When Charles Krause was 16 years old, he was handed a job he didn’t expect for another decade or more.
“When I was in 10th grade, my father had a heart attack, and it kind of thrust me in charge of running an 80-cow farm,” Charles says. “I guess when something like that happens, you are either going to really hate milking cows, or find out it’s something you enjoy. You grow up real fast and take on a lot of responsibility.”
Charles ran the farm nearly single-handedly for 21 days while his father, Warren, recovered in the hospital.
“At the time, Charles’ brother came back and helped a little with feeding, but it was basically just my wife, myself and Charles,” Warren says. “We didn’t have any hired help at the time. For a lot of people, they could have said ‘I don’t want any more of that.’ But Charles really carried on and continued.”
That experience cemented Charles’ decision to stay on the family farm in Buffalo, Minn., that his father started in 1959. After he graduated high school, Charles earned an animal science degree from the University of Minnesota, his father’s alma mater and where his son, Andrew, plans to attend in the fall.
“It was always implied that it was important to get an education,” Charles says. “My dad always said to me, and I say it to my son, if he doesn’t choose to come back to the farm, he has an education to fall back on.”
Both Warren and Charles credit their college experiences to broadening their horizons and sparking an interest in following new techniques and keeping up to date on technology. Since Warren started the dairy, the family has gradually grown the operation, and today, they milk about 200 cows and farm corn, alfalfa and soybeans on 600 acres.
Now that Andrew, and possibly Charles’16-year-old daughter, Morgan, has decided to return to the farm, the dairy is again expanding, building a new 225-freestall barn that will allow them to grow their herd to 275 cows.
The new barn will feature oversize stalls, improved ventilation and air flow and a drive-through feed alley, which their current barns do not have.
“A drive-through feed alley is very common in most freestall barns, but we don’t have that right now,” Charles says. “Most of our cows have to either stick their head through the side of a barn or actually go out into the elements and eat outside. I think having the alley will be a big plus for the cows.”
When designing the barn, Charles wanted improved cow comfort, so instead of laying it out with six rows of freestalls, only four rows will be built. This will allow the cows extra room in the stalls and at the feed bunk.
The new barn is the latest addition to the dairy, after a new parlor was built about seven years ago and new calving and heifer-raising facilities were recently added. The family is constantly looking at ways to grow and improve, a philosophy Warren started.
“My dad had one of the first milking parlors in our county,” Charles says. “He was one of the first people to have a total mixed ration, which is a great choice and is almost universal on farms now. He’s also always been a good steward of the land. We’ve both actually been selected as Self-Conservation Farmers of the Year for Wright County in our lifetime.”
Part of the farm’s sustainability efforts included using newspaper for bedding. For 13 years, the Krauses worked with a small recycling company to utilize more than 100,000 pounds of chopped newspaper in their barns until the company went out of business.