butter.

When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream for making butter and ice cream.

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Hands-on tour participants shake their own jar of heavy cream to make butter at Hansen’s Dairy.

Butter is super simple to make. In fact, it’s one of the things that visitors on our hands-on tours get to do, and they are always pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is on crackers. I think it’s so good, it’s like frosting — and some of the younger kids must agree with me, because many of them skip the crackers and eat it right out of the jar!

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Hands-on tour participants are surprised at how easy and tasty it is to make their own butter.

In our creamery, we make what’s called “sweet cream” butter. That means it’s produced from fresh sweet cream, as opposed to butter made from cultured or sour cream.

Our salted butter contains only two ingredients: cream and salt. We also make unsalted butter, for those using butter when baking. However, unsalted butter is only available frozen, because salt is a preservative — and without it, the butter will spoil faster.

To make butter, one hundred gallons of pasteurized cream are put in the butter churn and rotated. Butter is formed simply by the agitation of the churn.

After 1 to 2 hours, the buttermilk is drained, revealing 330 pounds of rich, creamy butter. If salted butter is being made, salt is then added to the churn and mixed thoroughly.

Finally, the butter is carried to the filling station and is hand-packaged into 1 pound and 4 pound containers.

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Brad Hansen individually fills one-pound tubs with butter.

Hansen’s butter is higher in fat content and lower in milk solids, which makes it a higher quality butter. The proof is in the deep yellow, all-natural color. No dyes are added to get that bright golden yellow  — it’s naturally colored due to beta carotene in a cow’s diet, and the color may vary from pale yellow to bright yellow throughout the year.

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Hansen’s butter is naturally golden in color.

Our butter is the perfect addition to fresh bread, pancakes, waffles, baked potatoes, muffins, pastries, homemade cookies, quick breads … are you hungry yet? 🙂

We hope you’ve enjoyed our How It’s Made series. Check out our other posts:

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

HOW IT’S MADE: We all scream for ice cream!

Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: We all scream for ice cream!

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our old-fashioned, premium ice cream.

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When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream in the best way — to make ice cream!

At first, dairy experts discouraged us from making ice cream with our non-homogenized milk, saying it wouldn’t be smooth and creamy. (Side note: Homogenization breaks down the fat particles in milk so it no longer separates as it sits. Our milk is non-homogenized because we wanted to keep the milk in a more natural state, and not put it through more processing.)

However, through our own trial and error, we did develop a technique resulting in a premium, old-fashioned, homemade-type ice cream. And people have loved it ever since! Our ice cream has a high fat content and very little air pumped into it (aeration), creating a denser texture that freezes harder. It has a cold, clean mouth-feel as opposed to a creamy mouth-feel. 

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We now make ice cream in over 20 flavors, which we sell at our own retail stores in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, along with other local restaurants, grocery stores and concession stands. Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (Moo Roo) sells our ice cream in cones, shakes, malts and sundaes, along with ice cream cakes.

The list below includes flavors we make consistently year-round, unless marked seasonally. We also make limited-time micro-batches for the ice cream dip cabinet at Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (here’s looking at you, Cookie Monster lovers!).

  • Brownie Batter
  • Butter Pecan
  • Cake Batter
  • Candy Bar
  • Candy Cane (winter)
  • Caramel Cup
  • Chip & Cherry
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate Brownie
  • Chocolate Turtle
  • Coffee
  • Cookie Dough
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Key Lime Pie (summer)
  • Lemon Squeeze (summer)
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • No-Sugar-Added Vanilla
  • Peanut Butter Yum
  • Pumpkin Pie (winter)
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla

To make the ice cream, we have to mix the base ingredients first. All flavors of Hansen’s ice cream include skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, locust bean gum, guar gum and dextrose. Cocoa powder is added to make chocolate ice cream. We also make No-Sugar-Added Vanilla, which is sweetened with maltitol. Other flavorings, colorings and candy pieces are added to individual flavors later in the process.

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Creamery manager Brad Hansen adds sugar and stabilizer to the ice cream mix.

Occasionally people ask about the inclusion of stabilizer ingredients like locust bean gum and guar gum. Locust bean gum is a natural food additive that comes from the carob seeds of the carob tree. It is used as a stabilizing agent in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming during temperature fluctuations. (So when you leave your ice cream tub on the counter a little too long after scooping out your after-dinner dessert, it helps prevent icy chunks from forming when it goes back in your freezer.) Guar gum helps thicken and maintain homogeneity of texture. It keeps thinner ingredients combined uniformly with thicker ingredients.

After the base ingredients are added, the mixture is pasteurized, and the heat from the pasteurization helps create a uniform mix. The mix is aged for 12 hours.

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Chocolate chunks are added to the batch freezer to make Hansen’s Dairy Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

The mix is then put in the batch freezer machine. This is where each batch is hand-crafted with the individual flavorings and chilled to 22 degrees. The ice cream has the consistency of a milkshake after removal from the batch freezer.

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Brad Hansen hand-fills containers of Hansen’s Dairy Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

We then individually fill (that’s right, no automation here!) each of our containers: half-gallons, pints and half-pints. To complete the process, the ice cream must be placed in the flash freezer to be quickly frozen to -30 degrees. Then it’s distributed to you!

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People of all ages love Hansen’s Dairy ice cream!

Check out the other blogs in the How It’s Made series:

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

Health, Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

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Brad Hansen and Hannah Nelson bottle half-gallons of whole milk at the Hansen’s Dairy farm creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our genuine, nutritious and delicious milk!

In February of this year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of processing our own milk on the farm. We have been so blessed to live in an area where the community supports us local food producers. With the low milk prices of the dairy industry today, many small dairy farmers are going out of business. We are fortunate that we have been able to support five owner families and employ another 25 people while living this dream of ours.

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Blake Hansen preps cows for milking at Hansen’s Dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa.

We currently milk about 130 purebred Holsteins twice a day. Our cows are born and raised on our farm and are never treated with growth hormones. The milk is processed three times a week and distributed to dozens of places in Eastern Iowa.

Here are a few things that make our milk different from many other brands of milk on the shelf:

  • Hansen’s Dairy produces creamline (non-homogenized) milk, so the cream rises to the top. Homogenization breaks up the fat globules of milk so that the particles are uniformly sized and won’t separate. Since Hansen’s milk is non-homogenized, that means that the cream rises to the top. It should be shaken before being served. Unlike pasteurization (heating the milk to kill bacteria), homogenization is not required to sell milk. We choose not to homogenize to keep the milk in its most natural state. Some people who have trouble digesting milk have told us that they don’t have a problem with our milk, which we attribute to the non-homogenization. If that’s you, maybe you should give it a try!
  • Our milk is extremely fresh. The milk a cow gives on the morning of a processing day is pasteurized, delivered to our retail stores, and could be bought and served at your table that night.
  • Our milk is “single source,” which means it comes only from our closed herd of cows. At larger processing plants, many different farms’ milk is being blended together. You can tour our farm and see exactly where the cows live, what they eat and how they are milked. And then you know exactly what goes into the jug!

So how is it processed?

Check out the video below for actual footage of processing milk in our creamery.

We process whole, 1% and skim milk into gallons and half-gallons three times each week.

The first step in the process is to send the milk through the cream separator, which clarifies the milk and also removes some of the fat.

Hansen_Dairy_cream_separator
Cream is collected from the milk separator and bottled as heavy whipping cream, and is also used to make butter and ice cream at Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

The cream that is collected from the separator is later packaged as heavy whipping cream in quarts and gallons or used to make our butter and ice cream.

The next step is to pasteurize the milk. This process heats the milk to at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds to eliminate any bacteria.

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Brad Hansen operates the pasteurizer at the Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

After being pasteurized, the milk is ready to be bottled. Labels are placed on the empty jugs. The jugs travel on the conveyor belt to the carousel where milk fills the jug. Another machine stamps the sell-by date on the jug.

The cap is then put in place and sealed. The full jug travels down the conveyor belt and into the cooler.  There the milk will be stacked in crates and put on the delivery truck. Hansen’s milk is delivered to our own retail stores and other grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, daycares and retirement homes in Eastern Iowa.

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Gallons of skim milk are bottled at Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

Enjoy your Hansen’s milk, and remember to shake well before serving!

Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm, Uncategorized

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

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Cheese curds are typically made twice weekly at Hansen’s Dairy.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. The first product we are featuring is our squeaky, delicious cheese curds.

Check out the video below for actual footage of the creamery cheese curd process.

Curds are a popular product made here at Hansen’s Dairy. Cheese curds are just the first step in the process of making aged cheese. People rave about eating curds on the day they are made, even when they are still a little warm. The mark of a fresh cheese curd is when it squeaks in your mouth!

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Hansen’s Dairy makes six different flavors of mild white cheddar cheese curds, including spicy red pepper.

Hansen’s Dairy makes several flavors of mild white cheddar cheese curds, including plain, spicy red pepper, dill, bacon, buffalo and ranch.

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Creamery manager Brad Hansen stirs the milk/culture mix.

To start the cheesemaking process, 300 gallons of whole milk are added to the cheese curd vat and heated to 90 degrees. When the tank is full, the culture is added, which gives the cheese the mild cheddar flavor.

Hansen’s curds are white because no dye is used to color them yellow.

Later, vegetable rennet is added to thicken the mixture and begin the separation process. Soon curds and whey will begin to form, and the cheese is raked to a mixture resembling cottage cheese.

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At this stage, the mixture resembles cottage cheese.

After more agitating and heating, the curds become more solid. The curds are pushed and pressed to drain out as much whey as possible.

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The whey is pressed and drained from the curd.

The cheese is then cut and formed into large slabs. The slabs are repeatedly cut and stacked on top of each other to squeeze additional whey out of the curds below.  This process is called cheddaring.

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The process of cutting and stacking the cheese in slabs to drain out additional whey is called cheddaring.

The slabs go through a mill to be cut into chunks. Salt is added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, the curds are ready to be packaged.

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Cheese curds are typically made twice weekly in our on-farm creamery, on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Fresh curds can be kept at room temperature for a few hours (although food inspectors might disagree). The squeak can be revived in refrigerated curds by heating on a microwave-safe plate for 10-15 seconds. Curds can be frozen in a deep freezer.

Hansen’s curds are available in 12-ounce bags and 4-pound bags. Many restaurants serve up our cheese curds as appetizers, including Doughy Joey’s, Pump Haus, Gilmore’s Pub, Table 1912 and La Calle in Cedar Falls; Highway 63 Diner, Locals Bar & Grill, SingleSpeed and Newton’s Paradise Cafe in Waterloo; East Bremer Diner in Waverly; Finley’s Curbside Bistro in Ames; Ice Cream Junction in Oelwein; and Todd’s Neighborhood Grill in Parkersburg.

Hope you enjoyed learning about our cheese curds … next week we will show you how the milk is made!

Farm animals, Today on the Farm, tour

UPDATE: We selected triplet names!

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We want to thank everyone who submitted names for our triplets!

This was a tough decision to make, because there were a lot of good names suggested, but we had to make sure we hadn’t used any of the names in our herd before. We have had literally hundreds of L cows throughout our existence, so this was a challenge!

The most frequently suggested names that we loved were:

  • Live, Laugh, Love
  • Lavender, Lilac, Lily
  • Lollipop, Lemon Drop, Laffy Taffy / Life Saver

Unfortunately, most of these names had already been used. So we decided on a more unique set of names that played upon a well-known phrase …

Livalot, Lafalot, and Luvalot!

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You can see the surprise on Herd Manager Blake Hansen’s face when he realized there were three babies!

Mama and babies are all doing well, and are loving the attention they are getting. Check out how rambunctious they are in this video from The Courier, along with their story:

KWWL Channel 7 also came out to meet the trio.

With the birth of these triplets, it’s been a crazy few weeks at Hansen’s Dairy farm, and something we may not see again in our lifetime!

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Congratulations to this mama, who now lives up to her name!

Farm animals, Today on the Farm, tour

3x the fun: Hansen’s Dairy cow gives birth to triplet heifers

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One of our Holstein cows, aptly named Legend, gave birth to triplet heifers on May 17. (Photo courtesy Ellen Kaminsky)

Hansen’s Dairy farm made history on Friday, May 17, 2019. You might even call the event “Legendairy.”

A cow on our farm gave birth to TRIPLETS! They are all alive, and they are all heifers. Experts say the odds of a cow having surviving triplets are about 1 in 400,000 births. Add in the fact that they are all girls — which is what we dairy farmers want, since only females give milk — and the odds go up exponentially.

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The triplet heifers at Hansen’s Dairy farm are all thriving.

A cow’s gestational period is 40 weeks, just like humans. In the last 20 years, we have only had two other cows pregnant with triplets, and neither set was carried for longer than five months before miscarriage.

The cow who gave birth to these lucky girls is named Legend. And now, she certainly lives up to her name.

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When Legend went into labor, herd manager Blake Hansen was only expecting twins, not triplets. (Photo courtesy Ellen Kaminsky)

Herd manager Blake Hansen knew that Legend was going to have twins. She happened to deliver right at the time when a tour group was visiting the farm, so two of the tourists got a true “hands-on” experience and helped deliver the first two calves!

Blake was surprised when Legend delivered these two big, beautiful heifer calves, but still looked pretty round. That’s when he realized there was a third one on the way.

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Legend gives Blake a lick of appreciation for his assistance with the triplet babies. (Photo courtesy Ellen Kaminsky)
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(Photo courtesy Ellen Kaminsky)

The calves weighed in at 85, 85 and 80 pounds. That’s 250 pounds of baby that Legend carried for 39 weeks — just one week shy of full term! They all came out facing the proper direction, which is even more amazing. And Legend is doing well, successfully passing all the afterbirth naturally.

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These triplets will have a unique bond growing up together at Hansen’s Dairy.

The sire of these triplets, or father, is also unique. His name is Glory-Road M Apple Crisp-ET, and he is the first bull that Blake Hansen has bred that was sent to stud, or a semen company. Having a bull that is desired by semen companies so that other dairy farmers may purchase his semen is a rare accomplishment, especially from a small farm like ours.

Legend herself is the daughter of a twin, who was named Lois. Legend is 5 years old, turning 6 in July, so she has given birth to four calves in her lifetime. She’s already produced over 100,000 pounds of milk in four lactations. For those in the dairy industry, she classified at 5-00 EX-90 VEEVE.

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Mom looks a little overwhelmed, don’t you think?!

Now, these babies need names. We always use the same initial as the mother to name the calves, and we try to give each calf a name that has never been used on our farm before. This is a challenge, because we have dozens of L cows already!

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Luke and Leia are a current set of twins on the Hansen’s Dairy farm. The farm has had lots of twins, but never surviving triplets.

Other “L” sets of twins we’ve named include:

  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Luke and Leia
  • Lois and Lane
  • LaLa and Loopsy
  • Lego and Land

So, we need your help. Give us your best triplet names — remember, all beginning with L! Having a theme to the three names is even better!

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What an accomplishment for this “Legendairy” cow!

 

Community, Local foods, Local Resources, Product info

#MilkMonday a win-win for NEIA Food Bank, Hansen’s Dairy

By Jordan Hansen

Hansen’s Dairy has a long-standing relationship with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Now, with the help of the Farm Bureau, Fareway grocery stores, and customers like you, our partnership is about to grow.

Black Hawk County Farm Bureau board members Brad Jesse and Len Orth spearheaded an initiative to increase donations of milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and improve demand of dairy farmers’ products.

MilkMonday_BlackHawk_HansensThe initiative, called #MilkMonday, will begin on Monday, April 1, and run every Monday through June (National Dairy Month). Fareway grocery shoppers will have the opportunity to round up their total purchase to the nearest dollar to help provide milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Hansen’s Dairy shoppers can also round up their purchase, or they can decide to purchase an extra gallon that will go directly to the Food Bank.

The NEIA Food Bank is located in Waterloo, and serves as a hub for food programs and pantries in a 16-county area: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Delaware, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, Hardin, Howard, Mitchell, Poweshiek, Tama and Winneshiek.

All Fareway stores in the 16-county region will be participating. Waterloo Fareway Manager Allen Weimerskirch also reported that the Fareway corporation has decided to match up to the first $2,500 raised in the initiative.

Northeast Iowa Food Bank, #MilkMonday
Representatives from Farm Bureau, Fareway, the Food Bank and I kicked off the #MilkMonday initiative on National Ag Day, March 14, 2019. The Farm Bureau gave an initial donation of $1,000, which comprised funds from Black Hawk, Winneshiek, Allamakee and Tama county Farm Bureaus.

The #MilkMonday program will allow the Food Bank to purchase more milk from our farm, which is already supplying the Food Bank with about 50,000 gallons of milk each year through a combination of sales and donations.

Our relationship with the Food Bank is mutually beneficial, and we see it as an important way to give back to our community.

First, a little background into how it all started.

You need it, we’ve got it

When cows are milked, they naturally produce what’s called “whole” milk. The fat percentage of our whole milk is about 3.5%. The milk can be run through a separator to produce two different products: skim milk, which is our biggest seller; and heavy cream, which is bottled itself and also used to make butter and ice cream. For every 10 gallons of whole milk, it will separate into 1 gallon of cream and 9 gallons of skim milk.

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Cream from the separator flows into the holding tank.

For several years now, the supply and demand of cream and skim coming from our farm has been a little out of balance. We need that cream to make those high-demand (yummy) products, but we’re just left with way too much skim milk than what our customers demand. Sometimes, in order to have enough cream, that skim milk would literally go down the drain.

Enter the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Barb Prather, executive director, who just happens to live in our town.

“Milk is one of the harder items for us to keep in stock for the people we serve,” Barb said. “And it’s such an important part of daily nutrition, giving young kids as well as adults the essential vitamins and calcium they need.”

We agree. So in July 2016, we formulated a plan where the Food Bank would purchase skim milk from us at a reduced rate, and we would donate more gallons on top of that. We are at about a 3:2 ratio — for every three gallons of milk the Food Bank buys, we donate two gallons. In 2018, we donated nearly 19,000 gallons of skim milk.

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Skim milk is bottled at Hansen’s Dairy.

This has benefited both of our organizations in several ways:

  • We avoid dumping perfectly good milk down the drain.
  • The Food Bank receives extremely fresh milk — sometimes just bottled at our farm that day — instead of getting close-to-expiration milk that may be cast off from grocery stores.
  • We get paid for most of the milk, while also donating some and taking advantage of the state of Iowa’s Farm to Food Tax Credit.
  • Our delivery team can efficiently drop a lot of milk at one location.
  • The Food Bank has distribution points to share the milk across Northeast Iowa.
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Delivery Manager Brent Hansen loads up crates of milk for his next route.

We salute the Farm Bureau members to spearhead this effort to benefit us dairy farmers while getting nutritious food to those who need it.

“As farmers, we have a calling to help feed people and take care of those in our communities,” said Ben Bader, Black Hawk County Farm Bureau president. “And you don’t have to be a farmer to realize being able to pull the whole community together to provide milk to families in need is part of the ‘farm strong’ spirit we all embrace.”

To help bring awareness to the event, grocery shoppers are encouraged to spread the word using #MilkMonday on social media.

Will you “round up” for the Food Bank?

UPDATE: The final tally for #MilkMonday is in — $17,115.42 was raised for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. The amount raised was more than anyone thought possible, and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support of this wonderful cause!

Cooking with the Hansens, Farm animals, Local foods, Product info

Our farm’s juicy secret: Wagyu beef

wagyupieceHave you heard the buzz about our newest product on the farm? It’s actually not a dairy product.
 
Our newest venture is in Wagyu-Holstein beef. That’s kind of a mouthful —literally!
 
Wagyu, a breed of Japanese beef cattle, may not be a familiar term to most people. But it’s actually the breed behind the famous Kobe beef that you see on restaurant menus.
 
Real Kobe beef actually comes from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black Wagyu cattle, and it must be raised, fed and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Many U.S. restaurants may put “Kobe” beef on the menu, but in truth, only a handful are certified to serve it (check out this article from Business Insider for more on that topic).
 
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These Wagyu-Holstein ribeyes have excellent marbling.

Highly desirable beef

So what’s so great about it? Wagyu (pronounced “wahg-you”) is widely regarded as highly desirable beef due to:
  • Superior marbling, shown in raw meat as tiny white dots or a spider web of ultra-thin veins throughout the muscle, which results in tender texture 
  • Rich, buttery flavor
  • Healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids — especially oleic acid, which is responsible for flavor. These monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point, below human body temperature, so they literally melt in your mouth. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Starting a Wagyu herd

Blake Hansen, Hansen’s Dairy co-owner and herd manager, first heard about Wagyu beef about four years ago from family friends in Des Moines. They were raising a few head just to feed to their own family, and one taste-test had Blake hooked.
 
This family raised both full-blood cows (mother and father are both Wagyu) and Jersey crossbreeds (Jersey mother and Wagyu father). That got Blake thinking about crossing Wagyus with his Holsteins and offering a very nice selection of meat to customers who already knew us by our dairy products. Blake actually preferred the taste of the crossbreed to the full-blood. Because it wasn’t as rich, he could eat more of it. 😉
 
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One of the Hansens’ Wagyu-Holsteins
The first step was finding the semen. Our dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that we don’t have to keep live bulls on the farm. This provides a lot of genetic variety without having to house and feed bulls and worry about their temper. So to have a crossbred Wagyu-Holstein, we would breed a Holstein female with Wagyu semen.
 
Blake discovered that Wagyu cattle are typically butchered at 27-29 months old, as they gain the most marbling after 24 months. This is in contrast to more well-known breeds of beef cattle raised in Iowa, which are usually butchered at around 14-16 months.
 
So this is where things got hard to predict. How much demand would there be for this new beef? When you add up the time it takes for a cow to become pregnant, carry the calf for 9 months, and then raise the calf to 28 months of age, that’s more than three years. And he had to choose how many cows to breed to this Wagyu semen, and how often, because a pregnancy is never guaranteed. In the end, he decided to aim for one or two cows to be butchered each month.
 
Just like our dairy cows, the Wagyu-Holsteins are raised with great care and quality feed throughout their lives. They are housed in the same pens and fed the same diet as the dairy cows. We do not use growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, and we grow the majority of their feed — corn silage and alfalfa hay silage — on our own land. The genetic traits of Wagyu cattle just naturally result in better meat quality even on the same diet as a dairy cow. 
 

Farm-to-fork

Our first Wagyu-Holstein cow went to the meat locker (we use Marks Locker in Rowley, Iowa) in August 2018. We developed a great partnership with the new restaurant Table 1912, located in the Jorgensen Plaza development of the Western Home in Cedar Falls, to feature this beef on their menu. The Western Home Communities have purchased our dairy products for almost as long as we’ve been producing them, and their restaurant concept is focused on farm-to-table fine dining. They source many of their ingredients from Iowa farmers, so they were excited to be the exclusive server of this new local beef.
 
We also began selling the meat cuts privately to individuals. A Waterloo Courier article about our beef garnered national attention, as it was picked up by the Associated Press and published in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald (Fla.), US News & World Report, Washington Times (D.C.) and Houston Chronicle (Texas). Not bad for a small-town Iowa farm.
 

Try some for yourself

Is your mouth watering yet? Here are some things to know when preparing it:
  • Small serving sizes. Wagyu is very tender and has a buttery flavor. Steak serving sizes are typically smaller because of the rich flavor profile. 
  • Faster cooking time. Wagyu cooks faster than other beef. It is recommended that steaks are cooked to no more than medium rare for optimum palatability.
  • Juicy hamburger. Wagyu-Holstein beef is about 90% lean.
We sell our Wagyu-Holstein hamburger in bulk and patties at our Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores for $8/pound. We don’t sell the finer cuts of meat in our stores because of limited quantities and higher price point. If you are interested in purchasing prime cuts of our Wagyu-Holstein beef, call Blake Hansen at (319) 610-1530. As of this post, there are several cuts available, including roasts, short ribs, top sirloins, New York strips, ribeyes and filets, ranging in price from $16 to $100 per pound.
Farm animals, For kids, Today on the Farm, tour

5 tips for touring Hansen’s Dairy farm

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The trolley takes hands-on tourists around the farm.

As the calendar turns from April to May, families naturally seek out activities to do outside. Maybe one of those activities is touring Hansen’s Dairy farm?

We aim to make your tour a fun, educational and possibly surprising experience. Here are 5 things you need to know before your visit.

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The hands-on tour allows you to get up close and personal with our tame kangaroos!

  1. The Hands-On tour is the best (if we may brag).

The best tour experience we offer is our Hands-On Tour. This guided tour takes you through the process of getting milk from the cow to your table. You’ll take a trolley ride around the farm, then take a walking tour to see all the cows and the facilities up close. Along the way, you’ll get to feed a calf, milk a cow by hand, and pet the kangaroos and goats. Then we’ll hop on the trolley to go back to the Tour Center, where you’ll make and eat your own butter, sample milk and cheese curds, and get your own serving of ice cream. Children 3 and younger are free; all other participants are $12. Tours begin at 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you must have a reservation. Tours start at 3:30 because of the cows’ schedule — that’s when they’re being milked and the calves are being fed. This tour will take about 2 hours.

If you can’t get into this popular tour, you could take the Animal Petting Tour at 12:30. That tour includes everything in the Hands-On Tour EXCEPT feeding a calf and milking a cow by hand. But you still get to pet all the animals, including the kangaroos!

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Adults have fun on the hands-on tours, too.

We always make tours by reservation, so dropping in is not allowed. Also, if you can’t make your reservation, please let us know not to expect you. There likely are other groups scheduled at the same time, so we like to avoid making the whole tour wait.

By the way, the hands-on tour is not just fun for kids. Adults will have a blast too, I promise!

Call 319-988-9834 to make your reservation.

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Hands-on tourists get to try milk, cheese curds and ice cream, plus make their own butter.

2. Bring spending money and a cooler.

You may want to bring some extra spending money in case you would like to buy products after the tour. We do a good job of teasing your taste buds, just sayin’! Plus, most of our products are perishable, so you’ll want a cooler to keep them cold on the way home. Cash is preferred for payment, but we can take credit/debit cards.

3. Don’t bring a stroller unless it’s an “off-road” or jogging-type stroller.

The farm is mostly gravel and has few concrete areas where it’s smooth to push a stroller. Trying to navigate with an umbrella stroller or travel-system stroller can be very difficult. Either plan to carry the little ones or use a baby carrier. We also have a nice jogging stroller for your use if you would like it, no charge.

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The calves get a little slobbery when they’re drinking their bottle.

4. Don’t dress as if you’re going to a party or a concert.

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At harvest time, feed may be blowing around the farm as it’s being stored.

This is a working farm. The ground may be muddy, the wind might be blowing feed around, a calf could slobber on you, you’ll see cows “relieving” themselves … you get the idea. Dress in old shoes or boots and clothes that can get dirty. I’ve seen open-toed heels, flip-flops, white pants and the like. That’s a recipe for disaster! While we do take a trolley ride to the farm, most of the tour is by foot so you need to be comfortable walking.

By the end of the tour, you will most likely be smelly, too. You may not want to plan to go out to eat afterward if you don’t want to offend other restaurant patrons. Besides, we’ll feed you so many dairy products at the end of the tour, we’ll probably ruin your supper. 🙂

5. (Over)dress for the weather.

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Wearing a hat and gloves, especially for kids, makes your tour more comfortable in the spring.

The weather can be unpredictable. We generally don’t cancel our tours because of weather; we let the tourists decide if they want to brave the rain, wind or snow. However, if you decide to come, know this: a farm is more extreme than the city! If it’s windy in town, it’s twice as bad in the wide open country. We tell people to overdress in the spring and fall because it’s much nicer to have a hat and gloves, even in May, than be cold and uncomfortable. Especially for kids! Remember that about half of the tour is outside, and the trolley has a covered top but open-air sides.

Above all, we want you to have a great experience at the farm. These tips should help you make the best of your trip. Hope to see you soon!