Last week I toured Blood Dairy, a third-generation farm in central Iowa. Kevin and Holly Blood, along with their son, Alex, and his wife, Melissa, own and operate the business.
I was especially interested to tour this farm because my husband grew up just down the road.
Kevin Blood took over the family farm from his dad in 1990 when they were milking 100 cows. Today, the farm milks 2,200 cows with another 600 being added this year. There are 22 full-time employees in addition to family members.
A new 900-foot free stall barn, just like the one I photographed below, is under construction now. A new milking parlor with a flash chiller is also being built. Cows are milked three times a day. "We never stop milking," says Kevin. He says cows produce 10% more when milked three times vs two times a day. "They want to be milked every eight hours," he says.
He beds the barns with 12 inches of sand and the barns are cleaned each time the cows are milked. Fans and sprinklers keep the cows cool in hot weather.
Most of the milk goes to Des Moines the day it comes from the cow and is on store shelves the next morning. All milk is tested on the farm and again at the Anderson Erickson Dairy processing plant.
Holly Blood is in charge of the calves. Six to 10 are born every day on the farm. They are fed 1 gallon of colostrum and the females are moved in a special van to a neighboring farm owned by Cory and Shannon Eldridge. New calf barns were built there two years ago (a photo of one room is below). Local farmers Todd and Sharon Kline buy all the bull calves at birth and raise them for steers.
The average cow on the Blood farm stays for six years, although some are 10 or 12 years old. "As long as they continue to produce they are welcome to stay," says Kevin.
All manure from the cows is injected into the soil as natural fertilizer on 3,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa grown by the family.