Groetsch Dairy is located north of Albany along Highway 238, on the farm originally bought by Steve’s grandfather in 1929. Steve’s father operated it between 1945 and 1989, when Steve and Lisa took over, shortly after being married.
“When I was younger, I used to tell Dad we should do this or that,” Steve said. He had a vision of how to modernize and improve the operation. Lisa shared Steve’s visions. She grew up on a farm south of Freeport, and was “the step saver,” carrying milk pails for her parents, just like Steve did.
When Steve’s dad retired at age 65, the couple took over.
“We made a lot of changes,” Steve said, after several years of planning for conversion to today’s operation.
In 1997, a free-stall barn and parlor were built to replace the dairy barn built in 1902. The first calf barn was built in 2001. Between 1999 and 2009, several other buildings were replaced or added. An addition and automatic calf feeder were added in 2009.
In 2011, an addition to the free-stall barn including four Lely robotic milkers, and a manure lagoon were added. In 2014, the heifer barn was built.
“Dad was amazed with the robots,” Steve said. “He would bring a lawn chair into the barn and just sit and watch them.”
Today Groetsch Dairy milks 260 cows, in the free-stall system, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition to the milking cows, the Groetsches have 50 dry cows, as well as calves and heifers.
“We raise all our own young stock,” Steve said.
They crop 900 acres, 300 acres of the Groetsch farm, the rest rented land.
The robotic milkers are a modern day technological wonder. Cows, wearing computerized number collars, enter the box on their own volition to eat pellets, “A treat that is good for them,” smiles Lisa.
The robot preps the cow, and attaches the milker. As she is milking she is standing on a scale which weighs her, measures how fast she milks, how much she milks, the quality, color and temperature of the milk. After the data is collected and sent to the computer, the milk is pumped into the tank.
In six to eight minutes the process is complete, the cow has finished eating, and moves out of the box, to be replaced by another cow.
“Cows average 2.8 milkings per day,” said Lisa. “Not every cow gets milked three times a day. When a cow is milking more she is more hungry. Some cows milk up to six times a day.” Cows produce about 92 pounds of milk, or 11 gallons per day.
The computer will refuse to milk a cow if she had just been milked. “The computer wants 23 pounds of milk,” she said.
If the robot has three failed milkings in a row, the computer calls Steve — day or night — to check it out, so everything runs smoothly.
Groetsch Dairy employs a dozen people including Steve and Lisa. Daughter, Jennifer, attends veterinary school at the University of Minnesota, and daughter Katelyn is studying dairy production, animal science and ag business at South Dakota State University. Son Matthew lives a mile down the road, is a full time carpenter, and works part-time at the dairy
Milk is sold to First District Association of Litchfield.
The enthusiastic couple has hosted 20 tours this year, from as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Lisa makes up treat bags for the school kids when they tour, and kids as senior citizens are her favorite tourists.
The old folks remember milking by hand and marvel at the Groetsch operation.
The Milk Producer of the Year award was presented Nov. 28 at the Red Wing annual convention. Sworn to secrecy before then, the Groetsch family gathered in October to film a You-Tube video for the event, which can be seen on the Groetsch Dairy Facebook page.