December 12, 2020 at 5:20 p.m.
“There’s cows and then there’s family, and that’s Charlie, by all means,” said Sonnek of his favorite cow.
Charlie is a 13-year-old registered Holstein on Sonnek’s 90-cow dairy near Foreston. She has produced over 250,000 pounds of milk and has transitioned into a well-deserved retirement.
“I have lost track of how many daughters (she has),” Sonnek said. “She will make 30 eggs pretty easily.”
Sonnek is proud of her genetics and proud she can continue to provide excellence in generations of cows to come.
“She’s all personality,” Sonnek said.
Sonnek has a special connection with Charlie and can read her better than most cows on the farm. She is scored Excellent-94 and has made over 250 embryos in her lifetime.
“(Charlie) traces back over 40 years to this herd,” he said. “She’s sent three bulls to A.I. herself and has had a couple grandsons there as well.”
Six of her daughters have scored Excellent as well; two of them 92 and 93. They fill the barn and are dear to Sonnek.
As a young heifer, she was shown at the Minnesota State Fair.
“We took her as a fall calf,” Sonnek said. “That was when this new thing called genomic testing was coming out, and we decided to test her.”
Soon enough, they found Charlie was ranked in the top 30 heifers of the nation genetic-wise. After that initial show, she was not shown again, but her legacy lived on through her offspring.
“She has a few popular A.I. bulls, Corvette and Golddust are two you might hear about,” Sonnek said.
He enjoys hearing about where Charlie’s genetics end up, and how they fit into other’s herds. Using technology to keep in touch with other farmers, Sonnek can see photos and send updates on how his old gal is doing.
“People will text me that they have a connection to her, so that’s been really fun,” Sonnek said.
As she ages upward, Charlie has had a few close calls.
“We almost lost her in September,” Sonnek said. “She would go down with milk fever in the middle of lactation, but I usually know how to handle it and she’d recover.”
This time, she did not bounce back like normal, and Sonnek started to worry.
“Her being 13, we made plans to do a terminal IVF on her and I spent some time with her,” he said. “I went to get some pain killers, and we were going to try to get her up for the procedure. When I came back, she was up in the barn and drinking water.”
Charlie is fondly known to be the farm’s babysitter.
“She has a unique bellow, and I have called her the babysitter because when a baby is born, she’ll be standing near it and hollering,” Sonnek said.
After 13 years together, Sonnek is great at reading her intricacies.
“The other day I walked in the barn and she was looking at me with her head up,” he said. “I knew she was in heat, and sure enough, she was.”
Sonnek’s parents, Junior and Judy, moved to the area in 1962 from near Mankato. They started a herd of registered Holsteins for Eric and his brother, Kyle, to show in 4-H.
Today Sonnek carries on that legacy by leasing animals to local 4-H’ers.
“We leased out 14 animals last year,” he said. “Most of them are Charlie babies.”
On Sonnek’s farm, it is not a herd, it is a family.
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