Residents enjoy breakfast on the farm at the Balzers
The population of Merton Township grew considerably Saturday as county residents flocked to the Balzer Dairy Farm for Breakfast on the Farm. The annual event is sponsored by the Steele County American Dairy Association and this year hosted by Rick and Cathy Balzer and Scott and Kaylie Balzer.
Steele County Dairy Princesses greeted visitors when they arrived by bus courtesy of the Owatonna Bus Company. From there they went on to the farm for breakfast, tours of the dairy barn with the robotic milking machines and a variety of activities for the youngsters.
In addition to the county dairy princesses, Princess Kay of the Milky Way Rebekka Paskewitz was also in attendance to meet the visitors and talk about dairy products.
For many the first stop was breakfast where Dad’s Belgian Waffles was on hand cooking up their specialty with 20 waffle irons going at once. The waffles were complemented by sausage, milk, water and of course, since this is Dairy Month, cheese.
The event was expected to draw up to 1,500 people, which meant a lot of waffles and sausages.
The Balzers currently milk 120 cows in a barn where the cows are milked on their own schedule, by a robotic milking machine. On average, said Brandon Balzer, each cow is milked three times although there are individual differences among the animals. When the cows are not actually being milked they are free to roam the barn.
Balzer said the family has had the robots in the barn for about four years. The milk is transferred to the storage tanks in the milk house where it is picked up every other day by First District, a dairy coop.
During the time the cows are not giving milk or are “dry” they are outside.
In addition to the dairy cows, the Balzers raise their own heifers, raise their bull calves to sell as steers and plant 320 acres of corn, 125 acres of alfalfa and 50 acres of oats.
While the adults were learning about robotics in dairy farming, the youngsters were enjoying a variety of activities including a petting zoo, a kiddy train, a youth activity tent and a bouncy house.
Taking a break from talking about dairy with those attending, Paskewitz said she has enjoyed her year as Princess Kay of the Milky Way and that it will be “bittersweet” to give up her crown on the night before the Minnesota State Fair Opens.
During her year as Princess Kay, she has served as an ambassador of the dairy industry to the consumers. She has enjoyed meeting with people and explaining to them who dairy farmers are, what they do and why they do it. Food is an emotional issue, she said, and she looks at her role as bringing people together because both farmers and consumers eat the same food and have the same concerns.
Paskewitz said she did not actually grow up on a dairy farm but rather worked on her uncle’s farm in Todd County.
It’s been an extremely busy year, she said, and one thing she has learned is how to balance her time. In addition to Princess Kay duties, she has also been a full-time student at South Dakota State University where she is majoring in agricultural education and will be graduating next spring.