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Minnesota Farm Family Enjoys Recipes and Robotics during Holiday Season

December 2015 | Minnesota | 0 comments

Merri Post loves recipes, from testing out new ones with family and friends to sharing her favorites with followers on her dairy farm’s Middleroad Acres Facebook page. When she saw a call for recipes for a new dairy cookbook, the first thing that came to mind was a family favorite that celebrates the freshness of dairy ingredients.

“The eggnog recipe originally came from my sister-in-law Connie and has become a tradition during the holiday season,” said Merri.

The Posts’ Vanilla Eggnog recipe is one of more than 100 featured in The Dairy Good Cookbook, published in 2015, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Dairy Council and highlights the stories of dairy farm families across the country.

Bill and Merri Post are the third generation to live and farm on the dairy near Chandler, Minn., that was started by Bill’s grandfather Jim Post Sr. in 1929. The name Middleroad Acres was adopted in 1974, when a new dairy barn was built across the road from the house.

Bill and his siblings grew up helping on the dairy farm, and his brother Ben farmed with his father and Bill until he bought a neighboring dairy. In 1995, Bill and Merri and their children Sarah and Jake took over the operation of Middleroad Acres, and purchased the acreage and land in 1998 and 2006. They milk 145 Red and White Holstein cows and raise crops on about 700 acres.

The Posts made a number of changes to the farm over the years, but the most significant came in 2011 when they built a new barn that featured robotic milker technology. Bill and Merri had been researching and planning for a number of years before making the investment.

“Our facilities were becoming outdated and were taking a physical toll on Bill,” said Merri. “We knew that without a different facility, this couldn’t stay a dairy farm over the long term.”

The robotic milkers and new freestall barn allow the Posts to continue milking their herd and provides additional flexibility for fieldwork and family time. The barn was also built to be easily expanded if Sarah and Jake, both students at South Dakota State University, decide to return to the family dairy in the future.

Cows visit the robotic milkers when they choose – as often as six times a day for those who have recently had a calf, and less often as they near the end of their lactation cycle. A computer records each time a cow visits the robot, how much milk she gives, temperature of the milk, and how much she weighs each visit. If, for some reason, a cow does not visit the robot on her own, the Posts can find and guide her into the barn morning or night.

The free-stall barn where cows are housed is temperature controlled and ventilated to keep the cows comfortable during the extremes of Minnesota weather. They can move around, eat, drink or lay in their stalls at any time. Water and feed are available at all times, and feed is pushed up to the cows by an automatic feed pusher robot every 90 minutes.

“The new barn was designed to be all about the cows,” said Merri. “Everything a cow needs is within 80 feet of her at all times.”

The Posts also renovated their old dairy barn to house the younger calves, including installing automatic calf feeders.

The adoption of technology provided more flexibility to the farm family, but they are still busy with monitoring cows and doing chores every day of the year.

“The first priority on Christmas morning, like every other day, is getting chores done,” said Merri Post. “Then we are able to spend the day with our families. We’re fortunate that most of our family lives very close.”

Tradition is an important part of Post’s family celebrations during the holiday season. However, they have noticed a new trend in recent years.

“We’ve definitely had more people reach out and want to bring visiting family over to see the farm since we started using robots,” said Merri. “We’re happy to welcome visitors and share how we care for the cows and produce milk during the holidays and all year long.”

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