Published in Farmland News, June 19, 2018
Our Farm… Our Family… Our Future
By: Judy Rosebrook
Passing down the family farm from generation to generation is fairly common in this area. The Kahle Dairy Farm in Putnam County, has been and is now operated by six generations and have a vision for the seventh generation to carry on the tradition
In 1834, John Kahle and his wife, Bernadina, purchased section 15 in Greensburg Township, which was the beginning of the multi-generational Kahle farm. Throughout the years the size of the farm fluctuated when land was purchased and sold. Not only did the size vary, but over the years a variety of animals were raised according to what was profitable at that particular time.
Brothers Norm and Dave, the fifth generation of Kahles, recall hearing many stories of their Grandpa Ben raised and sold Clydesdales, he even sold them to Budweiser at one point.
Cyril Kahle, the fourth generation, was an influential role model for his sons, Norm and Dave, and the farm. As boys, Norm and Dave’s mother, Anna Marie, managed two chicken coops while the boys were expected to tend to the cattle and hogs. The boys continued hog farming up until the early 1990’s.
In keeping with tradition of the other Putnam County boys, the Kahle’s worked hard to make their farm profitable. After their dad passed away in 1985 at the age of 57, Norm and Dave did custom manure application for other farmers to increase revenue.
Having a successful farming operation takes a lot of hard work.
All In The Family
Norm and Dave have been running the family dairy farm for 30 years. Dave lives in the original home on the farm and Norm lives nearby with his wife, Ranae. Ranae works at a local factory, but helps out on the farm when she is needed.
Of Norm and Ranae’s seven children, two are involved with the farm, their oldest daughter, Nicole Kline and her husband Cory, and son Steve (who is the middle of the seven). Steve and his wife, Briana, are parents to 2-1/2 year-old son, Ben, 1 year-old daughter, Gemma and are expecting their third child.
“Ben loves the cows, so on Sunday evenings I like to bring him along with me.” I was brought up on the farm and we want our children to have that experience too,” shared Steve.
From Farm to Fridge
Have you ever stopped and thought about how the milk sitting in your fridge got there? Sure it went from the dairy case to your shopping cart and then finally to your fridge, but the process started long before that!
The travel from farm to fridge begins in the barn and the milking parlor. There are six major breeds of dairy cows in the United States including:
- Brown Swiss
- Milking Shorthorn
The Kahle’s have 80-head of Holsteins, which are easily recognized by their distinctive black and white (and sometimes red and white) coloring. You’ve heard the saying, ‘No two snowflakes are alike’, well, no two Holsteins have the same spots!’
The Kale’s use a Sawtooth milking system which can milk six cows at a time, three on a side. The name Sawtooth came from the way each side is shaped in a ‘Z’ form.
“We milk two times a day, at 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. My Uncle Dave helps with the a.m. feeding and when I finish helping my dad feed the calves, I go help him. Dave and I milk the p.m. shift and my cousin, Eric Schroeder, comes to help us after he finishes his day job at Glandorf Lumber. Milking 80 cows’ takes approximately three hours morning and evening, and when we include the cleaning and feeding of the cows, we dedicate eight hours a day (give or take), seven days a week tending to the dairy operation! Plus, we farm wheat, corn and beans,” Steve declared.
Norm shared, “For the past ten years we’ve been supplying our milk to Arps Dairy in Defiance, Ohio. We like the ‘hometown’ feel they provide. Our milk tank holds 1,600 gallons of milk (which is measured by pounds) and is picked up and taken directly to Arps to be bottled for schools, carry-outs and grocery stores.
Preserving Farming Practices
Steve explained that, “Caring for the cows is an around-the-clock job. We use free stalls to keep the cows comfortable and we have ‘curtains’ or tarps on the sides which can be pulled down to maintain a pleasant temperature. The cows also have access to a 10-acre patch of pasture ground for additional room and exercise.”
Steve continued explaining that “We feed them ground corn, which is stored in grain bins located here on the farm, with supplements two times a day. Also, the cows can ‘choice’ feed (whenever they want) on hay. Our hay bales are 5 foot by 6 foot round bales and weigh 2,400-lbs.”
Dairy farmers are required by law to keep detailed records about many aspects of the farm, including how they store and recycle manure.
“We use an ‘alley’ scraper to move the manure from the herd area to a temporary storage area. When that is full we pump the manure into an outdoor pit, to be used for fertilizer,” stated Steve.
A Family Affair
In addition to the cow herd, the Kahle family feed calves year round in huts, keeping the heifers for replacements and the weaned steer calves to raise for meat.
“We currently have sixteen bull and heifer calves that are two months old. When they are weaned off milk and can eat the grains, they travel to and reside at my sister, Nicole’s farm for approximately one year. After the year, the heifers come back here for breeding and the steers are sent to a market in Topeka, Indiana,” offered Steve.
Robots On The Farm?
Gone are the days when farmers milked their cows manually. Today, more and more farms are adopting robotic milking machines that handle the whole milking process.
The development of automatic milking machines means that a robot, in cooperation with a computer, carries out the daily milking of the cows. Every cow wears an electronic tag, making it possible for the machine to detect the cow’s data. Steve was very enthusiastic when sharing what the installation of the robotic milkers will mean for their dairy farm.
“Within a couple of months, we will have two robotic milkers installed that will milk around the clock. It requires about the same amount of time, but you can take better care of the cow’s health and nutrition. Being milked by the robotic milkers will be a big change for our cows. The machines feed the cows pellets to entice them in and neck sensors worn by the cows will give us a variety of valuable information such as:
- Are they in heat and ready to be bred
- The number of pounds of milk produced each day
- The cows lactation cycles
- And a slew of other beneficial information”
Our Family… Our Future
Many families have a certain heirloom or tradition which is passed down from generation to generation, and for the Kahle family it’s the family farm.
Since 1834, the Kahle family has strived to maintain a clean, well-managed dairy and grain operation, and are proud to be a part of a multi-generational farm. Most importantly, the farm wouldn’t be what it is today without the help and cooperation of the entire family – from wives to children to nephews and in-laws.
Note: Farmland News would like to thank the Kahle Family for sharing their story.
Judy and her husband, Howard, live on a farm near Deshler, Ohio. She enjoys reading, writing, public speaking, camping and spending time with her kids and grandkids. FN