Purchase photos

FHSU dairy sale draws a crowd

7/27/2014

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

La CROSSE -- After 100 years, the Fort Hays State University dairy farm is no more.

But somewhat akin to an organ donor, the dairy will live on in the hearts, hands and herds of dairymen in Kansas.

"I think quite a few of them went back to dairies," said Kerry Ferguson, a Kensington dairyman who brought two trailers with him to La Crosse Livestock. "I was impressed."

He will be among those keeping the FHSU program alive, what with the 25 or so animals he purchased Friday.

His three sons accompanied him to the sale and made sure he picked up a few younger animals.

Glenda and Sam Flora, along with 7-year-old daughter Abbie, were on the hunt for calves to replace some lost in a barn fire on their Quinter farm.

"Our barn burned on the Fourth of July," Glenda Flora said as she let Abbie walk along the catwalk overlooking the pens of dairy cattle below. "We lost 13 calves and our bull. We're here looking for replacement heifers."

They picked up a few animals as well, although Abbie tried to work her magic on her dad to convince him to buy a cow and her newly born calf.

Not all of the animals went to dairies, as a few of the older, open cows -- those not pregnant -- went to livestock buyers and will be bound for the packing plant.

La Crosse Livestock owner Frank Seidel knew the turnout would be good for Friday's sale, based on the number of calls he had received from Oklahoma and Colorado as well as several from within Kansas.

FHSU also conducted dairy tests on cows currently milking to help boost the chances of the cows going back to a dairy.

For nearly an hour before the 80-minute sale, prospective buyers walked the alleyways in the sale barn, taking a closer look at the cows.

Ferguson was among them, taking to the catwalk for an overview of the animals separated into different pens.

Back home at Kensington, he milks nearly 300 cows twice a day.

He doesn't like seeing the college get out of the dairy business, recalling the days when he and other high school classmates headed to Hays and the dairy as part of an FFA trip.

Although he was initially a bit concerned about the animals, something convinced him to go ahead and buy approximately 25 of the animals as they entered the auction ring.

"I'll probably buy one or two," he said before the sale. "I brought two trainers."

And, he noted, he brought his three boys, who, he was sure, would want some of the younger animals to show at the fair and add to the herd.

His concerns were with the timing of milking. The animals were milked Thursday, but hadn't been milked Friday morning.

He also was concerned with the number of cows that weren't pregnant, key to getting milk from a cow.

Becky Keil, Galatia, also had hopes of getting a few animals to add to her small herd, some of which already came from FHSU when the dairy farm nearly a year ago started working its way out of the business.

She said they milk anywhere from 14 to 30 cows a day.

"We do not sell the milk," she said. "We put it into hogs and calves."

Several other people also were successful bidders.