Late last summer Heim and Sons (the dairy’s name under the previous generation’s ownership) was low on cows. We were only milking 68 and had 13 that needed to be dried off soon. It wasn’t logical for the dairy to buy cows with the transition of ownership somewhat underway, so David and I were considering maybe buying a dozen or so bred heifers that would calve soon to keep numbers up and get a bigger start on our own herd. David already had a few cows that he had raised from bred heifers he bought several years ago. Right around that time, a somewhat rare and unique opportunity presented itself, and we ended up buying a full herd of 38 cows that I like to call: The Kuckelcows.
The milk inspector, who knew of our interest, informed David of a dairyman who lived a couple hours north of here who had “about 30” cows and was ready to retire. His name is Jody Kuckelman, and he was looking to sell his herd as a whole. Thirty cows was more than we were looking to buy, but David talked to Jody and thought they sounded like good cows. He had been AI-ing since he bought the cows in the early 1970s, and there were actually 38 including bred heifers and dry cows.
On Labor Day (2011) we drove two hours north to meet the Kuckelmans and look at their herd. Jody ran each cow through the gate calling her by number so we could take a look at her. He was particularly proud of their udders, and rightfully so. His wife, Lois, told us each of the cows’ names and described its general temperament. They also gave us a sheet with their latest production numbers and freshening/breeding dates. Each cow had a barn name, and they explained how they named each of their heifers starting with a specific letter depending on the year she was born. The oldest cows we have start with “T”, the youngest with “Y”.
We ended up agreeing on a price that day (somewhat unexpectedly) and hauled the cows home the following weekend. One of the best things about the Kuckelmans is that they kept good records and shared them all with us. They actually gave us their calf books going back to the 80s and DHIA records back to Dec 2008 along with milk barn supplies they no longer had a need for. They told us which cows to watch for kicking and shared several stories about their years dairying. It made us feel really good to know what great people had raised these cows. Dairying is a business, but it’s also so much more than that.
As we looked toward the transition of ownership, we wanted to differentiate all of our calves based on herd origin. The original herd was being numbered counting upward from numbers in the 1100s and denoted with an “H” (we are currently on 1171). David’s calves were numbered in order as well and denoted with “DH” (we were/are on DH28). We decided to start numbering Kuckelcalves with 100 and “HD” for Heim Dairy. Starting January first, all heifer calves have been denoted with “HD”, but the numbering systems have remained seperate.
We also, for sentimental reasons, have tried to keep up the Kuckelmans’ naming system. The three heifers born in 2011 are named with “Z”: Zorba, Zelda, and Zephyr.
And now that it’s 2012, we’re starting our future with the start of the alphabet. That brings me to what prompted this post: Athena! We had our first Kuckel-heifer-calf of 2012 this week. Her dam’s (mother’s) name is Venus, and her sire stack (dad x mom’s dad x mom’s mom’s dad) is Planet x Off Road x Mathie. She’s a few days old and looking great so far!