Quality of Life: Comparisons in Various Dairy Operations

Final Report for FNC92-018

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1992: $5,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1993
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,650.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Name: Ed Jeanquart, Kevin Kiehnau
Age: 41, 31
Yrs. Farming: 17, 14
Education: 14+ years, 12 years
Type of Business: Family, Family
Acres owned: 210, 100
Rented: 85, 142
Dairy Herd Size: 60, 60
DHIA Herd Ave.: 23,000#/cow, 22,000#/cow
Corn: 135 acres, 33 acres
Small Grain: 42, 28
Hay: 98, 94
Sudan Grass: 0, 37
Pasture: 0, 50

Sustainable Practices that were in use before the grant:

1) Ed Jeanquart
a) Transition to four year crop rotation, 5 years
i) 1 year corn, 1 year small grains, 2 years alfalfa
b) Manure nutrient crediting, 5 years
c) Legume plow down credits for corn, 5 years
d) Corn with reduced/no herbicides and mechanical weed control, 5 years
e) Band spraying and liquid fertilizer application in corn, 3 years
f) Minimum tillage in corn, 2 years
g) Barley seed-down to legume with reduced/no herbicides, 5 years
h) Deep Nitrate soil testing for corn, 1 year

2) Kevin Kiehnau
a) Pasture establishment, 3 years
b) Intensive rotational grazing, 2 years
c) Corn with reduced/ no herbicides and mechanical weed control, 5 years
d) Manure sampling and nutrient crediting, 5 years
e) Legume plow down credits for corn, 5 years
f) Frost seeding of pastures and hay stands, 2 years

Jeanquart family: Ed, Kay, four children ranging in age from 8 to 19 years. Hired help includes one college student, Darrin.

Kiehnau family: Kevin, Sue, two small children under 3 years of age and a teenage nephew. Hired help includes one full time hired employee, Steve with small amounts of additional labor from Kevin’s father and some part-time seasonal hired help for haying.

Additional farm information: both farms have approved SCS Soil Conservation Plans and hire additional labor beyond family labor. Both wives have part-time off farm jobs. Both farms have sealed storage for high moisture grains and similar silos for storage of winter forage.

Consultants retained for the project included:
Dr. George Stevenson, Assistant Director of the University of Wisconsin – Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Dr. Stevenson’s background is in rural sociology. His expertise was used in helping to develop the methodology and analyze the data collected.

John Bobbe, Coordinator of the Northeast Wisconsin Sustainable Farmers Network, has a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics, with undergraduate work in agricultural business and farm management. In addition, he has an extensive background in human resource management having done graduate work in this area. He helped the on-farm data collection format, complied the data, developed the data analysis techniques, and helped write the final report.

The focus of the proposal was to identify how sustainable farming techniques and methods impact on time and labor management in conventional sized dairy operations. The study helped to identify for a 5 month period (May1 – September 30, 1993) how the available labor pool (family and hired) is used to accomplish various tasks and time is spent on our farms for work and family.

Daily Logs were kept for each family member and the hired labor on each farm. Data recorded included the time spent on each task and who was involved. The daily logged hours were then transferred to weekly time sheets. The weekly data was then entered into a computer spreadsheet for analysis.

The methodology was adapted from a study done at the University of Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Economics on the Krusenbaum Farm, East Troy, Wisconsin. A similar methodology was used in that study.

In the Jeanquart family, Ed kept a log of his time and for the hired help. Kay logged her hours and that of the children.

In the Kiehnau family, Kevin logged the hours of his time, the hired help and for his nephew. Sue logged her hours.

The method that seemed to work best was simply using a pocket notepad and recording the time of day, task and who was involved. In addition, family members keeping logs were asked to write journal entries beside the log entries where appropriate.

Data was then transferred by John Bobbe, project consultant, to the data sheets and compiled by months. It was then entered into a computer spreadsheet for printout, analysis and graphical presentation.

Additional methodology employed: “Shadowing” as used in industrial settings was used on both farms for one day. John Bobbe spent a day on each farm from the beginning of the day to the end. This helped corroborate the data being recorded on a daily basis in the logs and to understand in more detail the tasks each family member or the hired help performed.

The days selected for shadowing were simply tow days in October, at the end of the project that fit the schedules of the families.

Periodic meetings were held with John Bobbe on each farm to review the log data and assure correct interpretation of the data for recording. Data was exchanged between our two farms. In addition, three meetings were held with our two families, Dr. Stevenson, and John Bobbe. The first meeting was held in April, to plan the methodology and approach to be used. The second meeting was held in mid-July to review the project to date and a final meeting was held in November to review the data and analyze the findings and conclusions.

Labor task categorization: based on the log sheet used in the Krusenbaum study at the University of Wisconsin, tasks were divided up into four main categories with subcategories in each. The hours devoted to each task based on log entries were then allocated to each category.

1) Dairy Enterprise Tasks – specific tasks included:
a. Barn Chores – tasks included such things as milking preparation, some feeding, scraping and liming barn allies, clean up, letting cow in and out of the barn.
b. Cow Care – working with veterinarians, routine health and medical care tasks for animals.
c. Dairy Management – herd records analysis, DHIA
d. Manure Management – barn cleaning, cleaning calf pens, and hauling manure out of storage.
e. Machinery Repair (barn) – any repairs related to activities in the barn such as mangers, drinking cups, milking systems, barn cleaner, silo unloaders.
f. Feeding – calves and young stock and in the case of the Jeanquart farm, tasks involved with the TMR Mixer and feeding the diary herd. In the case of the Kiehnau farm, it also included some, but not all of the tasks for intensive rotational grazing.
g. Miscellaneous – tasks that were not routine that didn’t readily fit the other categories.

2) Cropping Enterprise Tasks – subcategories and associated tasks that specifically supported the dairy enterprise included:
a. Corn – tasks associated with corn from tillage and planting to harvest. Not all of the corn harvest was completed by the end of September which was the end of the period for which the logs were kept.
b. Small Grain – tasks from tillage and planting through harvest.
c. Hay – harvesting and ensiling or mowing.
d. Machinery Repair – all machine repair tasks that supported the cropping enterprise.
e. Crop Management – crop records, field scouting.
f. Miscellaneous – tasks that were not routine in nature and could not be specifically assigned to one of the cropping categories such as hay or corn.

3) Household Tasks – tasks directly or indirectly related to family life on the farm:
a. Personal Time – personal discretionary time.
b. Family Time – time spent with other family members
c. Recreation
d. Kid Support – tasks related to supporting the kids in the family such as helping with homework, 4-H projects, errands such as to the doctor, school functions
e. House Support – this category was not on the original sheet, but was added to include tasks that support family living such as laundry, meal preparation, minor repairs
f. Miscellaneous – tasks that did not occur routinely or fit any of the other categories.

4) General Tasks – specific tasks included:
a. Errands – any trip that supported the farm such as getting repair parts, feed mill, etc.
b. General Farm Management – farm records, attendance at some farm meetings and functions that supported the farm generally
c. Permanent Fence and/or Building Repair – tasks did not include moving the paddock fences on a daily basis for intensive rotational grazing (IRG), but did include any type of permanent fencing to contain livestock and building repairs. Fence building related to IRG was included in the Dairy Enterprise tasks.
d. Projects – a time factor was allotted for keeping the logs. The amount of time recorded probably underestimates the actual time in keeping the logs. It generally involved 15-30 minutes per day.

1) The study of how time is spent on these two farms was beneficial for both families. It made them realize how labor intensive their farming operations are and how much time various tasks take.

2) Keeping the logs was time consuming and the hours logged for this task are probably underestimated. The positive benefits of doing the study outweigh the time spent on keeping the logs.

3) Both families feel it would be beneficial for other farm families to keep track of how they spend their time in order to be able to look at how they run their farming operations and the time available for families, etc.

4) With the farm residence and the farming operation itself a part of the same complex, the tendency is to get into routines. With the large amount of hours involved it is easy to end up in the “same old rut”, continuing to do the same “old way”.

5) The study helped identify the amount of time required to repair and maintain machinery on each farm. Ways of reducing the operating time of machinery may contribute to more labor available for other farm tasks while reducing expenses. The amount of time in Cropping Tasks used for machinery repair and maintenance was 10% and 13% respectively for the Jeanquart and Kiehnau farms.

6) Changes are going to be made in both farming operations as a result of the study. Changes include:
a. Jeanquart Farm – the study helped to identify cropping operations that may not be as productive due to weather conditions. In years with extremely wet soil conditions, rotary hoeing corn may not be the best use of labor. Substitution of cultivation or other tillage operations might be more labor efficient. They will be experimenting with the use of intensive rotational grazing for their dairy herd in 1994.
b. Kiehnau Farm – the study helped to identify additional rented acres that required a large amount of time (due to wet soil conditions) in Cropping Tasks. That acreage will not be rented again and acreage closer to the farm that will require less time to farm has been rented. They will continue to concentrate on improving the intensive rotational grazing component of their farming operation.

7) It appears that families can make the mistake of viewing the farm as a place to live rather than treating it like a business. Viewing the farm as a business can change the perspective on how decisions regarding how labor is used for various tasks.

8) The study identified the fact that there is a lack of personal time for family members, especially husband and wife. Other labor tasks tend to crowd out the time for personal activities.

There is also a difference between “time being available” for certain activities or tasks and “actually taking the time”. Both wives cited the example of hiring help for milking and husbands still going to the barn out of habit.

9) A number of advantages of intensive rotational grazing for dairy farm families were identified. They offer the potential combination of better use of available labor on the farm and improved farm profitability.

There would appear to be little labor savings in setting up the initial IRG system. In fact, the transition process maybe more labor intensive during the startup period. Once established, IRG offers some of the following identified advantages based on the Kiehnau’s experience.

a. IRG requires different types of tasks such as cow management skills versus mechanical ability to fix machinery.
b. On the Kiehnau farm no equipment (such as silo unloaders) was run from May 10 to September 24. The cattle were still out on pasture until November 15 with only part of their feed coming from stored supplies from September to November.
c. Less grain was fed, 28# per cow/day on an average when the herd is confined versus 15# per cow/day for IRG. Also less protein is fed, 15#/ day in confinement versus 4.5#/day on pasture.
d. There is less manure to mechanically spread, 3 loads all summer versus 1 load every 2-3 days when cattle are confined during the summer.
e. Pasture data from the past year on the Kiehnau farm shows that the average protein content of the pasture was over 21% and the yields were 6-8 tons of hay equivalent per acre. This is double the Door County ASCS hay yields for mechanically harvested hay.
f. The amount of feed that needs to be mechanically harvested and stored includes needing only 100 round bales to feed during the year versus over 300 bales when the cattle were confined.
g. Cows are cleaner making milking easier
h. Having to harvest fewer acres mechanically should prolong the life of machinery and result in less time involved in machinery repairs.
i. The types of tasks involved in IRG maybe less intense physically, making the work easier.
j. Perhaps the most pivotal finding of the study, shows that IRG requires the least amount of labor per crop acre harvested compared to corn, hay or small grains on the Kiehnau farm.
k. There are some drawbacks to IRG including:
i. Getting cows bred on time
ii. Adequately balancing the herd ration based on the present techniques for ration balancing for cattle on pasture
iii. Getting cows to consume proper amounts of minerals
iv. Time spent putting cows in and out of the barn
v. Time spent training heifers to get into the routine of going in and out of the barn
Overall, the advantages to IRG seem to outweigh the disadvantages.

10) Both families agree that taking time off is important for vacations, family functions, etc. the problem is to find the time and the importance of adhering to a schedule. Farm life has advantages and the rural values that still exist are important aspects.

11) It was easy to quantify the amounts of labor required for various tasks as a result of the study. What is more difficult to address are the quality issues. The study was able to focus on labor tasks that surround quality issues but did not quantify them.

The study did achieve the desired goals and can serve as a baseline for additional areas of study.

1) Further follow up on these two farms will occur in 1994 as this study continues. Each family will keep their logs for one week per month during the same 5 month period (May-September) to see if they are able to implement further changes that may contribute to an enhanced quality of life.

2) The amount of time spent on both farms doing barn chores, (tasks surrounding milking, feeding and caring for dairy cattle) indicates that further study of the labor and task requirements.

Of other types of dairying systems needs to be done. Do other types of systems offer more labor savings and can they better address quality of life issues? The 1994 continuation of this study will look at labor and task requirements on a farm using a seasonal milking system. Do other milking systems like New Zealand parlors and cattle handling methods lend themselves to different, less physically demanding types of labor and improved quality of life? What about low capital types of dairy systems for beginning farmers and the types of life styles they might lend themselves to?

3) Based on this study, the University of Wisconsin- Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems has made available some funding to attempt to organize a focus group on farm quality of life issues. The group will include Kevin and Sue Kiehnau and Ed and Kay Jeanquart plus a couple of additional farm families (husbands and wives). Dr. George Stevenson and John Bobbe will be involved as well as a trained facilitator/counselor. If it can be organized, the plan is to meet up to 5 times between January and April, 1994. the purpose will be to attempt to focus in on actual quality of life issues and family relationships in farming situations.

4) Large dairy herds (over 100 cows) with multi-family involvement have not been studied with regard to labor/task, inter-family relational and quality of life issues. Based on the Kiehnau-Jeanquart study, the University of Wisconsin-Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems is in the process of exploring funding the study of a farm of this type as an addition to the 1994 Quality of Life Study.

Dr. Stevenson discussed the on-going project at the “Technical Workshop: Parallels in Dairy Grazing in New Zealand and the Midwest” (August 25-26, 1993) held at the U.W. Arlington Research Station Events Facility. Number attending the conference was 100.

An article on the Kiehnau farm appeared in the statewide farm newspaper Agri-View.

Further Project Dissemination:
- The project will be discussed at a session of the Sustainable Agricultural Institute sponsored by the Door County Environmental Council and the Northeast Wisconsin Sustainable Farmers Network. The Institute will be held in January and February, 1994 and is attended by farmers from Northeast Wisconsin.

- Two articles are being written for the Door County Advocate about the study and the farm families involved. They will possibly be published in late December, 1993 or early January, 1994.

- Plans are to being made to discuss the project results at the quarterly meeting of the USDA-SARE funded Intensive Rotational Grazing Project with the Wisconsin Rural Development Center, Mount Horeb and the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The meeting will be held in January, 1994.

- Planners of the 1994 Wisconsin Grazing Conference have indicated an interest in devoting a workshop session to discussion of the study results. The conference is scheduled for March 14-15, 1994.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.