Happy Cows on an Iowa Dairy Farm

Happy cows make more milk; so says my second cousin’s son, Josh. Richard Blough and son Josh operate a family dairy farm in Iowa. While the trend is a sharp decrease in family-owned farms in this country, this father and son team are bucking the trend and have shown that successful family farming is possible. Josh is the 4th generation to farm this land which will be owned by the Blough family for 100 years as of 2018. 

Our first and second cousins gathered in Waterloo, Iowa, recently for a family reunion. The Blough Dairy Farm graciously gave a tour of their operations. We learned alot about being a dairy farmer. I was impressed

To be a successful farmer, many hours of manual labor are needed planting and growing crops of corn, soy and hay in the fields. You also need to be an astute business man and entrepreneur; to be able and willing adopt new farming practices. On this farm, the 340 cows are milked three times a day, all the new calves are birthed from their herd and all the feed is grown on the farm. It is a self contained operation. Plus you must market and sell the milk. On this farm, the milk is sold to a co-op which processes cheese and Land O Lakes butter.

For my recipe this week, I used Land O Lakes butter and whipped it with Louisiana Steen’s Cane Syrup to make a whipped butter and syrup spread.

The farm and cattle appeared clean and amazingly free of flies and dirt.  And the cows appeared content. Josh says that cows are naturally curious and want to see what’s going on. Here are some of the rows and rows of baby calves.

Milking the cows is the goal of the farm. Here is the milking station. And this is where happy cows is important. Milking a cow is akin to breastfeeding a baby. It is a psychological process and the milk flows based on cues from the brain. So if the cow is content; not scared or frightened; it will release more milk. The milk production will be higher which is desirable. Keeping the cows cool in the summer with fans and misters is one technique which is used. (See first photo.)

Here’s Josh with some of the cows which are being milked. Josh employs full-time milkers because milking the 340 cows three times a day (1020 milking sessions) is a larger task than one or two people can handle alone.

And there were cows everywhere. All the cows have tags on their ears, so the volume of milk for each cow is recorded and computer charted. Any changes of milk production might signal issues which need to be addressed; so this cow is observed for problems. No antibiotics are allows in the milk which is sold; the milk is tested at the co-op where it is sold.

We went on a tour of the rest of the farm, too. Here father Richard Blough explains the operations of the farm.

Much of the grain which is grown from crops on the farm is stored in large silos. It is then blended into the feed for the cows based on recommendations from a nutritionist for protein, calories and non-food fiber based on the needs of the cows at different life-cycle stages (calves, pregnant, milking cows).

The Blough farm boasts one of the largest silos in Iowa for corn storage. It is 30 feet wide and 100 feet tall. It is quite massive and holds 1600 tons of corn silage. We were dwarfed by the silo.

Hay is stored in bales. Other crops are stored under large tarps.

The machinery needed to grow and harvest the crops represents a significant investment. Here is father, Richard Blough and his wife Sue, with some of the equipment used for harvesting crops.

And in the distance were some of the fields for crops. The family owns some of the land and rents additional land for growing crops, about 1500 acres, according to Richard.

I imagine that every farm has cats and kittens. This one is no exception.

And we met the family’s pet dog and also Josh’s wife and toddler — perhaps a 5th generation of Blough’s to farm this land? Time will tell.

Where is the milk sold?

The Blough family belongs to AMPI, a farmer-owned milk cooperative, and the milk is sold to the cooperative. The cooperative makes several varieties and processes of cheese.  According to Josh, they don’t do a lot of specialty cheese, but kind of the basics, such as cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella. They also make Land O Lakes butter.

According to AMP’s WEB site:

We are the 2,100 farm families and 1,250 employees of Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), a dairy marketing cooperative owned and governed by dairy farmers. In 2016, our dairy farmer-owners marketed 5.5 billion pounds of milk, resulting in $1.6 billion in sales for the cooperative.

Our dairy farmer-owners produce high-quality milk on family farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Our dairy farmers also own AMPI’s 10 Midwest-based manufacturing plants where skilled employees use members’ milk to produce 10 percent of the nation’s American-type cheese, butter, dried whey and sliced American cheese. Our award-winning dairy products are marketed to foodservice, retail and food ingredient customers.


So the next time you purchase Land O Lakes butter, keep in mind that some of it might have originated in Iowa on the Blough Dairy Farm.


For this week’s recipe, I’m blending Land O Lakes butter and Louisiana sugar cane syrup to make a delicious soft spread for biscuits, toast, French toast and pancakes. Steen’s cane syrup has a thick molasses consistency and taste. Here are the ingredients: Land O Lakes butter, milk and Steen’s cane syrup.

It makes things easier if the butter is softened. Let it set at room temperature for an hour or more. Also use a small bowl for whipping the butter. Whip a stick of butter (1/2 cup) on low speed for several minutes, add one Tbsp of milk. Turn mixer to high and beat for 2 or more minutes until the butter is whipped and increased in volume. Then slowly pour in 3 Tbsp of the Steen’s syrup and blend in. The whipped butter can be stored for a week or more in a refrigerator – it will harden with time.

Whipped Butter with Steen's Cane Syrup

  • Servings: about 3/4 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) Land O Lakes butter
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 3 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup

Instructions and Steps:

  1. Let butter soften by sitting at room temperature for an hour or more.
  2. Place butter In small bowl of electric mixer, beat on low speed for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping sides down.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp milk. Turn mixed to high speed and beat for 2-3 minutes until the butter is soft and whipped and is increased in volume.
  4. Turn mixer to low speed, slowly stream in Steen’s Cane Syrup.
  5. Serve immediately. Store unused whipped butter in a small plastic contained with sealed lid in refrigerator. May store a week or more.

Now when you go grocery shopping; remember Land O Lakes butter and its lowa connection and happy cows on a Blough Dairy Farm.

6 thoughts on “Happy Cows on an Iowa Dairy Farm

  1. Very interesting, Maylee. Of course, with family in Wisconsin, I remember vividly all the cattle, barns and silos. I’m trying to remember: I think much of the herds were Holstein.


  2. Thank you Maylee for writing this exquisite piece on the visit you had at our family farm. What beautiful and full detailed writing as well as fantastic photos! We greatly appreciate it!! Sharing for others on our Blough dairy Facebook page!!


    • Hello, Yes my grandmother is Ida Blough. I believe that you are thinking of Loanne, Barbara and Kathy Snavely. Their brother is Tommy. I recall your family. We had lots of fond memories returning to Waterloo. My, how it has grown. Thanks for commenting.


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