We try to have the cows on pasture as many months of the year as possible. This is better for their health and cleanliness, spreads their manure on the pasture without any tractors or fuel, and saves us money on bedding and feed. However, sometimes it’s necessary to supplement the pasture with hay, both nutritionally and to extend their time on each pasture.
Particularly this year, since we have had a severe drought for most of the summer and pasture growth has been slow.
Since we buy most of our hay, this is also a way to bring nutrients to the farm and have the cows spread them.
This is always an exciting time of year on the farm! In the last two weeks we have gone from near drought conditions and a gradual start to grazing, to explosive grass growth and the best milk production we've had in years.
This year we have rented a pasture from a nearby organic farmer. This pasture has not been grazed for about ten years, so we had to cut a lot of trees and brush out of the fence and fix the fence before we could move animals there. The milking herd has to be within walking distance of the milking parlor, so we moved some heifers and dry cows (cows that are not being milked toward the end of their pregnancy).
It's a beautiful pasture, with a meandering stream running through a valley, hills rising up on either side. There is some brush, but the cattle have developed a taste for browsing some of the leaves. There are also trees for shade.
After the first night, three of the youngest heifers had escaped. After a stay in the farmer's barn for the afternoon while I repaired the fence, we got them back to the pasture. They have all stayed in since then. We check on them every day, and are using temporary fence to move them to a new area within this pasture about every five days.
We have also had three new calves!
Our relief milker Josh found this little cutie on Tuesday morning when he went to bring the cows in for milking. Mama Kuh is clearly a very good mother. This is her fourth calf, so she's a pro.
This young fella was born later the same day. He's a real firecracker! He is Inga's fifth calf (all boys!).
Yesterday morning (Sunday) I came out to this pleasant surprise. Ola has now had three heifer calves in a row! She's working on building her own dynasty. Her first heifer (but second calf) Orsola is due to have a calf at the end of June, so I'm pretty excited to see how she does as a milk cow.
(Gamila and Gunhild's nose in the background)
Cheers for now!
This week, the most exciting thing to happen on the farm was that we had a surprise calf born!
Due to a recordkeeping failure on my part, I didn’t even realize that Gunhild (the mom) was pregnant! She had been living at The Faaborg Farm (Ranaes’ parents) for the winter, so I only saw her every few weeks. They had asked me several times if I was sure Gunhild wasn’t pregnant, as it looked like her udder was getting bigger. I confidently told them there was no way, as we have no bull she could escape to, none of the neighbors have a bull she could escape to, and therefore artificial insemination is the only way she could have gotten pregnant. But my records said she never came into heat and she was never bred. If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen, right?
Well, pregnant cows don’t care what records say, so when it was time, she had her calf on her own out in the pasture. Rand (Ranae’s dad) found them not long after. I brought the trailer over and brought them back to our farm so Gunhild could be milked the next morning.
At Lost Lake Farm, we name our heifer calves (future milk cows) with the same first letter as their mom. Each year, we choose names from a different country. Some cows have had more females in their lines or have been in the herd longer, so have started to feel like royal families. This week I will introduce you to the G family. They have some definitive characteristics that make them readily identifiable.
Gunhild is obviously the matriarch of Family G. She was purchased as a six-month-old weaned heifer from a Mennonite farmer near Kalona, Iowa. She is half Jersey, ¼ Ayrshire, and ¼ Holstein. She was raised by her mom and was quite wild when we got her. She was dehorned before she came to us. It took a lot of years and patience, but she is now very tame, and even enjoys getting scratched/petted when she’s in that kind of mood. She has also always been a prodigious milker.
Gerhild was Gunhild’s first calf, born in 2012, the first year we were here at Lost Lake Farm. Her dad is Royal Holl, a Normande bull from France who has progeny all over the world thanks to artificial insemination. Gerhild is wild but getting calmer; she now occasional allows me to scratch her head or tail. She’s also a bit of a bully to the other cows. She’s a good milker and, like all the G’s, an excellent mother. She prefers to have her calf in sight at all times. Within six feet of her is best. She has had five calves to date.
Gaia was Gunhild’s next daughter, born in 2018. She is a full sister to Gerhild (also a Royal Holl daughter). She is pregnant with her first calf now, due in August!
Galatea was born to Gerhild in 2018, just a week after her “aunt” Gaia. She was sired by Infinity, a Normande bull, making her ¾ Nomande. She is pregnant with her first calf, due in early September. She has her mother’s wildness but not her size or meanness (yet).
Gina was Gerhild’s first daughter, born in 2017. Her pa is Roucoups, a Normande bull, making her ¾ Normande. She has had one calf so far and is pregnant with her second, due at the end of July. She is fairly mild-mannered and not particularly large, but seems to get plenty of respect just for being a G.
Guzelkiz is Gerhild’s most recent calf, born in December of 2019. Her dad is a Jersey named Daybreak. She is still nursing. Her name means “pretty girl” in Turkish. She is curious, spunky, a tad bit farmer-friendly, and best pals with Ayla (different family obviously). Just realized we don't have a photo of Guzelkiz!
Goezleri was born in June of 2019 to Gina, who was bred to a New Zealand “Kiwi Cross” (Frisian/Jersey) bull named Prelude. Her name means “eyes”, so named because she has such unusually-colored eyes, though less dramatic now than when she was a babe.
Gunhild had bull calves in 2014 (no name), 2016 (no name), 2017 (Newman), and 2019 (Genel). Genel is still with us and will be raised up for beef.
Gerhild had bull calves in 2014 (Gus), and 2015 (Gilberto).
Hello! We (Kevin and Ranae Dietzel, pictured above) are the proud farmers and cheesemakers of Lost Lake Farm. Along with our nine year old son and seven year old daughter and help from our friends and family, we produce artisan farmstead 100% grassfed cheese from our farm north and west of Jewell, Iowa. Our farm sits on the northern shore of former Lake Cairo, drained in 1895 for conversion to farm ground, therefore the name ‘Lost Lake’.
We milk around 15 to 20 cows once per day, collecting and cooling milk in a small bulk tank. Every few days when enough milk is collected for a batch of cheese, Kevin moves the milk from the bulk tank through the wall to the cheesemaking vat in our all-in-one milking and cheesemaking facility constructed in 2016. From there, Kevin works his magic, heating the milk, adding cultures, cutting curds, forming the cheese into wheels, and aging them into the delectable cheeses available for your delightful consumption. The leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is combined with ground feed and fed to our pigs. Keep an eye out for your chance to get some of our one-of-a-kind whey-fed pork!
During the growing season, cows are grazed on the pastures of the farm, given a fresh break of grass multiple times per day. During winter, cows eat hay and baleage (fermented hay) and have a bedded shed to lounge in during inclement weather. Calves are raised on their mothers until they are weaned and are grown to milking age on pasture and hay. We raise a couple of steers each year and have grassfed dairy beef available for sale at select times each year. We are committed to farming practices that enhance the quality of the soil, promote the abundance and diversity of wildlife, and enrich the health of the environment.
Our journey together started from our meeting in college at the University of Minnesota-Morris to our marriage in 2006 to a stint in New York and a move back to Iowa, all with the remarkable dream of starting our own dairy farm. We moved to our farm in 2012 and through lots of trials and tribulations started producing cheese in the Fall of 2016. We owe a lot of people thanks for their support in getting us to this point and are continually grateful for our customers.
Stay tuned to this blog for more stories about our journey, where to find our cheese, and of course pictures of cows. You can sign up here to get a weekly email with current events on the farm and special offers on our cheese. Thanks so much for being part of our community!