Family, Farm animals, Local foods, Today on the Farm

Is dairy farming really one of the worst jobs in America? recently posted their annual listing for the 200 Worst Jobs in America for 2013. The rankings were based on five factors: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. “Dairy farmer” was listed as No. 6. So what do the farmers at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy have to say about that?

Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.
Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.

“If everyone loved their job as much as dairy farmers, there wouldn’t be such a list,” says Blake Hansen, herd manager.

Indeed. Working with cows can be very satisfying and rewarding, and a dairy farmer has to be completely committed to his craft in order to be successful. Like other self-employed people, their whole life revolves around their business. They do what they love to provide a nutritious food group to feed America. Their livelihood relies on those animals staying alive and healthy for years. If a farmer takes proactive steps to maintain the health of his cows, he maximizes his chances of success. If he takes care of the cows, they will take care of him.

Let’s address the factors that went into creating this worst job list.

Physical demands. Dairy farmers milk their cows at least twice a day, feed them three times a day, and care for them around the clock. They deal with inclement weather, delivering calves, heavy lifting and being on their feet all day. But Blake says the physical demands are nothing compared to the mental effort. Keeping track of the needs of 375 animals in different life stages is mentally taxing.

The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.
The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.

Work environment. OK, sometimes the smell is a little overwhelming. (You get used to it.) But who wouldn’t love the wide open spaces a farm provides? The steady supply of milk right outside your door? The opportunities for your kids to learn the value of family and hard work? Our small-scale farm (375 cows from newborn to 10 years old) allows us to get to know each cow by name and temperament. Blake knows who likes to be first in the milking parlor, who loves her tail rubbed and who is ready to calve. Imagine working with a group of girls with very unique, individual personalities, and not a catty one in the bunch!

Income. We’ll agree with this one. Many small dairy farms have had to sell out because of high input costs (feed and fuel) and low income (market prices for the milk). Twelve years ago our family took a financial risk by investing in facilities and equipment to bottle our own milk, and it has paid off in a big way. But we know it would be much harder for single-family farmers to put in that kind of time, money and effort. We are grateful to be able to support five families with the size farm we have.

Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.
Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.

Stress. Every job has its ups and downs. The death of an adult cow who you saw being born, trying to get fieldwork done ahead of the rain, working side by side with family members, and managing employees can all be stressful. There’s very little vacation time. But there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a cow nursing her newborn calf that you helped deliver overnight. The life cycle is renewed, and it’s wonderful to think about that calf’s potential down the road. Our oldest cow has produced enough milk in her lifetime to fill four semi-trailers. And she’s still going.

Hiring outlook. Land prices around here have skyrocketed, so if you don’t already have a farm in the family that will be passed down to you, getting into the business by yourself is financially tough. And with large operations streamlining milk production, jobs are harder to come by. But hey, if any of you are looking for a job in the dairy industry, we usually have something available!

Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.
Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.

So, we would argue with dairy farming’s placement on the worst jobs list. The proof is bottled in a jug on your table with our name on it.

Farm animals, Today on the Farm

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The calendar says Nov. 20, but you wouldn’t know it by looking outside. Fortunately, the nice day is allowing us to prepare for the upcoming season of not-so-nice days.


The cows mostly like the winter. They are much more comfortable than during the summer, when the heat causes them stress and diminishes their milk production. You should see them kick up their heels in the barnyard when the first measurable snow arrives. Plus, they get those cute wooly winter coats.

This 4-month-old heifer is starting to grow a heavy winter coat.

But winter on the farm can be tough for us people. It takes a lot longer to trudge through snow and get the chores done. You’re always worried about water troughs freezing, equipment not starting, mountains of snow to plow and the electricity going out if there’s ice.

The days are shorter, so list of things to do is shorter. But first we have to get through our winter readiness list.

The first task is to complete the harvest. Before the snow flies, the corn silage flies.

Corn silage is collected in a chopper wagon and blown up into the silo for long-term storage.

Corn silage, along with hay silage, makes up the basis of what the heifers and milking cows eat. Due to the drought, corn silage was harvested pretty early this year (early to mid-September). We fill plastic ag bags and the silos with enough corn silage to last us until next year at harvest time.

This silo is about 100 feet tall. Sometimes farmers have to climb to the top to clear out feed that has plugged the chute.

Each cow eats about 90 pounds of food a day, so that’s a lot of feed to store. We also chop leftover cornstalks from the shelled corn harvest to use for cow bedding.

The next thing we do is empty the manure pit. We inject a million gallons of cow waste into our fields to serve as fertilizer. What goes around comes around! I’ll spare you pictures of that process. Suffice it to say, the farm smells pretty ripe during that time. Sorry, neighbors.

Next we put up plastic sheeting in the front and back of the calf huts to keep the babes warmer. The plastic is rolled down to serve as a windbreak in the winter and rolled up again in the spring so they can feel the breeze.

ImageThe same story happens in the greenhouses where the 2-month-old to 6-month-old calves live. The greenhouses absorb a lot of heat so it stays pretty toasty in there.


Once it gets a bit colder, the baby calves also get extra cornstalk bedding in their huts, and Blake puts a shot of cream in their bottles of whole milk for extra fat and warmth. The calves aren’t worried about that today. This one is enjoying basking in the sun.


And finally, a new project for this year. Blake and Michael are building a 100′ x 100′ pen to house some new animals that we’re going to have. Can you guess what we are getting? (Hint: It’s something we haven’t had before.) Leave your guesses below!

Michael and Blake are digging post holes for our new pen.

Written by Jordan Hansen



Farm animals

Sept. 9 is the Farm Crawl!

ImageEver wondered how milk gets from the cow to your table? Come to Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy and find out for FREE during the second annual Farm Crawl, sponsored by the Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership.

We’re offering trolley rides from our newly opened tour center; tours to see the cows, wallabies, and calves; cow milking; free ice cream; barbecued pork sandwiches; kids’ tattoos; contests; and door prizes. But this event isn’t just about us. Visitors can see produce farms, livestock farms, crop farms and a winery all over Northeast Iowa during the Farm Crawl. Some farms are even showcasing their energy conservation practices. The event is Sunday, Sept. 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. Visitors can roam from farm to farm, wherever the road takes them! Come support local agriculture and have a lot of fun.

In addition to our farm, other sites include: Engelbrecht Family Winery, Fredericksburg; Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch, Fredericksburg; Genuine Faux Farm, Tripoli; Rainbow Ridge Farm, Waverly; Friedrich’s Fresh Foods, Cedar Falls; C’mon Back Acres, Cedar Falls; Fitkin Popcorn, Cedar Falls; Hillcrest Farm, Cedar Falls; Jefferson Greenhouse and Orchard, Dunkerton; and Timeless Prairie Orchard, Winthrop.

Our retail stores, Moo Roo and the Outlet, sell goods from many of the farms on the tour.

For descriptions of each site, visit and look under News & Events.

Check out some of our photos from last year. We had a blast!


Giving tours


More tours


Milking the wooden cow


Trolley rides


Hay bale contest

ImageEnjoying free ice cream


The view from the big tractor


The view from the mini tractors

See you there!

Written by Jordan Hansen

Farm animals, Today on the Farm

Today on the Farm: Hoof Trimming

Just like horses, cows also need their hooves trimmed to stay healthy! Dream graciously offered to let us take pictures of her hoof trimming experience. Thanks Dream!

Here she is anxiously waiting for her turn.

When it was Dream’s turn, she stepped into the hoof trimming chute. As she’s stepping in, she steps over a belt.  The belt isn’t very fashionable, but at least it allows us better access to her hooves!

The belt then lifts her up, suspending her off of the ground.

Just like Dream, Blair Hansen agreed to let us take his picture too! Here he is tying down Dream’s feet. This is to prevent any unwanted movement which could potentially result in an accident. Dream must have know this because she stayed very still for Blair.

This is the tool that Blair uses to trim hooves. It’s a little bigger than your typical finger nail clippers huh? Thanks to Sadie Hansen for her lovely hands in this shot!

Now we’re finally ready to get trimming! Each hoof is individually trimmed with care. Just the way Dream likes it!

See all that white stuff on the ground? That’s hoof shavings from previously trimmed cows.

Look at those shavings fly!

After trimming the back feet, Blair moves on to Dream’s front hooves to finish her up.

Don’t worry Dream, we’re all done! Your hooves are nice and trimmed, making life easier and more comfortable for you. The Hansen’s trim their herd’s hooves about 4 times a year so we’ll see you again in 3 months Dream!

Written by: Christine Schick

Farm animals

It’s More Than Milk

Cow milk provides us with a number of different things. We can use it to make cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream or we can drink the milk as is. Did you know that, aside from providing our daily dairy intake, cows support our daily routine in many other ways as well? By-products from cows can be found in a number of different items that many of us use every day. These by-products allow us to utilize 99% of every dairy cow! Listed below are some of the ways that cows really do touch us daily.

From Fats/Fatty Acids

  • Candles-made from Stearic Acid found in rendered beef fat.
  • Crayons-made from rendered beef fat. Tallow and Stearic Acid from cattle are used.
  • Chewing Gum-made from Stearic Acid found in rendered beef fat.
  • Shaving Cream-made from Lard found in rendered beef fat.
  • Soaps-made from Stearic Acid found in rendered beef fat.
  • Lipsticks-made from Stearic Acid found in rendered beef fat.
  • Detergents-made from Palmitic Acid found in rendered beef fat.
  • Mouthwash-contains Glycerin and Benzoic Acid found in cattle fluids. 
  • Paints-made from Tallow found in beef fat.

From Hair

  • Paintbrushes

From Hide

  • Sporting Goods
  • Belts
  • Dog Chews

From Collagen-based Adhesives

  • Bandages-adhesives made from blood.
  • Wallpaper-adhesives made from blood.

From Bones & Hooves

  • Fertilizer-made from Bone Meal.
  • Camera Film-made from Gelatin Protein.
  • Marshmallows-contains Gelatin Protein, obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water.
  • Gelatin-made from Gelatin Protein.
  • Dice-made from Bone.
  • Glue-made from Gelatin Protein.

Cattle by-products are often used in a number of different life-enhancing pharmaceutical products as well. From the pancreas we can get Insulin to help treat diabetes and Chymotrypsin to aid in the healing of burns and wounds. From the liver we can get Heparin to prevent blood clotting and Vitamin B-12 Extract to prevent B-complex deficiencies. Other notable products include Bone Marrow to treat blood disorders and Iron to treat anemia.

For a complete list and more information about cattle by-products, please visit and

Written By: Christine Schick

Family, Farm animals, Today on the Farm

Today on the Farm: Mermaids, Dandelions and Sunsets

The Hansen family had an occasion to celebrate on Sunday. Baby Beckett (son of Blake and Jordan) came home after a nasty virus landed him in the hospital for two days. He made it home just in time to celebrate his big sister Reese’s 3rd birthday. We all gathered at the dome for Dora mermaid-themed cake and ice cream.


Afterward the youngsters went outside to see who could pluck the longest dandelion. Blake is the judge while the kids thrash around the hayfield and bring back their finds. The stems are usually about 2 feet long. The cows in the background are very curious about the night’s activities.



Even the little girls (Bridget, Mollie and Reese) get in on the fun and make a game out of hiding in the crops.


The night was capped off by a gorgeous sun setting above the pond. Brent, Sam, Sara and Sadie went down to enjoy the view.


Even though we work together all day, it’s great to have some downtime to enjoy the wide open spaces on the farm with the fam.

Written by Jordan Hansen

Farm animals

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day on the farm isn’t just for people. Some of our cows and wallabies are moms, too! To honor our farm animal moms this weekend, we’re going to tell you a bit about them.

A mama and her newborn.

Our herd manager, Blake Hansen, answered a few questions about the cows…

How long is the gestation period for cows? How long are they usually in labor?

Cows have a 9 month gestation period, just like humans. They are usually in labor for anywhere from 3 to 10 hours.

How long do calves stay with their mamas?

Calves stay with their moms for about an hour and a half. If a calf is born in the middle of the night, it may be a little longer. The reason we separate them is because the mom needs to begin milking with a machine, and we don’t want the calf to get used to nursing instead of drinking out of a bottle.

How many calves do most cows have in their lifetime?

Cows have their first calf at the age of 2 and the goal is to get them pregnant once a year every year after that. So a 9-year-old cow has had 7 calves in her lifetime. Giving birth rejuvenates a cow’s milk supply. We’ll keep a cow around as long as she keeps getting pregnant.

This Holstein cow had twins – one red and one black. It’s really rare for twins to be different colors.

How many calves have been born on the farm this spring?

We haven’t had as many calves lately as we normally do. This is because about 9 months ago, the cows had a hard time getting pregnant in the summer heat. Generally we average about one calf born every other day. Our cows calve throughout the year so we have a consistent milk supply.

What about the wallabies?
The gestation for wallabies is 30 days. Then the joey is birthed and crawls up into the pouch on its own. The wallaby will stay inside the pouch and nurse for about a year. Right now we don’t have any female wallabies on the farm, so there won’t be any babies for awhile. We just have 1 fixed male and 2 breeding males. Their names are Pockets, Satchel and Aussie.
A joey peeks out of its pouch.