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!
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 $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.
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.
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.
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!
Did you notice our business went through some changes this year?
We’ve changed our logo and retail store names, with the customer in mind. If you wondered why, I’d like to share.
First, a little background about our farm.
Our farm has been in the family for 152 years, since 1864. For most of that time, our ancestors operated a self-sustaining farm with many different animals and crops. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the farm started specializing in dairy.
In 1975, Jay and Jeanne Hansen began raising their four sons, Brent, Brad, Blair, and Blake, and their daughter, Lynn, on the farm. As the children grew up, Mom and Dad encouraged them to explore other paths besides working on the home farm. They never wanted them to feel like working on the farm had to be their lot in life. Career options among the siblings included cow hoof trimming, teaching, and yes, even managing cows on other dairy farms.
But in 2000, Jay and Jeanne began to discuss the idea of retirement. The days get long and the bodies get tired. If no one was going to carry on the dairy tradition, the cows could be sold.
But the sons didn’t want to see that happen. The idea of opening an on-farm creamery was tossed around to add value to the milk; if successful, the family could capture more of their hard-earned profits, instead of shipping it off to the middlemen in the dairy supply chain. They could also support the five families on nearly the same number of cows. Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy was born.
The creamery opened in February 2004. Jay and Jeanne mortgaged their retirement on this venture, and each brother had his own responsibilities to make it go. Blake, my husband and the youngest brother, would care for the dairy cow herd; Blair would manage the cropland and livestock nutrition; Brad would operate the creamery; and Brent would deliver the products to area grocery stores, eateries and care facilities.
In 2006, the family decided to open their first retail store: Moo Roo in Waterloo. The logo had always been a kangaroo, as Blake loved the marsupials he saw on a trip to Australia and wanted to have them as pets. With several wallabies (miniature kangaroos) on the farm, it was an obvious choice for a product logo that would stand out on the shelf. The new store name reflected the combination of cows and kangaroos on our farm.
With the success of that store, we thought another store in Cedar Falls would open more eyes to our local product. However, Moo Roo had a hard-dip ice cream parlor, in addition to selling our products and other local goods. The Cedar Falls store was thought to be sort of temporary, a place to sell surplus milk that we had due to our milk staying at a fixed price while other dairy prices were on the rise. We hoped consumers would try our milk for the price and be hooked on the taste and local aspect. So, our Cedar Falls store was named Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy Outlet so people would know it was not exactly the same footprint as the Waterloo store.
Fast forward to 2014. Business at both stores was good; the Outlet was no longer temporary but an important fixture in our overall business plan. Another opportunity arose — buying the building in which our Outlet was located, along with a gas station and Chinese restaurant. Since we loved our location, we decided it was a good choice.
Along with the building, it meant we became owners of the gas station. Sell gas? Sure, we could sell gas. It’s a staple, just like milk. (We’ve already heard the one about how Hansen’s Dairy gives you gas, heehee.)
But this year, we decided to leave the Conoco name behind. Hansen’s was already well-known in the community, so we didn’t need the benefit of the name recognition provided by a large corporation. And by cutting ties with Conoco, more of the customers’ dollars would stay in the local community.
Meanwhile, someone in the marketing department here (ahem) had been thinking about our logo. It was 10 years old; the colors were drab, it had a lot of words and a complicated kangaroo/cow-in-her-pouch image. With growth comes the opportunity for a fresh start.
Mike Tyer of Cohesive Creative and Code in Hudson (a fellow graduate of mine at Wartburg in 2003) designed several new possibilities for us. In the end we went with a logo reminiscent of old-time milk bottle caps; I loved the feeling of a wholesome, simpler time. The kangaroo remains, but there is no cow in the pouch. We hope by now that people know the milk comes from the cows, not from the kangaroos. Just like a duck and a gecko can advertise insurance, and a tiger can advertise frosted cereal, a kangaroo can sell milk. We removed the words “farm fresh” (even though you know it still is) and more prominently featured our name.
Now for the retail stores. The name Moo Roo is, of course, cute and clever. But I was beginning to wonder: Do people on the street know that the store is more than just an ice cream parlor? That it primarily sells Hansen’s Dairy products, made just down the road? And that there are all kinds of local meats, cheeses, produce, snacks, locally crafted gift items and more available here?
The idea of having a new logo was met with resistance by some in our family (even my own husband). But I firmly believe the new brand will help us be more consistent across every facet of our business.
By leaving behind the Conoco name, we had to create new signage for our Cedar Falls site. At the same time, the Moo Roo landlords were putting a new facade on our building. What excellent timing. We would put up new signage featuring our rebrand at the Cedar Falls site, and use the opportunity of a fresh start at Moo Roo to put up new signage there, too. It’s been a long two years of Kimball Avenue road construction and building/parking lot improvements.
Now we are officially Hansen’s Dairy stores, located in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. You can still call it Moo Roo. The family will still casually call it that, and we know others will too. But inside still has all the same goodness it has always had, and the Cedar Falls store will only get better.
If you don’t grow, you’re losing ground. You can bet the farm on it.
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.
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!
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?
“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.
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.
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!
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.
You know we have a wallaby in the Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy logo. My husband, herd manager Blake Hansen, fell in love with wallabies (miniature kangaroos) after visiting Australia and seeing them in the wild. He acquired three of them from an exotic animal dealer in 2002 and we decided to use them as the logo for our milk. It was something different and meant to attract the attention of kids — whom, of course, we want to consume more dairy products. We just make sure people know the milk comes from the cows, not the wallabies! They’ve been quite the tourist attraction over the years.
This year, Blake decided he wanted to raise some kangaroos, so we bought two female babies from a dealer in Texas. They flew into Cedar Rapids in early December, and now they are living in our house. Pogo is about 8 months old and Tootsie is 6 months. They both weigh less than 10 pounds and are about 18 inches tall.
What’s it like to live with kangaroos? For right now they spend a lot of time in warm little bags that simulate their mother’s pouch. They are fed a kangaroo milk replacer four times a day by bottle and eat some solid pellet food called Happy Hopper. Blake puts diapers on them, cutting a slit for their tail. They love to do laps around the house, and they are fast, jumping effortlessly over any obstacle. As I write, Pogo is jumping over the Monopoly game Blake and some of his nieces are playing!
Recently Blake and his brother Brad took Pogo and Tootsie to Hudson Elementary School. The ‘roos brought a lot of smiles to the students’ faces.
Hopefully the kangaroos made an impression on the kids and they equate that experience with drinking Hansen’s milk.
But these kangaroos aren’t drinking our milk. The irony? Marsupials are lactose-intolerant. I don’t think Blake knew that when he picked them for the faces of Hansen’s Dairy!
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.
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, 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.
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.
The 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!
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!