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May 17 2020 Farm Update
Hello to all of our family, friends, associates, and community members! In these uncertain times, we wanted to give the public the following important updates:
Farm visitor policy: We are keeping an eye on developments around Wisconsin’s Safer-At-Home order. At this time, our farm is still closed to the public. We are making this decision in the interest of the health & safety of our family and employees. As the situation develops and the state opens up, we will keep the public posted about our farm visitor policy.
Grass fed-finished beef update: We greatly appreciate the outpouring of public support for and interest in our grass fed-finished beef! The demand for our grass fed-finished beef has been so strong that we are sold out until September, 2020! We have available butcher dates for September, October and November, 2020. If you would like to place an order or have questions regarding an existing order, please send us a message via the Saxon Homestead Farm Facebook page, or call Emma Klessig at (920) 901-1014.
How are we doing? In spite of the incredibly challenging circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us, we’ve had a tremendous spring here on the farm. Almost 500 beautiful calves have been born so far on our farm this spring. The crops are planted, the pastures are growing, and our herd is healthy. Our talented and dedicated team of employees and family members are doing the essential work to keep our farm running. We truly have so much to be grateful for.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people around the world who are struggling in these trying times. We will get through this, together.
Thank you for your continued support of the Wisconsin farming community,
The Saxon Homestead Farm team
Moving Wisconsin Forward
On January 23, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers presented a three-phase plan at the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, in hopes to help Wisconsin farmers. With the milk prices at an all-time low and suffocating tariffs, farmers are struggling to make ends meet.
The first bill that has been proposed by Evers is The Wisconsin Initiative For Dairy Exports. Evers said, “We have to start maximizing efficiency in our small and middle-sized farms. We need to build Wisconsin’s dairy brand in international markets and increase dairy exports.”
Additionally, Evers hopes to bolster the Wisconsin Center and boost UW Extension staffing so farmers and other ag industry players can more easily access support and UW Extension partners locally. This bill will help connect Wisconsin farmers and rural consumers more closely. For example, local purchases help the local economy.
Lastly, Evers is going to create a program that will mainly focus on getting Wisconsin farmers immediate access to mental health services. Agricultural families and communities continue to struggle, leading to increasing rates of suicide among farmers.
Recently Evers contacted the Legislature regarding the passing of each bill. Although these bills have not been addressed, farmers across the state remain optimistic.
I was able to attend Gov. Evers’ presentation of the three-phase plan. It is clear that he is confident with this plan and wants to help Wisconsin farmers create a brighter future for everyone involved in the agricultural community. At the end of his presentation, he said, “the time is now,” and he couldn’t be more right!
Written by Emma Klessig
Sources: NBC26 article, Wisconsin Ag Connection article
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
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.
Emma Klessig, 6th generation on Saxon Homestead Farm