November 29, 2021 at 8:40 p.m.

Dairy Profile: Karl Heldberg

Karl Heldberg
Le Sueur, Minnesota
Le Sueur County
62 cows
How did you get into farming? I was born and raised on this farm, except we didn’t milk cows. I bought the neighbor›s dairy herd when I graduated from college. I took over his 38-cow herd and rented the facility down there for eight years. Then, eight years later, I built the facility we’re in right now, a compost barn and step-up parlor.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? The milk price. It would be nice for the milk price to keep a net income close to the rate of inflation right now. When I started out milking for a couple months, it was at $18 per hundredweight and now we’re not even getting that.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? When we went from the tiestall barn to the step-up parlor and the bedding pack barn. It made it easier for milking, cow health and overall life. With this addition, we didn’t have to carry all the feed to the cows.

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefitted you? We really have not made any major changes, but have always been staying on top of dry and lactating cow rations for breeding back and calving in easy. We also breed more for more of a beef feeder animal right now to add value to the farm.
What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? It seems like it’s been hard to control it. I’m always evaluating what I’m spending and trying to get the most out of it what I can. As well as trying to do as much repairs and stuff myself.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? I try to stay in touch with them because even if they aren’t working for me full time, maybe they can come help me out sometimes. I had a couple people come on for a couple years and they weren’t full time then, but they were there when we needed them. The pandemic actually helped me more than anything with the colleges and schools closed. My employees could do all of their college work at home and still come out here twice a day. That wasn’t too bad of a deal.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. Designating certain jobs to people and time management. I am able to get more things done at once, and I found out that you only can do so much yourself. I had to get people to help me or have more little custom jobs done.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? Time with my family when they have a chance to help out and all working together. My wife does all the chopping, a lot of the fieldwork and combining. The kids also do their part in chores with feeding the calves, setting up milkers, cleaning the parlor out, mixing and putting down some feed, helping dip and wipe cows, and some fieldwork too.

What advice would you give to other dairy farmers? You have to enjoy your time at your work or else it gets to be pretty long days if you don’t enjoy doing it. Like a friend of mine, he just got out and he encouraged me to keep milking as long as I have everything here to do it. I try to stay positive.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? There has been a lot of little things; the tractor, skid loader and calf pasteurizer have been a great help. There’s also the kernel processor on our chopper. It’s not just one little thing that makes everything click.

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? I feel like if I raise my kids with a good work ethic and balance family life and working that would be my biggest accomplishment. The field representative from Bongard’s Creamery also told me 15 years ago, when he started me out, that he started a lot of people over the years but I’ve been his only customer that’s been able to stick with it the whole time. He said everybody gets two or three years into it and then something goes awry and they are not in business anymore. So, to stay in business for the last 24 years is my biggest accomplishment.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? Just to try and make things a little bit more profitable; that’s why we are messing around in the feeder cattle market. We are trying to add value to the farm. But we will just have to wait and see how this profitability pans out.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? When we get a chance, we try and go on some trips. We are actually going to try to go for Thanksgiving up to Nancy’s brother’s place near Bemidji. We also usually do one family summer trip fishing at a cabin or a house. We have been able to accomplish that once a year. We have also been over to the Black Hills twice and my wife and I went on three cruises so far in the past 14 years. We just have to try and designate some time. This year, we had to do like a stay-at-home vacation, so we went fishing locally and it helps that Lake Washington and some of the best fishing in southern Minnesota is only 10 minutes away.


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.