Tricounty News

Twin Spruce Farm showcases latest expansion

 

Gruenes family welcomes visitors to open house Saturday, June 14

Reprinted with permission from the Dairy Star, May 27, 2014.

 

Richmond, Minn. – It’s only been five years since Arnie and Kris Gruenes hosted an open house on their farm, but many changes have been made to their Twin Spruce Farm during those years.

In March 2009, open house visitors saw the family’s new power-ventilated freestall barn, misters, tile feed alley and 300-cow herd.

Now visitors to the farm’s Saturday, June 14, open house – combined with the Minnesota Holstein Association’s Field Day – will have the opportunity to see numerous changes that have been made since. The herd has expanded in stages so that it now numbers about 1,300 and will reach 1,400 by the end of fall.

There have been vast improvements made in the last four years. A holding pen and freestall area was added to the back of the old parlor in the summer of 2010, a new machine shed was built that winter, and another six-row power-ventilated barn was built – twice – in the summer of 2011.

 

“It blew over halfway through construction, so we picked it up and built it again,” Gruenes said.

 

After the farm’s old round-roof barn was re-sided that fall, Arnie said with a laugh, “My wife put a moratorium on things.”

That only lasted until 2013 when, to get the dry cows under cover, Gruenes built an eight-row power-ventilated barn. When he added 550 cows, the farm needed a bigger parlor.

In addition to Twin Spruce Farm, Arnie operates Triple A Pumping, working in four states. That proved valuable in planning the improvements.

“I see different types of facilities. If I can go someplace and learn one thing, I consider my day well spent,” he said. “We (producers) need to be a team and teach each other how to be more efficient.”

After using a double-14 rapid-exit parlor, Gruenes opted to build a double-24 parlor, expandable to double-32, with a full basement, tanker load-outs and a viewing room of the parlor, holding area, return lanes, and freestall barn.

When asked why he built a basement parlor, Arnie said, “I wanted to quiet the parlor by putting the equipment under it. It cuts the noise and we’re able to communicate better. It really turned out beautifully.”

He added, “My wife likes to do tours for the fifth-grade class. The viewing area is a good place for show and tell. We open our doors so people can see where milk comes from, how our cows are taken care of, and the nutrient value of manure.”

The walkover area provides an opportunity to see the milking process, how employees handle the cows, how the cows respond to bunk space and more. The cows and employees don’t even know they’re being watched.

“The cows can’t talk to us, so we have to figure out what they need,” Arnie said. “I want to provide a good environment for them. We have to take care of them.”

Dairying could well be the future, not only for Arnie and Kris, but also for their children - five boys and two girls. The two oldest boys are already part of the operation. They do custom pumping, work on equipment, make forages for the dairy herd and do some custom chopping.

“I hope they have the interest and want to stick around,” Arnie said.

The younger three children are in school, but enjoy working with the cows and showing at the fairs in 4-H.

“I enjoy the family environment we have. If one or two or all of our family want to be involved, they can,” Gruenes said. “I think the future of the dairy industry will be good. We need milk and we need food.”

Between them, the farm and pumping business have 40 to
45 employees in peak seasons. Some cross over between the two businesses, working with harvest, pumping, the dairy and taking care of equipment.

“We have a great staff of employees. We have an outstanding herdsman who oversees the herd. Kris does all the bookwork,” Arnie said. “So far I’ve been able to get everything done. If need be, I’ll either find more good people or cut back.”

When Arnie is on the road with the pumping business, Kris is available to take care of things.

He said, “She doesn’t like it when I leave. She says my shoes are hard to fill.”

Arnie was born and raised on a small farm across the road from the current site. He bought his first farm with 48 acres and 32 cows in 1989. Five years later, he bought the place where the dairy is now.

“There has been a lot of growth, some ups and downs, but we always got back up and went at it again,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for dairy. Taking good care of cows is very important.”

Twin Spruce Farm’s dairy herd is an interesting mix of breeds. The original herd consisted of grade Holsteins, but the Grueneses
bought a bunch of three-way crossbreds when the second barn was built. 

Several years ago, the family purchased some Registered Holsteins for showing.

Now the current herd includes some high genomic animals, some show animals, about 25 percent crossbreds and the majority being grade Holsteins.

“I’m not afraid to try anything,” Arnie said with a laugh. “I love a challenge. An old guy once told me, ‘You can have anything in this world you want - just go get it.’”

When asked why his family is willing to put in the extra work needed to prepare the farm for an open house for the public, Gruenes said, “I feel it’s important when you expand to this magnitude. It’s a teaching and learning time for our neighbors and the community of what we do and how we take care of our cows.”

He said, “I like to promote the dairy business. So many generations have no connection to dairying. We have to have open barns to show them. If more of our fellow dairymen would have their doors open, people would be more accepting of us as dairy producers. I firmly believe that the dairy industry is a high priority in the community. I’m looking forward to showing what we’ve done and what the vendors have done. We had a great team to build this.”
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The open house will be in conjunction with the annual Minnesota Holstein Association’s Field Day.

“When the Holstein association asked if we’d open our doors for the field day, I told them they were welcome to join in on the fun,” Arnie said.

Open house hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a variety of food available. Arnie has lined up two ice cream machines, French fries, cheese curds, and more.

Arnie and Kris, their family, and employees invite everyone to join them Saturday, June 14.

 

“I love being with people. I’m looking forward to the open house,” Arnie said. “It should be a good time. Haying, planting, pumping and some other work should be done. It will be a good time for a little time off.”

In 2013, Twin Spruce Farm near Richmond in Stearns County, added 550 cows and built an eight-row power-ventilated barn. The new facility features a walkover area providing an w-Gruenes familyopportunity to look over the cows. Submitted photo.

 

 The Gruenes family in front, Arnie Jr. In second row, from left, Andy, Brian, Samantha and Zachary. In back row, from left, Ashley, Dustin, Kris and Arnie. Together they operate Twin Spruce Farm near Richmond. They milk 1,300 cows.