Minnesota dairy farmers struggle to find workers

Published 7:44 am Thursday, April 4, 2019

MILLVILLE — Staci Sexton keeps busy at her dairy farm near Millville.

“My dad, technically, kind of retired this year,” she said. “Mom’s not retirement age yet.”

That means the bulk of the work on her dairy — her parents currently own 60 percent of the dairy operations on their 300-acre, 127-head dairy, and Staci owns 40 percent — falls to Staci and her youngest brother, Lance Sexton.

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Well, and her mom. And the “neighbor kid.”

And that’s where the trouble looms, Staci Sexton said.

The “neighbor kid,” a high school student who milks the herd on weekend nights, is the lone non-family employee, giving the Sexton clan a night off. “We take a night off, swapping on the weekend, my brother, myself and my parents,” she said.

Before this “neighbor kid” there was another one, Sexton said. When that part-time worker graduated high school, he bequeathed the job to his friend who often tagged along to help out. But when the current “neighbor kid” finishes high school, Sexton doesn’t see another one taking his place, the Post-Bulletin reported.

Caring for the combined herd of her business and her parents’ business — called Schoene Kuh (German for “Beautiful Cow”) and Irish Ridge Dairy, respectively — is really a two-person job, she said. Milking, feeding and caring for upward of 120 cows can be a lot for just one person. Too much, really.

On a short-term basis, Sexton said she can handle the herd on her own. But when she and Lance take over the work completely, they’ll need that person who fills in from time to time to give a little respite when the other one is gone, sick or needs to go to a meeting.