Local dairy farm becomes family business after three generations

By Sarah Lideen, Staff Writer
[email protected] 

Standing with their dairy cows are (from left): Judy, Jeff and Joe Klaphake. Cows are separated into four groups of 65 - 70 cattle, and led to the Klaphake’s milking parlor, where they are able to milk up to 16 cows at a time.

Jeff Klaphake has been dairy farming his entire life, and has now turned his passion into a family business.

“It was very important for us when we had a family that our kids would grow up farming,” said Klaphake, whose father founded the farm in 1960.

Although the Klaphakes describe their farm as typical, they can almost be considered rare, with less than 2 percent of the United States population involved in farming today, according to the Dairy Farming Today Web site.

Klaphake and his wife, Judy, have three children, two of whom have married farmers, while their son, Joe, works with them on their farm outside Albany.

“It’s a corporation between me, Joe and Judy,” said Jeff.

At 3:30 a.m. Jeff and Joe begin their day feeding and milking their 260 milk producing cattle. With a total of 300 cattle on their dairy farm, 40 cattle are dry at all times for a 60 day period before they can be milked again for the next 365 days.

While cattle are being tended to, Judy feeds the calves and takes care of paperwork and payroll.

“I like being at home. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be here,” said Judy.

Throughout the day, the Klaphakes tend to daily maintenance around the farm, breeding cattle, checking for sick animals and bedding cattle.

Instead of the typical sawdust or wood shaving bedding that can produce bacteria, the cows are bedded in sand, which is cleaned twice a day and changed weekly.

The Klaphakes say that they work hard to ensure their cows are clean and comfortable, including large fans to keep air flow going throughout the barn. Constant air flow reduces dust, odors and any airborne diseases.

In order to promote comfortability and hygiene, cattle are kept in a free stall barn with sand bedding and have consistent air flow throughout the day.

“We enjoy working with the cattle,” said Jeff.

In the winter months, their work day lasts a typical eight hours, while the summer months require 15 – 18 hours of work per day.

“We work hard to make this work. We strive to do a very good job on our dairy. The dairy cows are what make this work,” said Jeff.

Farming 900 acres, the  Klaphakes have two full-time and two part-time hired hands to assist with daily duties.

“We value our employees,” said Jeff.

The Klaphakes chop and bale their own hay and custom harvest for local farmers, while growing  their own alfalfa, corn and other small grains used to feed their cattle. All young stock is raised on the farm, including calves, heifers and 200 steers.

“I enjoy it. I’ve done it all my life,” said Jeff.

Dairy Farming Today says the average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk per day, meaning one cow can produce as much as 2,500 to 3,000 gallons every year.

The 260 cattle at the Klaphake farm generate more than 1,600 gallons per day, so the Klaphakes are responsible for more than 600,000 gallons of America’s milk production every year, which is then distributed locally.

The family works closely together and are actively involved in the management of the farm, enjoying the fact that they are able to spend time in making it the success that it is.

“At the end of the day you can see what you have accomplished,” said Joe.

Joe plans to continue farming and keep the tradition in the family.