Milch und Mais bei Thole

Milk and corn at Thole

This small company reportage was written by Andreas Eiynck in September

American farmer with roots in germany (county Emsland)

650 dairy cows are living on the Thole-farm in Aviston in the US state Illinois. There are also about a hundred calves – and of course the Thole family. With this stock they operate the largest dairy cattle company in Aviston. Here, in the southernmost tip of the Midwest, at the height of St. Louis, there are numerous dairy farmers because further south it gets too hot for milk production in the summer. Therefore, the milk from this part of Illinois goes mainly to the adjacent southern states, especially to Mississippi and Louisiana. In Illinois too, cows sometimes get very warm in midsummer, and they then give less milk. The focus of milk production is therefore in the northern states, especially Wisconsin.

Ancestors from Lingen, milkers from Mexico

At Thole, whose ancestors come from Holthausen in Lingen, milking is done in a milking parlor with 2 times 24 places. The milking parlour, brand “Westfalia” is quality work “made in Germany” and very appreciated by the farmers. The milkers come from Mexico and have been in operation for many years. Local workers are hard to find for this job 365 days a year, seven days a week. The relationship between farmer and the milker families is good – on Sundays they go together to the Catholic Church in Aviston. Most of Aviston`s inhabitants are descendants of immigrants from the Emsland region and ecclesiastical life is also an important social staple there.

Difficult beginnings, high investments

Every two days the farm´s two large milk tanks are full and then fill a whole milk truck. In the USA, too, the price of milk fluctuates constantly. There were good and bad years. The investments for a modern and competitive dairy farm are enormously high. On the Thole-farm such investments were only possible because the four Thole brothers have built the company together.

The beginnings were difficult because in the 80s the milk market was flooded in the USA as well. There were milk quotas and many small farms were “bought” with bonuses out of the market. But in 1986 the Thole farm already had 250 dairy cows. Back then they milked with a 2×6 – herringbone milking parlour.

Family farm

There are currently five family members and five other workers in operation. Mrs. Thole leads the calf rearing and takes over the bookkeeping. Whether in the next generation one of Thole`s children will take over the farm is still written in the stars.

Harvest time

But now the corn harvest is on the Thole-farm and the whole family is on a large scale operatiob with a harvester and three transport vehicles. For three to four weeks the ten tower silos on the farm are going to be filled with corn-silage with about 800 big loader wagons. That´s enough to provide their own herd with it for one year. In 1965 the first high silo was built, there are ten at the moment. A good and balanced feed is also the basis for good milk yields in the USA.

Cows lives in Stable

The dairy cows are living in a big open hall – regular grazing is not possible with this stock size. The walkways are made up of gap floors, in the boxes the animals lay on sand which has turned out to be an ideal underground in this climate. The resulting manure is concentrated and partially dried to be used as a fertilizer.

So the conditions on a dairy farm in the US and Germany are basically very similar.

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