Kurt and Sarah Loehr honored as Holstein Association USA's Distinguished Young Holstein Breeders

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Kurt and Sarah Loehr, owners of Forest Ridge Holsteins are among good company.

The Eden, Wisconsin couple are the winners of the 2020 Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award. Since 1988, 10 of those nominated for the prestigious national award have hailed from Wisconsin, and four of those honorees have been selected from their home county of Fond du Lac.

Kurt and Sarah Loehr are joined by their daughters, Adella, left, and Ainsley, during a tour of their Eden, Wis., farm Forest Ridge Holsteins during the 2019 National Holstein Convention held in Wisconsin. The couple was named as winners of the 2020 Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award.

"This award is an incredible honor," said Sarah. "If you go back and look at the list of past winners, you will see a lot of the "movers and shakers" of the industry."

The Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award presented by Holstein Association USA recognizes significant accomplishments of young Registered Holstein breeders for their commitment to preserving the dairy industry and for achieving excellence in their daily lives.

The farm's prefix Forest-Ridge had humble beginnings in 2003, just before the couple met and started farming together. Sarah grew up on a small dairy farm near Ettrick in west central Wisconsin, milking Registered Holsteins. That small dairy now boasts over 800 milking cows.

Throughout her youth, Sarah become involved in the Junior Holstein Association and her local FFA chapter.

Over in east central Wisconsin, Kurt was also raised on a small grade Holstein farm near Eden. However, he was not involved in 4-H or FFA.

"I grew up with the registered business and started showing at the age of 9, starting with county fairs and the local district show, moving up to the state and national shows," Sarah said.

Kurt's first exposure with Registered Holsteins came about while attending Lakeshore Technical College for Dairy Herd Management.

"Several of his classmates were involved with Registered Holsteins and showing, so his first experience was at about 18-19, and as a result, he started purchasing cattle after completing school and started showing and classifying in 2004."

Sarah, a National Distinguished Junior Member semi-finalist, brought Kurt along on a journey that has established them as a well-respected name in Registered Holstein circles.

A year after they were wed, Kurt and Sarah purchased the farm Kurt grew up on in 2011. The couple's 104-head milking herd has a Rolling Herd Average of 23,289 pounds of milk, 929 pounds of fat, and 738 pounds of protein. Kurt and Sarah’s herd currently consists of 21 Excellent and 46 Very Good cows with an impressive 110.7 BAA, making them one of the top 100 BAA herds in the country.

The Loehr's milk in a 56-stall barn with 12 Delaval ATO and have three full-time employees, themselves and Kurt's dad, Randy. Their herd consists of all Registered Holsteins except for their daughters, Adella, 7, and Ainsley's, 5, two Jersey cows.

With a passion for the show ring, they also have claimed three All-American nominations, and five Red and White All-American nominations.

The Loehr's say the breed for high type with functional feet and legs, excellent udders, dairy strength and wide rumps.  In their quest to bring in a supplemental income, Kurt and Sarah began raising cattle to sell - for the show ring all the way up to expanding dairies looking for more cows.

On average, the couple sells 30 fresh cows/heifers per year at public sales.

"Our partners Lynn and Sara Harbaugh have hosted the Quest for Success sale biennially  since 2013, where we have sold quite a few," Kurt said. "On Quest years we might sell 20 show calves."

The Loehr's say their involvement in the Wisconsin Holstein Association has improved their bottom line and marketability through the use of classification scores that would complete a pedigree and increased the value in the offspring of animals that have been nominated All-American or Junior All-American.

"Most importantly, we have gained lifelong friendships through the people that we have met," Sarah said.

Both Kurt and Sarah are active as youth activity volunteers.

"We have gained an entire family of additional kids," Sarah says. "These kids kow that they can come to us for help, advice or whatever they may need and we are here to help."

"Sarah had some great mentors as a junior exhibitor and it is rewarding to be able to pass that one," Kurt said. "We enjoy giving kids the opportunity to be involved since I didn't have that chance when I was younger."

The Loehrs say their young daughters are eagerly following in their footsteps in their passion for dairy cattle, with Adella now in her third year of showing and Ainsley starting this year with Little Britches and the local district Holstein show.

"They each have their responsibilities at chore time, and are not afraid to tell a relief milker if they are doing something wrong," Sarah said with a laugh.

Kurt also serves on the Wisconsin Holstein Association board of directors.