OWATONNA — It would seem as though Saturday was perfectly made for family fun in the sun, aligning beautifully with Steele County American Dairy Association’s largest community event.
For the second consecutive year, Breakfast on the Farm brought a mass of people to the Balzer Dairy Farm located just outside of Owatonna. The annual event invites community members to spend their morning learning about the importance of the dairy industry, touring barns, petting baby animals, and making butter.
Breakfast on the Farm is one of the main fundraiser events for the Steele County American Dairy Association’s clubs and year-round activities, including the Dairy Princess Pageants, dairy ambassadors, and the famed malt stand. Organizers said that the event is extremely loved in the community, specifically by young families, because it offers up something different and outside of the box for free.
While the horse-drawn wagon rides and arts and crafts tent remains free year after year, the only charge found at Breakfast on the Farm is the $5 it takes to have a hot breakfast inside one of the Balzer’s larger barns. This year, Dad’s Beligan Waffles out of Algona, Iowa, served up hundreds of waffles that could be topped with various fruit syrups, homemade butter, and fresh whipped cream.
The Balzer Dairy Farm currently milks 120 cows, all with two robotic milking machines, affectionately named Cathy and Rick after the farm’s owners. The two Lely Astronaut A4 milking systems has become the newest and greatest technology among Minnesota’s dairy farms, enticing each cow into the machine with the promise of “delicious and nutritious treats” according to the Scott Balzer, who helped run barn tours throughout the event.
Once a cow enters the machine, the robot scans its tag to determine exactly the right amount of food to dispense and whether or not it was indeed time for the cow to be milked. Balzer joked that sometimes the cows try to “out smart” the machine by turning around and getting back in line, but the machine will simply reject them and keep them moving forward.
When a cow is accepted by the machine, it takes less than 10 minutes for the cow’s teats to be cleaned so that lasers can map the udder and the milking process to be complete. The machines run 24/7 and can milk each cow twice in a day, save the real Rick and Cathy an enormous amount of work and back pain.
Instead of manually milking the cows, Rick Balzer is able to supervise the robots, feed the heifers that are all raised right on the farm, repair equipment, and focus on fieldwork. Cathy Balzer spends her time feeding the calves, bookkeeping, bedding cows, and being the farm’s homemaker. Their son, Scott Balzer, works on the farm full time sharing similar duties as his father.
The Balzers also raise 320 acres of corn, 125 acres of alfalfa, and 50 acres of oats.