Alberts family hosts Minnesota Holstein Association field day

PINE ISLAND, Minn. — Cheyenne came home for the Minnesota Holstein Association summer field day at Pine-Shelter Farms.

Pine-Shelter Cheyenne, who turns 12 on Sept. 1, was the Grand Champion Holstein and Reserve Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo in 2003. She was showed at Expo by Molly Alberts, who started showing her as a fall calf at the Minnesota State Show in 2000.

Molly, who is now Molly Alberts Norling, took Cheyenne with her to South Dakota where she and husband, Ted, and daughters Grace and Ava live. Many in the family hadn’t seen Cheyenne for five or six years before the Aug. 12 field day.

Cheyenne has a 40,000 pound record and she was last shown in 2006. She is no longer milked. Instead, she is flushed for eggs at Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa. She can be flushed as often as every two weeks, Dave Alberts said.

About a third of the trophy case in the barn office is hardware that Cheyenne won, he said.


Cheyenne’s grandmother on her sire’s side, Pine-Shelter Lucina Fargo, is another of the herd’s elite cows. Lucina Fargo, who the family refers to as Lucy, was grand champion of the World Dairy Expo Junior Show in 1997. Both cows scored excellent 95, Dave said. In 2010, Lucy was recognized by the Minnesota Holstein Association as the Brood Cow of the Year. Nearly 50 percent of the Pine-Shelter herd traces back to Lucy.

The Alberts began registering calves in 1919 and all animals on the farm are registered, including bulls.

The current partners in Alberts Brothers farming operation are Dave, Duane and Rick. Their sister, Amy Alberts Sauder, feeds calves. They are the sons of Florence and Kenneth. Florence is mostly retired, but helps when able. Dave’s son, Eric, and daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Grant Schimek, work on the farm.

Florence’s great-grandchildren are the seventh generation on the farm, which dates to 1910.

The family all wore dark green shirts at the field day, which was attended by more than 125 people, said Heidi Anderson, executive secretary of the Minnesota Holstein Association.

The field day included a meal, farm tours and a presentation on cow comfort.

Matthew Thiel, territory manager for L & L Sales and Service of Kaukauna, Wis., spoke about the "Comfort Zone'' for cows. He worked with Alberts Brothers to retrofit two barns to make them more comfortable for their cows.

In both cases, the stall space was expanded to give the cows more lunge room, or more room to move forward when getting up.


Thiel showed several videos of cows getting up and also of free-stall barns where cows struggled to get up because the stalls weren’t designed to give the cow room to move forward.

Free stalls are culling machines, he said. His goal in working with farmers in 16 countries and 18 states is to create free stalls where cows want to lay down. He wants cows to rest 12 to 14 hours a day.

Stalls are designed based on the genetics of the herd. He suggests one stall per cow.

Since the renovations at Alberts Brothers, somatic cell count has trended down and the rolling herd average is going up. Also, there are more older cows, those third lactation and older, in the herd, Thiel said.

The Alberts brothers led the farm tours, taking the visitors, most of whom were dairy farmers or interested in dairy farming, through their free-stall barns, young stock barn and past the bunker silos.

Their dairy ration includes corn silage, haylage, dried distillers grain, corn gluten, cottonseed and waste potatoes.

"Cows love potatoes," Duane Alberts said.

The cost is favorable, too, coming out equivalent to $1.88 per bushel corn. Cows are fed 25 pounds of potatoes per head per day and they get two semi loads in a week at the farm.


"It’s a very wet product," Duane said, standing outside the potato storage bunker. The waste potatoes are anything the company doesn’t want, from whole potatoes to cubed potatoes to mashed potatoes. There’s no dust with the product.

"We feed as little corn as possible," he said. They have even had corn to sell. They own about 2,000 acres of land, with 1,600 tillable. They other 400 is woods and pasture.

They keep cattle in their pastures and pastures are especially preferable for bulls, Duane said. They raise the top half of their bull calves and sell quite a few to dairies in the southwestern United States. They are sold out of bulls right now.

"We still sell quite a few bulls," he said, though the market follows the milk price.

The family milks 500 cows three times a day in a Germania double-nine parlor. The parlor is in operation roughly 22 hours a day. The parlor was first built as a double-eight in 1980 and the original take-offs and machines are still working, Duane said. Two guys milk each shift, with their newest employee with them for six years. They have very low turnover, he said. They have 11 full-time employees and eight part-time employees in addition to family members.

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