September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"We had all been told many times that by the age of 4, he knew every cow in the barn. He knew them by name and what they needed. He was born a cow man," said his daughter-in-law, Marian Filk.
According to his family, Herb lived his life as a dairy farming cow man and died as one, too, at the age of 76 in 1985. To honor this life dedicated to bovines, the Minnesota Livestock Breeders' Association inducted Herb into its Hall of Fame on March 16 during a reception held at the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul, Minn.
"It's a great honor and I'm especially pleased to be able to add it to the legacy," Marian said.
Born in 1908, Herb was raised on a dairy in Hutchinson, Minn., started by his father, who established a herd of registered Holsteins in 1905. Herb caught on to farm life at an early age and took a great interest in the genetics of his family's herd. This interest lead to a natural transition into being a full-time dairy farmer as the second generation in the Filk family to do so.
In addition to milking the cows, Herb took on a larger role of promoting both the Holstein breed and the dairy industry. He served many years on the board of directors for the McLeod County Holstein Club and the Minnesota Holstein Association. For eight years, he served as a national director for Holstein USA.
"I think one of his biggest thrills was going to Brattleboro for those national Holstein meetings and working with men from all over the United States," Marian said.
In addition to these travels, Herb also made his way to many dairy cattle shows to be a judge. His family said it didn't matter if Herb was in his own barn or at a prestigious show, he liked correct cows. Herb's grandson, Ted Filk, knows this fact well. When Ted was together with his grandpa in the family's tiestall barn, he could almost always guarantee one conversation.
"I can remember him coming out [to the farm] to look at the cattle. He did a fair amount of judging so he would always ask me, 'What is the best cow in the barn today? Two weeks prior or two weeks in the future might be a completely different situation, but what is the best cow today.' Then he would ask me why. That was the judge in him coming out," Ted said.
In addition to talking to his grandson about how to pick out a good cow, Herb made a point to teach other area farm kids, too.
"He had a major interest in the dairy industry and keeping kids interested. I know he helped many kids learn to take care of their animals, learn to show them and profit by their involvement in the Holstein industry," Marian said.
It helped on his own farm as both his son, Robert, and grandson, Ted, took over the dairy in their turn. Although Robert also passed away in 1985, Marian kept the farming going with her family until it became too difficult. They held a dispersal in 1987; however, Ted wanted to get his family back in the business. He bought cows and turned the milker pump on again in 1990.
Ted and his wife, Bobbi, and their four kids, Zachary, 22, Jacob, 19, Joshua, 17, and Ella, 11, now run the 65-cow dairy in the same barn where Herb learned to milk cows.
"Everybody is involved in one facet or another. All the kids have shown cattle. We've had our fun with that. It's time consuming and everything costs, but it's fun," Ted said.
Just like Herb, Ted and his family have registered cows and look to breed well-balanced cows.
"Most of our emphasis is on type, but we don't sacrifice production, because at the end of the day production pays the bills," Ted said.
In the future, the farm has potential to go on to a fifth generation in the Filk family with Zachary potentially looking at his options to get into dairy farming.
But until that's decided, the Filks are happy and honored that Herb was recognized for his dairy farming accomplishments.
"Its really important especially for the next generation to know about their great grandfather, the kind of person he was and the things he did for the industry," Marian said. "That would have been forgotten had they not been brought forward at this time in their lives."
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