Bill Thiele Honored by Dairy Producers as Person of Year

Bill Thiele Honored by Dairy Producers as Person of Year

Bill Thiele originally didn’t set out to be a dairyman. Growing up in rural Clearwater, Neb., on the family’s farm among a large family of 11 children, Thiele did his share of chores. He milked cows in his youth, and separated the cream from the milk for daily breakfast. Graduating from Pope John Central Catholic High School in Elgin in 1972, dairying was the farthest thing from his mind. He headed to college at St. John’s Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. But after college, Thiele eventually made it back home and began milking cows and raising hogs with his brother, Tom.

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Today, Thiele Dairy has grown into a large family operation, with Thiele; brothers Tom and Ron; and nephews Luke and Scott milking 2,100 cows and farming together. Serving the dairy industry not only as a producer, but also in leadership roles, Thiele served the Nebraska State Dairy Association as president for six years, and held vital roles for NSDA and the Nebraska Dairy Industry Development Board.

Person of year
As NSDA president, Thiele got used to introducing keynote speakers from the industry, as well as Nebraska governors who attended the annual state conventions. But at this year’s annual state NSDA convention, held March 18 in Columbus, Thiele himself was honored by NSDA with the Philip H. Cole Dairy Industry Person of the Year award. He also joined a panel discussion with his nephews Luke and Scott to talk about estate planning, and working through farm transitions to pass the farm on to the next generation.

A biography of Thiele’s dairy career appeared in the NSDA convention program. According to this biography, when he first returned home from college, he milked 30 cows in a stanchion barn with his brother Tom. They carried buckets of milk to the bulk tank. Eventually, the brothers installed a pipeline and expanded their herd. In 1987, the brothers teamed up with their father, Arnold, and their younger brother, Ron, to remodel a 1960s horse barn into a milking parlor. They started out with a swing-four setup, eventually expanding to a swing-five, swing-six and then to a double-eight parlor. They built their first freestall barn to accommodate a herd of about 120 cows.

Another freestall barn went up to accommodate a total herd of 400. The Thieles remodeled their parlor to a double-12, and eventually to a double-16, milking about 1,200 head of cows. In 2016, the family dairy underwent an expansion, establishing a state-of-the-art parlor and tunnel-ventilated freestall barn. What started out as a swing four in the early days is now a double-28 setup that’s able to milk 56 cows at a time, with room to expand that to a double-35 when needed.

Thiele gave Nebraska Farmer a tour of the new dairy facilities back in 2016. At the open house, the family hosted 1,500 visitors who viewed their new parlor and freestall barns, and learned about how much effort went into the development of that project to create milk cow comfort.

During that interview, Thiele talked about those efforts. “We want every cow to reach her growth and production potential,” he said at the time. “We got them inside, out of inclement weather, so they don’t have to endure the extreme heat of summer or the cold of winter,” he said. “Milking three times per day, our facilities have allowed us to shorten their time in the holding pen waiting to be milked, and we can see the results with more relaxed cows and a great improvement in conception rates.”

Other milk awards
Dairy Herd Improvement Association production awards for 2020 went out to the top three herds in Holstein and crossbreed or mixed divisions. Steffview Dairy, Hartington, won first place in the Holstein division as the state’s highest-producing Holstein herd in pounds of milk and pounds of protein. Roger Sprakel, Crofton, took second place; and Neal and Sharlee Hochstein, Wynot, took third place.

In the crossbreed or mixed division, Crook Dairy, Humboldt, took first place. It was followed by Classic Dairy Inc., Jansen, in second place; and Temme Agri Business, Wayne, in third.

This year’s NSDA convention included a large dairy trade show, sessions on transition planning and improving forage quality, updates on the dairy checkoff and consumer promotions, as well as business meetings and remarks from Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

You can learn more about NSDA at here.

 

Source: Nebraska Farmer

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