A Dairy Cow a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
West Bend, WI
Dairy Focus Consultant: Nicole Hibbard
Calf and Heifer Specialist : Jennifer Wiley
- Worked with Cargill to transition away from bST while improving production
- Third generation brothers operating their family dairy farm
- Milking 500 cows, total of 1,300 head
What would you say if your doctor told you farming would be good for your health? Well, that’s exactly what prompted Steve and Ken Ihlenfeld’s grandfather to leave the city of Milwaukee and buy a dairy farm in the country in 1955. “The doctor said he should really get a job where he can control his hours if he’s having a bad day,” Steve joked, “and that farming would be a good idea.” Over sixty years later, Ihlenfeld Farms has expanded, starting with 18 cows to milking 500 today. Total head numbers 1,300 spread across four different farms.
Steve called local Cargill Dairy Focus Consultant (DFC) Vern Rosman in 2013 when they were experiencing low fat tests, and has been working with him ever since. Cargill Calf and Heifer Specialist Jennifer Wiley also works with Ihlenfeld Farms on their youngstock. Vern visited Ihlenfeld Farms every Monday, and improved reproduction, increased milk production, and kept the herd healthy over the past five years. Recently retired, Vern has worked with Dairy Focus Consultant Nicole Hibbard to help the farm make continuous improvements.
Milk per cow is the driving metric of success at Ihlenfeld Farms. But in the summer of 2017, the dairy was faced with the need to discontinue use of bovine somatotrophin (bST). Milk production was dropping and days in milk were on the rise. Rosman worked with the Ihlenfelds to focus more on cow health and reproduction, while making minor adjustments to the herd’s nutrition program to support those goals. A year later, Ihlenfeld Farms has continued to see tremendous improvements in breeding, days in milk, and milk production. “I would’ve never thought when we stopped giving bST and dropped in milk that a year later we’d be as high, if not higher than where we were before.” says Steve. “We dropped from 91 to 83 pounds when we went off of Posilac®, and we’re 93-95 pounds now without it.”
Steve hadn’t always dreamt of becoming a dairy farmer, but it was the occupation into which he was born. “My dad kept building up – when he took over they were milking 18 cows, and he kept adding on to the old barn. It just kept getting bigger,” explained Steve. In 1999, Steve followed in his father’s footsteps by continuing to grow the farm. Today, Steve dreams of having the opportunity to do what his parents did for him, and hopefully pass Ihlenfeld Farms onto a fourth generation.