By Starrla Cray
NEW GERMANY, MN Truth be told, the Kohls family of Do-n-Joy farm “do enjoy” raising and showing top-notch dairy cattle.
“It’s just a passion,” said Tony Kohls, who has been winning trophies since he was a young boy.
Tony grew up in rural New Germany with his parents, Marlin and Judy; and five siblings Terri, Jim, Jeff, Scott, and Traci.
The Kohls entered their first Holstein at the fair in 1969, just to try it out.
“We stood in the bottom of the class,” Marlin laughed. As time went on, however, they learned what to do and what not to do.
“You start early and lead them around,” Judy said.
“They daresn’t be fat,” Marlin said; and “they’ve got to be shiny,” Judy added.
By the time Tony was born in 1980, the Kohls had picked up quite a few tips and tricks for showing cattle at the Carver County Fair.
Tony entered his first cow at age 5, and immediately fell in love with the experience.
“He’s got a real knack for the cattle,” said Marlin, who has been the field man for Bongards’ Creamery since 1984.
Most of the Kohls children stopped showing when they were done with 4-H, but for Tony, it has developed into a lifelong hobby.
“I don’t hunt, I don’t fish,” said Tony, who attends about four shows each year.
Many of the cows become part of the family, as in the case of multi-award winner, Joy.
“Some people say we’re doing it for Joy,” Tony said, explaining the farm’s name, Do-n-Joy.
Joy lived from 1983 to 2000, having more than 20 offspring during her long life.
“She didn’t have calves the last few years, but we just kept her around as a pet,” Judy said.
After Joy was diagnosed with cancer, she was put to sleep, but the family will never forget her. She is buried under a beautiful garden in Marlin and Judy’s yard.
The Kohls framed a photo of Joy, along with a poem that Tony wrote: “Some cows come into our lives and quickly go…Some cows become special and stay awhile…Leaving beautiful footprints in our pastures…”
Another way the Kohls remember Joy is through a painting of her by Hutchinson artist Jeanne Tuman.
“Judy had that painted for me as my present for our 25th wedding anniversary,” Marlin said, pointing to the eye-catching work of art on their wall.
This January will be Marlin and Judy’s 50th anniversary, and Marlin joked that he wonders what Judy will do this time.
“There might be another cow on the other side,” he laughed.
For Marlin and Judy, thinking about their cows brings back many fond memories.
The ones chosen for showing are led around behind a tractor so that they learn to walk. They become very tame, and they expect special treatment.
“They become like pets then, they’re pests,” Judy laughed.
“You try to put them in the barn, and they stop and want their head petted,” Marlin added. “They want you to play with them.”
When Tony and Jeff were old enough to farm on their own, they purchased Marlin’s herd and brought it to their farm in Arlington. The old barn in New Germany that Marlin had used wasn’t ideal for milking, and it has since been taken down. Marlin’s operation was also smaller, with 55 cows, whereas Jeff and Tony milk about 250.
Even though Marlin isn’t milking anymore, he still enjoys helping Tony and Jeff with the showing.
“I don’t like to miss them,” Marlin said.
Tony typically brings five to 10 cows to each show. It can be an expensive hobby, requiring a trailer, fans, watering devices, and washing equipment.
Showing cattle is also time-consuming. Many of the shows last a few days, and participants stay in dorms above the barn.
This year, Tony had his first cattle judging experience at the Nicollet County Fair.
“I like helping the young kids,” he said, adding that it is fun to see them leading a calf for the first time.
Talking to experienced showmen is a useful way to improve showing skill, Tony said.
“Listen to older people,” Tony said. “Never be scared to ask questions.”
Developing a prize-worthy animal is a “365-day-a-year job,” according to Tony.
“It really all starts at home,” he said.
Tony’s cattle are well-known for their good genes, and some their eggs are sold for embryo transplants. A cow can more than triple its value through the sale of its offspring.
More information about Do-n-Joy farm is available at www.holsteinworld.com/do-n-joy/.