Looking Back and Looking Forward

Throughout 2019, many farmers across the state of Wisconsin were faced with relentless rain events, delaying the planting of their crops. Delayed planting of crops usually decreases annual yields. An abundance of rain is not only hard on livestock, but also can be hard on crops. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the number of dairy farms in the state of Wisconsin has fallen nearly 20 percent in the last five years, although the number of dairy cows in Wisconsin has remained nearly the same, resulting in fewer but larger farming operations. However, family-run dairy farms still remain the backbone of the U.S. agriculture industry. 

I had spent some time with my uncle, Karl, who is part of the fifth generation of Klessigs on Saxon Homestead Farm, and asked some questions regarding this past year on our family farm. 

How was 2019 on the farm?

“2019 was a challenging, but good year at Saxon Homestead Farm. It was the wettest year in weather recorded history. Average annual rainfall in Manitowoc County is about 31 inches, and last year we had almost 40 inches in rainfall. In fact, many places in Northeastern Wisconsin had over 45 inches of rain. For example, Pulaski, Wisconsin had over 50 inches of rain. Because it was so wet, grazing, planting, and harvesting was much more challenging than normal. On the positive side, our crop yields were above average. We were very fortunate to have finished all of our harvesting by October 13, 2019.”

What were some hardships you encountered while on the farm this year? 

“During the first six months of 2019, dairy farmers had experienced the lowest milk price since 2014. Despite these very low prices, we felt very fortunate to have such great employees and a very healthy herd of dairy cows. Our spring seasonal calving had gone remarkably well, and between March 1 and June 30, 2019, we had over 550 cows deliver beautiful, healthy calves. Our herd milked well, as there was plenty of nutritious forage in the pastures they had grazed.”

To provide some background, on Saxon Homestead Farm, we do seasonal calving, meaning our cows give birth during spring, unlike many farms who calve year round. When a cow seasonally calves, it is nothing short of a naturally occurring cycle. We have found that warm spring weather and green grass is the foundation for healthy animals. There is something special about being eye-to-eye with a newborn calf in a beautiful, lush, green pasture. In warmer weather, on pasture calves are able to stand up on their wobbly legs faster, allowing them to begin suckling on their mothers’ teats. The colostrum within the cow’s udder will provide the calf with antibodies to ensure the health of the newborn. Colostrum is a form of milk produced by cows following the birth of their baby. After the calf has had a chance to dry off and stand, they are then taken to their pen where they will be housed for the next month and a half until they’re ready to go on pasture! 

Are there any super awesome accomplishments Saxon Homestead made this year? 

“All in all, despite the challenges, Saxon Homestead Farm had an awesome year. Beginning with our families, we know the value of teamwork. We are blessed to have phenomenal employees that round out our management team. We are very grateful that our team members work tirelessly to care for our land, cattle, and crops. When it comes to farming, the job is never quite completed. Here at Saxon Homestead Farm, we work until the last cow is milked, the last calf is fed, and the last acre is harvested. This is the nature of farming.”

From everyone here at Saxon Homestead Farm, we wish all farmers a bountiful 2020 and hope the next decade brings prosperity, health, and happiness. 

-Emma Klessig, part of the 6th generation of Klessigs

Holiday Wishes

This holiday season, my family is sending the warmest of wishes to all those who contribute to the agricultural community. As you’re enjoying your holiday meal, I encourage you to remember that the wholesome foods we eat come from America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers, along with their valued employees. 

Holidays bring many families together, and having delicious and nutritious foods are a must! Whether you’re enjoying a farm-raised turkey, mashed potatoes with a half stick of butter, or grass-based prime rib, there are many hands involved in getting these foods from the farm to your table. A simple holiday treat plate accompanied by a glass of fresh milk can be a great way to share the importance of agriculture.

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is decorating sour cream cookies for our holiday treat plate. We use a cherished family recipe handed down from my maternal great-grandmother, Sylvia. As you can see in the photo of her recipe, some of the best ingredients for cookies come straight from the farm. In fact, the eggs we used in our most recent batch were still warm, having been laid that very day! 

My great-grandmother Sylvia’s sour cream cookie recipe is a family holiday favorite.

Operating a farm entails much more commitment than some may think. A farmer’s herd needs to be tended to 365 days a year, and cows don’t take the holidays off! Growing up, our Christmas morning excitement had to wait until my father was home from tending to our cows. Furthermore, cows that are ready to calve don’t wait, regardless of the elements. That includes calves that are born in the middle of a record-breaking cold snap, a torrential rainstorm, or a stifling heatwave. 

On our farm, our number-one priority is to ensure that our cows are comfortable, content, and healthy. These three variables significantly impact their milk production. On every farm or ranch, animals must produce in order to cover the cost of their feed. Dairy farmers closely monitor each individual cow’s production to ensure they’re producing milk to their fullest potential. Often times farmers work with nutritionists to create a custom diet for their herd.

We partner with Nutrition Service Co. Inc., out of Pulaski, WI, to craft a unique mix for our cows, which includes carefully selected ingredients from their company, brewer’s grain from MillerCoors in Milwaukee, and corn silage produced on our farm. We use this Total Mixed Ration (TMR) year-round, and during the grazing months, our herd has access to all the fresh forage they need on our pastures. A rotational grazing operation adds an additional layer of commitment, as we need to maintain our pastures through thoughtful planning and land management. For example, our dairy cows need to be rotated to a new paddock every 12 hours to make sure the pasture is not overgrazed.

From everyone at Saxon Homestead Farm, we wish you the happiest of holidays and hope that the next time you pass by a farm, you take a moment to reflect on this blog post and acknowledge all those who are involved in some way, shape, or form in the agricultural community.

Warmly,

Emma Klessig, 6th generation on Saxon Homestead Farm

Thanksgiving Reflections

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have a lot to be grateful for. However, I am especially thankful that I was born and raised on a beautiful, fifth-generation, grass-based dairy farm that, along with other farms, produces the wholesome food everyone across the country will be consuming on Thanksgiving Day. Working in the rain, snow, heat, and cold, farmers do hundreds of “thankless” jobs which include milking, scraping, maintaining a healthy herd, repairs, loads of paperwork and much more. Working one of the most dangerous occupations every single day does not lessen one’s compassion, in fact, it strengthens it. It takes a special, yet talented person to be able to work past the obstacles of farming. A farmer’s shirt may be covered in dirt and their hands may be wrinkled and rough, but trust me, they have the biggest hearts. For their herd, for their employees, and for their families. My uncle, Karl Klessig, and my father, Robert Klessig, are the owners and operators of Saxon Homestead Farm. I would just like to give thanks to both of them for simply being the best teachers with a hands-on approach. Learning about our cows and their genetics, the diseases that can affect our herd, the safe treatment of each animal, and most importantly, the circle of life.

Karl and Robert Klessig with the herd in front of our farm. Photo courtesy of Hoard’s Dairyman.

Growing up, I’ve learned that the best television channel is the Weather Channel. After a long day’s work, I can always find my dad sitting in his recliner with his best bud, Hank, our Labrador Retriever, watching the weather, hoping that the next day’s weather will be in his favor. After a prolonged 2019 harvest because of relentless rain events, I’ve learned that nothing in life will be handed to you, including a good crop yield and a fast harvest. This year, we found ourselves in one of the wettest falls in history. Fortunately, here at Saxon Homestead, we were able to harvest a tremendous crop of corn silage between heavy rains. Not only has this been a challenging year on our pastures, but also for our hay and corn harvest. Many farmers across the state continue to struggle. We feel very fortunate to have successfully completed our corn harvest, and we would like to acknowledge the work of our employees and Eisentraut Ag. Service for a timely and efficient harvest. In addition to the harvest, we also feel grateful that our farm and herd are prepared for winter, as our pasture water systems have been drained and all of our barns are secure and winterized. Additionally, the majority of Saxon cows are confirmed pregnant, so we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first calves in early March.

My uncle and father have faced many challenges and setbacks throughout the years, yet, those are the things that have motivated them to try harder and create new opportunities for our business. Through it all, they have remained grateful and optimistic. Like my Grandpa Eddie Klessig always said, “When one door closes, 10 more open up.” From everyone at Saxon Homestead Farm, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving. As you’re preparing your Thanksgiving meal, remember to thank a farmer.

This blog post was written by Emma Klessig, 17-year-old sixth-generation Klessig dairy farmer

Emma Klessig delivering twin bull calves in June 2019.


2019 Barn Dance Success!

The 10th annual Barn Dance Fundraiser was a hit! With 175 people in attendance, the event raised about $13,000 for the non-profit organization, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership.

Watch the video below to see how barn dance attendees kicked up their heels and rocked the dance floor while our very own Justin Palm (Valerie Klessig’s husband) played with the band, Reckless Remedy! Wow, can you feel the energy in that barn!

We hope you can join us for future barn dances. We can assure you, it will be a night to remember!