NEW ULM, Minn. – Telling the story of dairy production this winter is Paul Fritsche, who just completed his 40th growing season and has milked cows all of his life.
A third-generation dairyman from New Ulm, Paul and his wife, Melanie, farm with Arlon Fritsche, Paul’s dad. They maintain a traditional dairy barn with pipeline and tie stalls.
“Our farm has sold to AMPI or its predecessor co-op since day one,” Paul said. “As far as we know, we have the lowest patron number in the system. We’ve had the same number, 108, since day one.”
The majority of the herd is Registered Guernseys, but in recent years, Brown Swiss, Black and White Holsteins, and Red and White Holsteins have been added to the lineup.
A few years back, Andrew Fritsche, who is Paul and Melanie’s son, purchased some Holstein crosses at a sale to use for embryo transfer work. Since then, they’ve used Brown Swiss sexed semen to produce heifers.
“Our Swiss numbers have been increasing,” Paul said. “The Holsteins and the Red and Whites, some are owned by our son and some are owned by others. We house cattle for other people also.”
Paul’s great-grandparents started Fritsche Farms in 1924 – almost 97 years ago. Farming 160 acres, the Fritsches raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. After the corn is harvested for silage, they seed winter triticale as a cover crop. In the spring, the triticale is chopped for dairy feed, and then soybeans are planted.
“We get the benefit of double cropping, and we also have a cover crop on that ground that likes to blow a little bit in the wintertime,” he said.
The size of their operation works well for the Fritsches. Andrew works full-time at a neighboring dairy farm, and Melanie is a part-time florist at Cash Wise Foods in New Ulm.
Paul and Melanie have another son, Daniel, who is married to Julie. Dan and Julie have two sons, Adam, 7, and Ryan, 4, who love to visit the farm. Dan and Julie work for the Land O’ Lakes Corporate Office and live in Hugo, Minn.
The Fritsches can handle the milking, chores and farm work themselves, but they occasionally hire someone to milk while they attend the Minnesota State Fair, World Dairy Expo or other events that take them away overnight.
“I don’t have to worry if the milkers are going to show up, or if the feeders are going to show up, or if the guy is going to come and pump the lagoon or anything like that,” Paul said “We try to do everything ourselves. I like it that way, but if there’s a mistake that’s made, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I can’t blame it on anybody else.”
Paul and Melanie have done a great job of posting photos about their farm on Facebook. They happened to be among the first to finish up their harvest in 2020, and that made them great candidates to help with Minnesota Farm Guide’s producer reports this winter!
They planted short-day corn for silage or high moisture corn. They also planted soybeans that yielded very well in 2020.
“We had one field that went over 80 bushels per acre, and we never expected that,” he said. “Then the prices came around at harvesttime, so that was a bonus, too.”
The short-day corn works well so they can finish harvest before attended World Dairy Expo in late September. Fritsche Farms has shown at World Dairy Expo in all but two years since 1978. So, they were disappointed after all of these years to have the Wisconsin-held event cancelled because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
Many showing events were cancelled in 2020 to try to control the pandemic. The Fritsches worked hard to go ahead with the New Ulm-based regional dairy show in 2020, but putting on the show was very challenging.
“We held it outside,” he said. “These kids needed something. They needed a facet of normality this summer.”
In addition to working at a nearby dairy, Andrew is a professional fitter. He lives on the home farm and assists Paul and Melanie as needed.
He was able to take Adam, 7, to a Brown Swiss show in Lacrosse, Wis., after Adam practiced leading a Brown Swiss calf around this summer. Unexpectedly, the calf ended up in first place in the Minnesota June calf class, and Adam had the opportunity to re-enter the showring for the Junior Champion contest. He also participated in peewee showmanship, to the delight of the Fritsches.
“Among Adam’s prized possessions now are a brush and a medal that he earned for participating,” Paul said. He hopes that Adam and Ryan will have many more opportunities to work with dairy cattle and compete in the ring.
Andrew has done well in the showring over the years. He headed down to Louisville for the 2020 NAILE (North American International Livestock Exposition) in early November. His heifer, PAFarms Showtime Cadbury (9/3/19) stood seventh out of a class of 20 Guernsey Fall Calves.
“We like the way she is cut and feel she has promise for a good future in the milking herd,” Melanie wrote on Facebook.
Advocating for the dairy industry has always been important to Paul. He served two terms on Dairy Management, Inc., the national checkoff fund of the U.S. dairy farmers. He served for 24 years on the Midwest Dairy Association board of directors, and he also served president of the Minnesota Guernsey Breeders Association for many years.
“When you have a meeting, you learn as much in the hallways and at supper as you do through your actual meeting,” Paul said. “You learn from others, you visit with others, and you’re not in this alone. We are truly in this all together.”
He speaks for farmers everywhere that are anxious to resume in-person events that build fellowship, networking and good policies for the future.
A sincere thank you from Minnesota Farm Guide to the Fritsche family for telling their story during the winter of 2020-21. We wish you great success and look forward to following along!