Farm Horizons, February 2004

With planned schedule, brothers get every third week off from milking

By Lynda Jensen

A fishing line in the water and peace of mind are two things that the three Horstmann brothers of Howard Lake, can enjoy on a regular basis ­ and full-time dairying, too.

The brothers ­ Cecil, Chuck, and Mark Horstmann ­ operate a dairy farm in rural Howard Lake, and have an ingenious scheduling arrangement where they rotate milking so that each brother gets the third week off.

This means relaxation, fishing up north, or even taking Caribbean cruises, which all three brothers have done; knowing that the cows are in good hands.

The schedule starts Monday nights, with one brother milking at night. Another brother will start milking the next morning, and the third brother has time off, which is usually spent doing chores.

But if a brother wants to, he can head for the hills on a true vacation, which is usually not the case for most dairy farmers.

The brothers milk 82 cows and plant 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, Chuck said.

The Horstmanns are fifth generation farmers, working the homestead that their great-grandpa Bernard Horstmann established in 1865 after the Civil War.

The brothers have been milking since about 1981, when they took over the farm from their father, Leon, Cecil said. "It was his dream."

Cecil lives at the homestead property, with the other two living close by.

The idea for the schedule came from Cecil's wife, Laura, about 20 years ago.

"She thought I was working too hard," Cecil said.

The collaboration is somewhat similar to one used by Leon Horstmann, after World War II, who worked with his two brothers, Joe and Cletus.

The three brothers senior worked together during the 1940s, although not with rotating schedules.

However, times were different then, with logistics being a problem for the elder set of brothers, and the work being more labor-intensive.

Interestingly enough, all three modern day brothers, Cecil, Chuck, and Mark, have only one son, each who helps on the farm. Cecil's son is Tony, who is 12; Chuck's son is Mason, 10; and Mark's son is Ben, also 12.

"History is repeating itself," Cecil said.

There are a lot of advantages that the Horstmann brothers use to help their schedule along, such as using large round bales, instead of the small squares, Cecil said.

The modern day Horstmanns use a portable automatic takeoff milking unit, which automatically detaches from the cow when it's done.

They try as much as possible to get away from heavy manual labor, Chuck said.

Currently, their mother, Agatha, wishes the brothers to buy her farm, about seven miles south of the homestead.

They will likely end up doing this, which will complete the cycle.

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