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).

We offer two types of tours for families. The walk-through tour is a guided tour that takes you through the process of getting milk from the farm to your table. You’ll see the calves, milking parlor, cow barns, creamery, kangaroos and goats, plus enjoy a dish of ice cream. Children 3 and younger are free; all other participants are $8. Tours can begin between the hours of 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you must have a reservation. This tour will take about an hour and a half.

The hands-on tour offers you more opportunities. In addition to seeing all the places listed above, you get to take a trolley ride around the farm, feed a calf, milk a cow by hand, pet the kangaroos and goats, make and eat your own butter, and try all of our products. Again, 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.

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

We always make tours by appointment, so dropping in is not recommended. 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 cash or check.

At this time we don’t take debit or credit cards for payment of tours or products. 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’!

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!

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Farm animals, Today on the Farm

A Cow’s Salad Bar

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.

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  • Dried Cracked Corn:  These dried corn kernels broken into small, coarse pieces are high in carbohydrates and starch.

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  • 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!

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  • Linseed Meal:  A byproduct of extracting the oil from flaxseed, linseed meal is high in protein and fiber.

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  • 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.

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  • Alfalfa Haylage: A grass crop that is cut and fermented, alfalfa haylage is a roughage material that provides protein, calcium and carbohydrates.

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  • 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.
Family, Farm animals, Today on the Farm

A tribute to Daddy during June Dairy Month

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Daddy sharing his cows with Reese on his first Father’s Day. She’s a little scared in this photo but has really warmed up to them now.

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.

Written by Jordan Hansen

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Reese feeding calves (and thinking the bottle is for her)
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Daddy lets Reese milk one of our most docile cows
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Part of doing chores means feeding the wallabies.
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Even inside the house, Reese enjoys looking at cows with Daddy.
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Beckett gets a closeup view of our 7-week premature calf Eyelash.

 

Farm animals, Today on the Farm

Blake Hansen: Cattle Ob-gyn

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.

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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.

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The above picture, from Oregon State University Extension Service (http://ans.oregonstate.edu/sites/ans.oregonstate.edu/files/extension/cattle/CalvingSchool-theCalvingProcess.pdf), shows a calf entering the birth canal in the correct position.

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The above picture, from Oregon State University Extension Service (http://ans.oregonstate.edu/sites/ans.oregonstate.edu/files/extension/cattle/CalvingSchool-theCalvingProcess.pdf), shows a calf in the birth canal with its front leg pinned back. A cow with her calf in this position would require some assistance during labor.

backwardcalfThis picture, from Oregon State University Extension Service (http://ans.oregonstate.edu/sites/ans.oregonstate.edu/files/extension/cattle/CalvingSchool-theCalvingProcess.pdf), shows a calf in the backwards (breech) position. Blake must quickly deliver the calf before the cow is pushing too much, or it will be hard to reach in and grab the hind legs.

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!

Written by Kelby Robb

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

Is dairy farming really one of the worst jobs in America?

CareerCast.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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