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Ohldes expand family dairy legacy

Steve and Cindi Ohlde of Ohlde Family Farms named the 2024 Kansas Distinguished Dairy Family.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

April 23, 2024

6 Min Read
Steve and Cindi Ohlde surrounded by family at K-State
FAMILY LEGACY: Steve and Cindi Ohlde (seated) of Linn, Kan., were recognized with the 2024 Kansas Distinguished Dairy Award at the Kansas Dairy Conference, March 22 in Manhattan, Kan. They are joined by their children, the children’s spouses, and their grandchildren.Photos by Jennifer M. Latzke

Today, Ohlde Family Farms of Linn, Kan., is a multigenerational family dairy with six sites in Kansas and Nebraska, and a payroll of more than 90 employees. Its enterprises span multiple dairy herds totaling 4,100 cows, a heifer development yard, a composting business and a growing agronomy enterprise.


It’s a long way from the three FFA project Holsteins that Bob and Norma Ohlde started out with in 1955, to be sure, says their son, Steve Ohlde. And yet, his parents set the Ohlde family on a path to expand the family business — and do so with family and faith at the center of it all.

Steve and his wife, Cindi, reflected on what it takes to continue and expand a family dairy legacy as they accepted the 2024 Kansas Distinguished Dairy Award at the Kansas Dairy Conference, March 22 in Manhattan, Kan. Steve and Cindi are the second generation to earn this honor, following in the footsteps of Bob and Norma who earned it in 1999 — which makes it particularly rewarding, the couple says.

“Looking back over the years, and all the hard work that it takes to do what we’ve done, it’s just really gratifying to be recognized for our accomplishments,” Steve says.

The award is sponsored by Kansas State University Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine.

Dairy beginnings

Steve and Cindi’s part of the Ohlde family legacy officially began in 1980, when they joined the family dairy that had 80 cows. They raised their four sons over the next 20 years on the dairy farm, instilling the same values passed along by Bob and Norma — work together, find your niche, do your best, and enrich the community and the environment that you serve.


Keeping family and faith at the center, they expanded the dairy bit by bit. In 2007, Steve and Cindi’s two oldest sons, Justin and Kyler, became partners in the operation, which had since grown to 600 cows. Today Justin uses his skills in marketing and financials, while Kyler is the operations manager, overseeing the day-to-day aspects of the whole dairy. In 2016, their third son, Levi, became a partner, using his skill set to become the farm operations manager, in charge of all cropping and through the Foremost Farms entity of Ohlde Family Farms. And while their youngest, Weston, isn’t associated with the dairy, Steve and Cindi encouraged him on his career path in finance.

All four sons came to their career interests naturally, Steve says. “They all had a little different interest in parts of the farm, and of course we encouraged them to kind of pursue what they really liked,” he says. And it’s worked out. Their sons brought additional knowledge to the family dairy that they were able to use in the next two decades to expand even further than Bob and Norma may have ever dreamed.

Careful, sensible growth

Today, the Ohlde Family Farms milking herd averages 87 to 88 pounds of milk per cow per day, with a 4.15% fat and 3.35% protein content. And their current somatic cell count is 190,000 cells per milliliter of milk. They do this by keeping cow health and comfort their top priority, using technology and a team of skilled employees. They use Alta cow collars to track cow health factors, ensuring health issues are caught sooner and treated to improve animal health.

They also centralized their labor around calving, with the operation at Linn freshening all the animals and then distributing those milking cows to the other dairies about 10 days in milk.

Dairy Expansion Timeline

Steve and Cindi say expanding the dairy took teamwork and communication to make the vision a reality. When their sons started to join the family dairy, they instituted a weekly owners meeting “so we can sit down and talk about stuff,” Steve says. “In about 2014 or 2015, we sat down and we dreamed a little bit. We asked, ‘Where do we want to be in 10 years?’ So we wrote all these things down in a timeline.”

Having this list of goals from each of the partners, and a vision of the future of Ohlde Family Farms, helped the Ohldes as opportunities to expand came along, Steve says. Keeping the communication lines open among the members of the family and making sure everyone is heard and is working toward the goal is key, Steve adds.

Put family life first

But even more importantly, Cindi adds, this vision process also allowed the family to not get overwhelmed so that family life suffered. Each of their sons is married and has children, and having raised a family and expanded a dairy, the couple knew what challenges their sons would face.

“We didn’t want them to get too busy that our boys don’t have time for a family life and things, because they’ve all got little kids, and wives — and that’s really important,” Cindi says. “So, we really stress figuring out a way to do all of this, but yet still have your time with your families.”

“The growth over the years, it’s allowed our kids to come back and yet not be as married to the dairy as we were before we had employees,” Steve says. “You know, when we milked 80 to 100 cows, you were the feeder, the breeder, the milker, you put the crops out and did the harvesting — it was some busy times.”

Steve and Cindi say they take pride in their sons and daughters-in-law, and they look forward to what their grandchildren’s generation will accomplish, whether that’s on the farm or off of it. “It would be nice to be able to see another generation, down the road, come into the business and carry it on,” Steve says.

And maybe one of them will see their name added to the list of Kansas Distinguished Dairy Award winners, too.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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