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.
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.
The first night, we kept her in the house just to monitor her. She spent the night 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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Have 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).
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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 $15. 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!
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, or book online here.
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.
4. Don’t dress as if you’re going to a party or a concert.
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.
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!
Ever wonder what the Hansen dairy cows eat to produce such great tasting milk and dairy products?
To keep our cows healthy and help them produce high quality, great-tasting milk, they are fed a meticulously calculated mixture of dried cracked corn, distiller’s grain, linseed meal, corn silage, alfalfa haylage and vitamins and minerals. Our cows have more balanced diets than most people!
Let’s take a closer look at these ingredients.
Dried Cracked Corn: These dried corn kernels broken into small, coarse pieces are high in carbohydrates and starch.
Dry Distillers Grain: As ethanol production uses only starch from the corn kernel, the remaining protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins make distillers grain. Instead of throwing the kernel away, the cows make use of the remaining nutritional value. It’s like eating the chicken after you’ve used its feathers to stuff your pillow!
Linseed Meal: A byproduct of extracting the oil from flaxseed, linseed meal is high in protein and fiber.
Corn Silage: The entire corn plant – stalk, leaves, cob, and kernels – is chopped into small pieces, resulting in a feed that is loaded with fiber, thiamin and carbohydrates.
Alfalfa Haylage: A grass crop that is cut and fermented, alfalfa haylage is a roughage material that provides protein, calcium and carbohydrates.
Vitamins and Minerals: To round out the cow’s diet, they are given 1.5 lbs of vitamins and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and sodium bicarbonate.
Since today is Father’s Day, and June is National Dairy Month, I decided to share what makes my husband the best dairy daddy.
Blake loves showing our kids (Reese, 3, and Beckett, 1) all about being a farmer. Reese has already had a lot of hands-on experiences with cows and is discovering all the different aspects of raising them.
I love how he is instilling in our children (and his nieces and nephews) his love for animals. He is patient, caring, sensitive and kind, both in his work life and home life. He works hard until he gets the job done, then comes in and plays hard with the kids.
I love watching Blake be a dad. I would be proud if our kids grow up to be a farmer — or a parent — just like him.
Twins are very unusual in cattle, and if you’ve taken a tour of Hansen’s Dairy, you know that of the 200 calvings each year at Hansen’s, about five sets of twins will be born. Female twins born at Hansen’s will get matching names. For example, names of the female sets of twins on the farm have included Flip and Flop, French and Fry, Shoe and String, and Lois and Lane.
But when a heifer and bull are twins, that heifer may be sold and raised for beef production instead of becoming a milking cow at Hansen’s Dairy. This is because 90% of the time that heifer will be sterile (unable to get pregnant). If she can’t get pregnant, she won’t be able to have a baby and produce milk.
When we tour guides tell our guests about this phenomenon, they often ask what causes this. After a little research, I found that these sterile heifers are called freemartins and that the heifer’s sterility is caused by blood vessels becoming interconnected between the heifer and bull. The blood then flows from one twin to the other, and male hormones like testosterone circulate and interfere with the heifer’s sexual development. The male hormones then masculinize the female twin, and the result is a sterile female.
Listed below are several interesting facts about freemartins.
· For the most part, the male twin is largely unaffected by sharing blood with his sister.
· Freemartins will have masculinized behavior and non-functioning ovaries.
· These heifers will behave and grow in a fashion similar to castrated male cattle (steers).
· It is very difficult to determine by palpation if the heifer will be fertile until she is about 6 months old.
· At any age, a simple blood test can be done to detect the presence of male Y-chromosomes in the white blood cells of the heifer to determine if she is sterile or not.
· In about 10 percent of different sex twins, no fusion of blood vessels takes place and the female remains fertile.
· In fraternal twins, it’s possible to have two Holsteins with different colors. The photo shown is a Black & White Holstein with a Red carrier gene. She was bred to a Red & White bull and had a Black & White/Red & White twins.
· Freemartinism is the normal outcome of mixed-sex twins in all cattle species and also occurs in sheep, goats and pigs.
About 200 calves are born each year at Hansen’s Dairy, and Herd Manager Blake Hansen serves as a type of cattle ob-gyn for the expecting cows. While difficulties during labor are uncommon, difficult labors are very hard on the cows and can lead to diminished milking productivity and decreased fertility. For these reasons, Blake keeps a close eye on the cows near the end of their 9-month pregnancy.
Though each cow is different, Blake will see several indications that a cow is close to labor. In the week before calving, her feed intake decreases and her udder will start to swell. Young heifer’s udders can start swelling as early as 1 month before labor. Several days before labor, the ligaments on the tail head cave in slowly, then drastically when labor is only hours away.
During the first stage of labor, the calf is being forced toward the birth canal and the cervix is beginning to dilate. Because of the dilation, the base of her tail may appear to have a kink in it. At this point, the cow will be moved inside the barn to the maternity pen so she can deliver her calf in a dry, clean space.
Shortly after, the water bag will appear from the vulva. It will resemble a small reddish-brown balloon filled with water, or the bag may burst inside her. When this bag breaks, the cow will feel a release of pressure and she’ll get up to investigate. If she makes no progress for a half-hour after the water bag has appeared or burst, Blake will help the cow with her delivery.
During the second stage of labor the contractions become strong and coordinated. They will come 3 to 5 minutes apart. The cow will often lie on her side begin to push. She will be visibly straining.
Within an hour after the water bag has appeared, two small white hooves should emerge from the vulva while still in the embryotic fluid bag. After a few minutes, the nose will follow, then the shoulders, body and hind legs. The cow will immediately stand and turn to clean the calf with her tongue.
80% of births are unassisted and calves will enter the birth canal correctly, with their front feet first and nose between their knees. But sometimes, the calves may have limbs twisted, be backwards (breech) or too large.
The third and final stage of labor is the passing of the afterbirth. The cow’s uterine contractions will continue in order to expel the remaining fetal membranes. This will last anywhere from 1 to 12 hours.
Some tour participants are lucky enough to witness a calf being born. It’s wonderful to see the miracle of life before your eyes!