Kuehl to be inducted into Wall of Fame
The Beaver Dam School District will be inducting Ray Kuehl into the district’s Wall of Fame as an Outstanding Alumnus during a ceremony on April 1.
He will join other previously honored alumni including actor Fred MacMurray, a two-star Army general, an Olympic Athlete, a physicist researcher and a famous novelist.
Kuehl was one of six dairy farmers who started World Dairy Expo.
He worked for the Holstein Association, opening world markets for live cattle, and he was on the ground floor for internationally marketing semen and embryos.
He has judged national shows in 13 countries on four continents.
While at Beaver Dam High School, Kuehl was active in the FFA and was State FFA Treasurer in 1952-53, earning his American Farmer Degree at the national convention in 1954.
When he gave his commencement address to his graduating class of 1952, he said his personal goal in life was to address the world need for food and nutrition and he said that the advancement of U.S. agriculture would be an integral part of this.
Kuehl attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for one year but found it difficult to focus on college while operating his expanding farm business, which included 35 registered Holsteins and 200 acres of land.
He credits the late Willard Nehls, well-known Juneau dairyman, for the development of his “eye for cattle”. He worked for Nehls as a herdsman, fitter and leadsman while in high school.
He also accompanied Nehls when he travelled the state looking for outstanding cattle that he then sold to breeders who needed the excellent bloodlines found only in America’s Dairyland.
As a young farmer, Kuehl built his herd by buying quality cattle with superior pedigrees. He bred them to superior bulls and by artificial insemination.
In 1956 he had the top-producing herd in Dodge County with just over 5500 pounds of milk average yearly production.
His accomplishments caught the attention of farmers around the state and the nation.
In 1956 a farmer in Cuba asked him to purchase 350 top quality cows for him. Kuehl’s challenge was to contact farmers throughout the state who might have cattle available for sale.
He negotiated the price and gathered the animals, then followed the export regulations and health checks before transporting them to the Port of New Orleans to be shipped by boat to Cuba.
Kuehl borrowed the money to complete the deal and then needed to wait a long time for his money because of the political activities of the time in Cuba.
He was very involved in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau and the Wisconsin Holstein Association, and the Pure Milk Producers Association, serving on the board of each organization.
He chaired the “Alice in Dairyland” finals, hosted by Beaver Dam, in 1964.
HELPED START WORLD DAIRY EXPO
In fall of 1964, the organizers of the U.S. National Dairy Cattle Show in Waterloo, Iowa, announced that due to financial and personnel reasons the show would be discontinued following the 1965 show.
This news was devastating to the dairy cattle industry because without the national show, farmers would lose a vital link in the process of improvement of dairy cattle in the U.S.
Kuehl and five other cattle breeders developed a plan to hold the show in Madison. The first show in 1967 was the birth of what continues as World Dairy Expo. The show has come to be known as the largest dairy industry exposition in the nation.
Kuehl is currently emeritus board member of Expo and has served on the corporate board for Expo and as chairman and manager of International Affairs.
A NEW CAREER
His love for cattle and interest in improving agriculture domestically and internationally led to a major career change in 1970 when he sold his cattle and farm at Beaver Dam and took a position with the U.S. Holstein-Friesian Cattle Breeder’s Association in Brattleboro, VT.
He worked as a classifier, field representative and international marketer for that organization for 9 years.
As a classifier he evaluated cows’ genetic ability to pass on traits to offspring. He evaluated some of the best herds of cattle in the country and got to know the farmers.
That led to an invitation to serve as the official judge at state fairs, regional shows and World Dairy Expo.
In his position as an international marketer for the Holstein Association he travelled the country, identifying farmers who had surplus excellent cattle, then connected them with potential buyers overseas, completing the governmental and health regulations for exports and making sure the animals arrived safety at their destination.
He oversaw the marketing of thousands of head of cattle to countries like South and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
His “breakthrough” export was to Holland, a sale that was significant because the Holstein breed originated in Holland and was imported to the U.S. in the 1800s.
In the 1970s the U.S. Holstein was far superior to the Netherland farmer’s cattle and Dutch farmers wanted the U.S. Holsteins to improve their stock.
The Dutch farmers crossed the U.S. cattle with their own genetics and then invited Kuehl to Holland to evaluate their progress and judge their National Dairy Cattle Show. That led to invitations from 13 other countries to judge shows.
“I was living the goals that I had set for myself in my commencement speech,” Kuehl says.
As time went on rules for shipping cattle to other countries became more stringent. His marketing efforts then focused on the exportation of U.S. genetics through the sale of frozen bull semen.
Then under his leadership with Holstein Association embryo transfers became the new vehicle by which to market U.S. dairy cattle genetics to foreign farmers.
In 1979 Kuehl resigned from the Holstein Association to move back to Wisconsin where he started his own dairy cattle consulting business. Farmers hired him to make mating selections and do strategic planning for their farms.
In 1983 he had the opportunity to buy into a partnership of American Genetics, a 400-cow, 2500-acre farm in Middleton and Arlington. This farm specialized in acquiring superior cows, collecting embryos and marketing them around the world.
Kuehl managed the cows, marketed embryos and stock and served as herdsman and farm manager.
In 1993 he was appointed by Governor Thompson to a commission to locate a site and build the World Dairy Trade Center and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture office building. The same year, health issues forced him to get out of farming and sell his interest in the genetics business.
He then began a new career in real estate and operates Kuehl Auction Service at Waunakee. He also continues judging cattle and working with youth and owns a few prize animals that are being cared for by other farmers in the state.
He and his wife De have one son, Bruce, who is a dairy cattle photographer in Texas.
Kuehl was nominated for the honor by Dave Laatsch, interim UW Extension agent in Dodge County and former agriculture instructor at Beaver Dam High School. The nomination was endorsed by many others in the dairy industry.
Laatsch commends Kuehl for his continued commitment to the dairy industry and his interest in helping youth involved in 4-H and FFA programs develop their dairy skills.
“His leadership, common sense approach, honesty, knowledge and experience gave him extreme credibility and respect among dairy cattle breeders across the country,” Laatsch comments.