AMBOY, Minn. – Every growing season has its own timbre – its own voice. For 2020, the silence and solitude of staying home to fight COVID-19 brought the sounds of birds chirping and cattle bellowing to farm and field.
The families of Fox Premium Beef adapted to staying home, distance learning programs for the kids, and cooking every meal in the kitchen.
Home school for Karen and Luke Fox’s children started on March 30. Landon and Hayden, as well as Adriana, Brinnya and Sloane were all involved in the process.
“The kids have been doing their daily work, and the teachers have been wonderful on what they’ve prepared,” said Karen, adding that the two older boys were a great help on the farm as well.
On the farm, the work continued despite the COVID-19 shelter-in-place.
“Luke had some grain to deliver yet, because agriculture continues to go on,” said Karen. “The cattle still have to be fed and bedded, so we are just doing those essential things.”
The crew continued with the daily chores for the dairy replacement heifers located near Storden. They also worked with the Black Angus cow/calf herd. Every member of the crew had packs of plastic gloves and sanitizer in their trucks. When a truck needed fuel, each person paid at the pump using their gloves so they didn’t pick up any of the novel coronavirus that could linger on surfaces.
At the feedlot, the family and two key employees took care of the dairy heifers.
Farm families are used to planning and then making decisions on-the-fly, and the Foxes were no exception.
“We have to be so intuitive and flexible,” she said. “This is the time it’s going to show.”
The Foxes had Holsteins to breed one day and another group of heifers that needed to be checked for pregnancy the next day. A breeding technician and a veterinary service came to the farm to do those tasks, but everyone tried to take steps to ensure social distancing.
One of the best investments for the Holstein operation was the purchase of an RFID wand that works in conjunction with the DC305 software. The wand scans the heifer’s ID and opens each individual history.
All of the dairy calves arrive at the feedlot with RFID tracking tags. At the dairy farm in Wisconsin, all of the tags are scanned whenever the heifer is moved, treated, bred or milked.
“We can record any events on that animal and have tracking without human error,” she said. “The guys at the feedlot are thrilled. They’re happier with it than I am because it has made their life so much simpler.”
At the home farm near Amboy, the Black Angus herd will begin calving around May 15, so the workload was fortunately light for that herd.
The family also runs about 1,000 acres of row crops. With conditions remaining mostly dry and a slow and steady warmup, the 2020 spring has been an easy thaw. That should greatly help with fieldwork.
“They are making sure their crop plan is accurate,” she said. “There’s going to be a huge impact on the ethanol industry (because of COVID-19), which is huge for our marketing locally. They may ‘audible’ a little bit from their initial plan.”
Fox Premium Beef continued to experience great sales for their products. Karen was so grateful for all of the phone calls from people who wanted to buy. Bookings for quarters, halves and wholes were sold out for April.
“We are happy to help people, and it’s wonderful they are choosing beef to provide their family meals during this time,” she said.
Minnesota Farm Guide sincerely wishes to thank Karen Fox and Fox Premium Beef for their winter reports for 2019-20. All the best for the future!