Life at Ohlde Dairy Is About Cows, Family and Feed

By Deb Ohlde, Central Kansas Corn Crew Rep. On April 24, 2019

The silos at Ohlde Dairy stand empty, replaced with covered piles of silage. Silage is a food for cattle that is made from crop plants — every part from stalk to stem — then fermented. It’s a key part of the feed for the nearly 1,300 cows currently milked at the dairy. 

Ohlde Dairy empty silos
This is only one of many changes the dairy has seen over the years as they’ve moved through three generations of family. Well, three and a half generations might be more accurate. The fourth is just getting started helping with chores and riding in the silage chopper — she’s only two, after all.

Ohlde Dairy was started by Bob and Norma Ohlde in North Central Kansas in 1955. One of their five children, Steve, joined the operation with his wife Cindi 25 years later. Currently three of their four sons, Justin and his wife Becky, Levi and Kyler are also partners.  Justin’s daughter Reagan is the fourth generation.

Ohlde Dairy three generations
The Ohldes like to share their story and farming practices with people outside of the agricultural community.

“Too often controversial topics like GMOs or antibiotics in milk get lumped together into a big category and cast in an almost evil light,” Justin said. “We need to explain the role of these tools to consumers to help them understand the real story behind how we produce food.“

For example, many consumers look for grass-fed cattle products. But, as Justin pointed out, corn is a grass because the entire stalk is used in the feed, meaning the animals are being fed the grass along with the grain.

The Ohldes use corn as a key part of what they feed their cows.

“Our ration is corn heavy. We grow all our corn with the intention of harvesting it as silage,” Justin said.

They focus a lot of energy on how to grow good feed for their cattle. They look for corn varieties that will have a high yield of bushels per acre and traits to enhance the quality of the feed. Those traits include softer kernels with more starch, the complete opposite of most corn grown in the Midwest.

They also use a fleet of choppers and silage trucks to ensure the silage is harvested at peak quality.

“Timing is critical to having the highest quality feed for the cows, which in turn maximizes milk production,” Justin said.

Sustainability is also a hot topic among consumers and many people don’t know the pains farmers take to run their operations efficiently and responsibly. For example, cows are great recyclers. They eat feed from the field, then produce manure that helps fertilize the field to continue the cycle.

The Ohldes run a no-till farm, meaning they don’t churn the soil, which helps maintain its structure. They also use cover crops to help maximize the soil’s moisture. Although their commitment to no-till farming requires the use of herbicides and pesticides, the environmental benefits of reduced erosion, runoff and lower fuel usage balance that out.

Farming is a business and a lifestyle choice. Families often enjoy the wide-open spaces, interacting with nature and working together. Farming with multiple generations offers a balance of experience and new ideas. Ohlde Dairy is working hard to make sure that same opportunity is there for the fourth generation and beyond.

To learn more about Ohlde Dairy, you can schedule a tour of their farm, visit during their annual open house in early summer or follow them on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Kansas Corn and has been edited for our website. Read the full, original article by Deb Ohlde, Central Kansas Corn Crew Representative.