Meet Our Farmers
Steve and Lisa Groetsch from Albany, Minnesota, began dairy farming together after they were married in 1989. Starting with 40 cows in a stall barn, they always had an eye to the future and making improvements to the dairy to benefit their farm, their cows and their family.
After purchasing the farm from Steve’s parents, their first investment was to add a well and improve facilities so they had more opportunities to sell their milk. In 1997, they built a milking parlor and freestall barn and grew their herd to 180 cows.
The Groetsches built a new barn for raising calves in 2001 and expanded it in 2009, adding automatic calf feeders. Calves are raised in individual stalls for a week then moved to the automatic feeder housing. Instead of requiring a person to feed each calf individually with a bottle or pail, calves can visit the automatic feeder whenever they want and receive the amount of milk they need each day. Small portions are allotted throughout the day. Lisa is able to program the system to meet each calf’s nutritional needs and monitor how much they are eating and how they are growing.
“My definition of modern dairy farming is using technology to simplify our manual tasks,” said Lisa, noting the information collected can help detect illnesses or other issues with animals more quickly than ever before.
After several years of research, the family invested in four robotic milking machines in 2011. The automated milkers are located inside the freestall barn where the cows live, so they can lie down, eat, drink, walk around and get milked at their leisure. Each cow can visit a milker as often as she wishes, but will get milked two to six times each day depending upon how much milk she is producing and other factors. The Groetsches receive notifications when a cow hasn’t visited a milker in 12 hours.
“Investing in our facilities and adding new technologies makes Steve and I more efficient and keeps the farm up-to-date in case one of the children chooses to come back to the farm in the future,” said Lisa.
With each expansion or improvement, Steve and Lisa also worked to better their cows’ health and their farm’s sustainability. They now milk 255 cows and raise corn and alfalfa on about 900 acres. Each cow produces an average of 92 pounds, or about 11 gallons of milk each day!
Steve and Lisa share responsibilities for farm management and cow health decisions are shared with their full-time herd manager. Steve manages crop production, takes care of machinery and robot maintenance and oversees the performance of the milking herd. Lisa cares for the young calves, manages the employees and the finances. They also have two full-time and six part-time employees who help with milking, feeding cows, fieldwork and other chores.
The couple’s three children – Jennifer, Matthew and Katelyn – grew up working closely with their parents on the farm.
“Our dairy wouldn’t be our dairy without our children,” said Lisa. “Doing what we do every day is even more fun when they are all home and we are all working together.”
Jennifer is in her final year of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota. Matthew earned a carpentry degree from Alexandria Tech College and works for a local construction company, and Katelyn is a senior at South Dakota State University studying dairy production, animal science and ag business. Matt helps with field work and chores after work and on weekends, and Jennifer and Katelyn help on weekends or during school breaks.
“We all have a work ethic that we’ve gained from being here,” said Katelyn.
Steve and Lisa work with students from area high schools and colleges to provide work-study experiences. Students are required to work a set number of hours, complete paperwork and participate in reviews with the Groetsches and teachers.
“Working on a dairy farm gives students tremendous experience,” said Lisa. “Even if they don’t decide to farm themselves, it prepares them for another career in agriculture because they have a better perspective of what it takes to run a farm.”
The Groetsch family is also active in the community and welcomes tours of their farm. They hosted the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm in June 2013, opening their farm to nearly 3,000 visitors, and regularly host tours for groups of all ages from kindergarten classes to nursing home residents.
To recognize their commitment to their farm and the state’s dairy industry, Steve and Lisa Groetsch were named as the 2017 Producer of the Year by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association.
Steve and Lisa plan to continue their focus on constant improvement and enjoying the opportunity to work together with their family on the land that was bought by Steve’s grandparents in 1929.
“Caring for the animals and caring for our children really are our top two priorities,” said Lisa.
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