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Beranek Brothers Field Day

the Minnesota Holstein Association Field Day Saturday, July 23. The Beraneks invite everyone to view the brand new set-up they moved their dairy herd to just seven months ago. The entire operation will be open to walk through and family members and contractors will be on hand to answer questions.

The Nicollet County Pork Producers will grill pork burgers for lunch. Minnesota Holstein will have a speaker on farm transitions. A judging contest will be held. The Nicollet County Holstein Association will assist with the event. The farm is located at 61958 Fort Road (Nicollet County #5), a mile-and-a-half east of St. George.
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Less than four years ago, the Beranek brothers became dairy herd owners for the first time, buying the established registered Holstein herd of Chuck Albrecht and renting facilities and equipment from him. It was the farm where the three had worked from their early teens until making the purchase in their late 20s. That made the transition from employees to owners extremely easy. Last year’s transition in their dairy career wasn’t quite as easy—but it’s one they’re very excited to have made.

Late in May 2015, work began on an the brothers’ all-new freestall setup on the century farm where the boys grew up, just four miles from the Albrecht farm. “We outgrew the facilities on the Albrecht farm,” Perry Beranek explained of the decision to
build new. “There were 48 tie stalls and we were milking 60 to 80 cows. We had to switch them in from a bedding pack. And, things were wearing out. We didn’t want to put money into something we didn’t own.”
He continued, “We kicked the idea around for awhile. We knew we had to do something. Chuck’s barn wasn’t the long-term answer. The high milk prices in 2014 allowed us to do it.”

The three had purchased the home farm from their parents, Gerald and Cindy, in 2006, and were raising steers there—but none of the buildings were suitable for a modern dairy operation. The brothers actually found that to their advantage, not having to build around anything or try to fit it in.

During the planning stage, the Beraneks looked at a few set-ups and picked up ideas. Ultimately, they modeled their facility after that of Chris, Curt, and Janet Nachreiner of Fairfax—where Perry had worked for a time.

They opted for a Boumatic double 8 parallel walk-in parlor. “We never gave robots much thought. I enjoy the milking part of it,” Perry said. To that, Chris added, “and the finances!” A 40×60-foot holding area separates the parlor from the 100×204-foot
freestall barn that has 132 stalls in two pens, along with a special needs area. Tunnel ventilation provides good air flow in the barn. “It’s like an eight mph wind when everything is running,” Chris offered. “It’s annoyingly windy back there!” Baleage, corn silage, cottonseed, dry hay, ground corn, and protein mixes are fed as TMR. A skid loader is used to push feed back five times a day. Manure is pushed out to a pit and hauled out about every six days. That proved difficult last December, however, when the fields were too soft to haul on.

A walkway, maternity pens, and eight calf pens are off to the side of the holding area. In-floor heating was installed under the return lanes, footbath, calf pens, parlor, and milk house. That keeps the cows from slipping when coming out from the parlor—and helps baby calves to dry off quickly when placed in the pens.
The milk room has a 3,000-gallon tank, part inside and part outside.

Milk is sold to First District.“Overall, it’s pretty basic—we didn’t put any frills in it,” Perry commented. A new dry cow shed and new hay shed were also put up on the site. The old dairy barn is being removed as time permits; some beams and the
cupola were salvaged.

The brothers are very happy with the set-up and have found few glitches. “There are a few things that we would do different…but if we did, then we’d have to change three other things down the line, so I don’t really think we’d change anything,” Perry explained.

Construction took about six months, with the first dirt moved during the last days of May a year ago—and the cows milked in the new set-up on November 17. Not
everything was finished, but it was ready for the cows. The Beraneks moved 80 cows
from the Albrecht farm that day, starting as soon as they were milked in the morning. As Chris milked the cows, Gary and Perry loaded them. “The last cow was in the trailer before I had the pipeline rinsed,” Chris said. “That left an eerie silence there. When you walked in that barn, it was kind of like your best friend had died.”
The atmosphere was entirely different at the new set-up where people and cows were attempting to establish a routine.

Although they came from a tie stall barn, the cows adapted “better than we could ever have imagined,” according to Perry. “There were two that didn’t take to the free stalls, but they couldn’t handle the tie stalls either. They’re in the special needs pen. There were only a few that had to be chased to the tie stalls.” “My biggest surprise was how well the cows adjusted going from tie stalls to sand. By the third day, there was hardly a cow laying in the aisles,” Perry said. Chris added, “We had an 11-year-old cow that we didn’t know how she’d do, but she was probably one of the first to adjust.”
It did take some work the first week to get the cows—especially the older ones—into the parlor, and several weeks to a month to get everything flowing smoothly.

“There was no routine the first two months—we had to establish a new normal. The facilities were not totally done. Doors and curtains had to be put on. The manure pit wasn’t done—we had to haul daily. Then December came with mud. There was nowhere to haul,” Perry said. Gary agreed, “It took until January to fall into a routine.”
For those first two months, the brothers prioritized projects to finish. Only Perry is full time on the farm as Chris also works for Paul and Cindy Swenson at Forest Lawn Farm and Gary is an electrician with BLK Electric of Mankato. “We worked every Saturday and Sunday until January,” Gary said.

Along the way, the brothers also added animals, picking up heifers from Todd Nelson at Lafayette, Forest Lawn Farm at Nicollet, and John and Jason Schroeder at Courtland. They also bought a number of cows at the State Holstein Sale in Hutchinson last November. With those purchases and their own heifers calving, they’ve increased the milking herd from 80 to 130. The herd is entirely registered Holsteins—with the exception of one Brown Swiss that the brothers got from Paul Swenson several years back when she wouldn’t adapt to Swenson’s robots.

The herd continues to grow as the brothers were blessed with 37 heifer calves between September and December, with only a few of those due to sexed semen. Cows calve in the maternity pen, with the baby calves moved to the adjacent pens. The plan is to move them to a ca-Z-bo (that the brothers brought with them from Albrecht’s farm), but the number of calves born in a short period of time had the Beraneks caring for calves in the barn, the ca-Z-bo, and in the old chicken barn on the farm. “It seemed like if one calved, three did,” Perry said. “We had 29 calves
on milk at one time.”

Altogether, the Beraneks have about 110 head of young stock, counting the calves on site, 40 heifers at Chris’ farm site, and nearly 40 being raised by Les Wenninger south of Klossner. Perry does most of the chores, including the 4:00 a.m. morning milking
by himself. Dad Gerald—who used to dairy on the same farm site— helps in the evening, as does high-schooler Ridge Lehman of New Ulm. Chris and Gary are usually on hand in the evening to feed calves, scrap manure, and/or help with the milking when Perry does the breeding. Chris’ son, Ben, 12, is often there, too, along with neighbor boy Jared Beranek, a relative.

As they consider everything involved, the Beraneks are thrilled with their new set-up. They especially like the walk-in ground level parlor that allows family members to drop in to visit with whoever is milking. Efficiency is improved, with the brothers able to milk twice as many cows in the same amount of time as they did with the switching on
the Albrecht farm. Milk production is climbing and peaking at a higher level, now about 86 pounds per cow per day. Heat detection has improved, as well as conception.
“And there are no drinking cups to run over, and no barn cleaner to break,” Chris added. “We don’t have to worry about walking in to the barn with a soggy mess from the drinking cups!”

The brothers were especially thankful for the volunteer help they had during building, and afterward. “We called in a lot of favors to get this done. We had lots of volunteer
hours of help…family members, in-laws, friends, neighbors, coworkers,” Chris said. “One Sunday, we had 15 cars here! Nobody left without supper—but sometimes that wasn’t until 9:30 or 10:00 p.m.” “We ate a lot of pizza,” Gary added. People sometimes showed up that one or two of the brothers didn’t know. One was the co-worker of the other brother’s father-in-law. Another was an electrical engineer, born in India, who worked with Gary in the electric business—and who had never been on a farm. Another of Gary’s co-workers offered to help with the wiring on weeknights and weekends. “John Chapman showed up when there was nothing here and started
working on the wiring. Then he took two weeks off to help when we moved the cows in—and he keeps coming out on weeknights to help,” Gary said.

The contractors worked long and hard, too, to get the project completed. They were A.R.R. Construction of New Ulm, concrete; 4-Square Builders of Fairfax, building; B&R Dairy Equipment of Winthrop, equipment and plumping; BLK Electric of Mankato electric; Northland Farm Systems of Owatonna, head locks & free stalls; and United Prairie Bank, financing. Many of them were still on-site long after the cows
arrived, finishing up details.

The Beranek family
Chris, 36, and his wife Amanda have three children—Ben, 12; Katelyn, 10; and Joe, six. Chris and his family live about nine miles north of the farm.

Perry, 32, and his wife Jessie, have two children—Isaac, five; and Brody, three. Perry’s family lives on the farm.

Gary, 30, and his wife Kara have one daughter, Alaina, three, and are expecting their second child in June. Gary and his family live in New Ulm.

Dad and mom, Gerald and Cindy, raised eight children on the farm that was purchased by the brothers’ great-grandfather Beranek from his brother-in-law in 1910.