By JENNIE ZEITLER
Aaron Vogt, Ethan Vogt, Matt Groetsch and Brandon Magnuson have all known each other since their boyhood days and continue that friendship and camaraderie while working together. Their days are spent doing all that is required to maintain a thriving dairy operation.
Vogt Dairy, south of Sauk Centre, was started in 1964 by Aaron’s and Ethan’s grandfather,
Elmer Vogt. Dad, Ken Vogt, took over in 1978. Aaron and Ethan began milking when they were about 5 years old and only 57 cows were being milked.
Their mom, Sally, helped with the milking then. Whoever was the baby at any given time spent milking time being moved up and down the alleyway in the barn in a crib on wheels.
While they were growing up, sports, rather than the farm, was actually the focus in their family. Ken was the head wrestling coach at Sauk Centre, and both Aaron and Ethan wrestled and also played baseball. Ken is still coaching wrestling, although he has already retired three times.
After high school, Aaron was awarded a baseball scholarship to Ridgewater College and took classes there in dairy management. He also spent some time at the University of North Dakota and at Dakota State in Madison, S.D. Although 19 credits short of earning his degree, he had enough of school. He knew what he always wanted to do and returned home in 2003 to start farming.
Ethan wrestled and played baseball at Ridgewater while taking dairy management classes. He then played baseball at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for a year while sstudying animal science. He returned to the farm in 2008.
Matt was a classmate of Ethan and has worked on farms since he was about 16. He started working part time at Vogt Dairy in about 2010, and when he was offered a full time job, he took it.
Brandon grew up living two blocks from the Vogts’ grandmother and attended the same church. When he stopped out at the farm in the fall of 2011 to ask permission to hunt on their land, Brandon said the Vogts asked him why he wasn’t milking for them. At the time, they were advertising for some help, and Brandon was hired.
Aaron is the herdsman and works more on the day-to-day operation. He does a lot of the “thinking” for the dairy and handles about two-thirds of the breeding.
Ethan takes care of the other third of the breeding. He is the mechanical specialist and does almost all the maintenance or repair that is needed. He also treats any cows with problems such as mastitis.
Brandon’s job is mainly milking. Matt is a milker and also drives tractor a lot of the time; he does a little bit of everything.
Ken Vogt is still busy with wrestling during the winter but scrapes the barn every day. He takes care of most electrical work, and during planting season he does field work.
Aaron lives on the farm, across the driveway from Ken, while Ethan, Brandon and Matt live in town.
Aaron and Ethan milk nearly every morning, while Matt and Brandon mostly milk in the evenings. While doing the morning milking, Aaron and Ethan discuss what needs to be done that day and look to the week ahead. They talk about their plans and dreams for the farm.
Vogt Dairy currently milks about 200 cows. They plan on building a new special needs/transition barn this summer to house the dry cows, heifers and the maternity pen.
By about 2013, they hope to be milking 250-260 cows. Their ultimate goal is about 350, but Aaron said he believes they need to be making progress all the time, growing from within. They are building equity, and improving a herd never ends. He finds it most rewarding to always be moving ahead.
Matt said he most enjoys the fact that no two days are ever the same. Brandon said they fly by the seat of their pants, taking on
whatever happens. They are all farmers, plumbers, mechanics, social workers — whatever is needed.
Ethan finds it very satisfying to look back at the end of a day and to feel the sense of accomplishment, knowing they “got something done” that day.
Aaron always knew he wanted to farm. It’s something he just loves.
Ethan agreed, “It’s what we wanted to do.”
Matt and Brandon can tell that farming is in the Vogt brothers’ blood, since they are the ones with the ability to identify each one of their 200 cows by simply looking at their udders.