ST. CHARLES, Minn. — This year marks the 143rd year of the Kaehler family farm.
K-LER Cattle Company is owned by the Mena and Ralph Kaehler family and operated by Seth and Shelby Kaehler, along with their three kids.
Seth Kaehler’s family represents the fifth generation to operate the farm in St. Charles, which has its annual
For sale will be 40 Simmental bulls, six Angus bulls, 34 bred heifers, one donor and 15 commercial replacements.
Kaehler said the number of animals they raise on the farm depends on the year.
“Normally, we try and keep it around 150 mama cows and then breed between 40 and 50 bred heifers every year,” Kaehler said as his two boys, Creed and Colt climbed on the gate behind him. He and his wife also have a young daughter, Haven.
“They’ll be the sixth generation to grow up here,” Kaehler said of their children. “It’s really fun to raise kids on a farm that we grew up on.”
The farm looked a bit different when he was growing up on it with his older brother, Cliff.
“There was Duroc boars here, horses, sheep and lambs, and a variety of animals,” he said of the farm in the past. “We really kind of focused in about 25 years ago, when my brother and I were starting to show off really producing Simmentals, and we’ve kind of just been expanding with that.”
His brother, Cliff, is CEO of another family business, Novel Energy Solutions. Seth Kaehler said he knew fairly early on in his life that he’d take over the family’s farm operation, but it wasn’t until he graduated college and he and his wife started operating the farm that he felt totally in the drivers seat.
“Just learning and getting a different view of how to feed an animal, how to grow it, sell it — it really broadened our horizons of different ideas that work,” he said. “We’re really trying to focus in on making sure everything pencils and pays, because if it’s not paying the bills, it’s pointless to do it.”
Customer base for K-LER Cattle Company varies from producers to consumers, Kaehler said.
“We’ll do some locker beef, but the majority of ours go out to commercial breeders,” Kaehler said.
He said the other portion of their customer base is made of producers looking to sell animals to a commercial producer, and then about 10% would be to people buying show heifers.
The family’s customers range from across the country.
“Last year, we sold to 18 different states,” Kaehler said. “Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Alabama, and then I think the furthest east was Ohio.”
Kaehler said that having his own children on the farm now is a “dream” and puts everything in perspective.
“In the mornings on the weekends, Creed and Colt like to ride in the tractor and help open gates, and it’s very fun,” Kaehler said. “Creed’s got a couple of favorite in the cattle that he can remember, and Colts still trying to figure out how to speak at times but he’ll say cow and calf.”
Haven, who is only a year and half old, likes to “stick it” to her older brothers, Kaehler said.
“It’s a family affair,” he said.
Lessons from the generation before
Seth was in fifth grade when his parents told him and his brother they would be going to Cuba to meet Fidel Castro.
Then Gov. Jesse Ventura invited Ralph Kaehler and his family to participate in a trade mission to the island nation, which led to a first livestock shipment and several other deals over the following years.
“It was definitely an experience, and we met (Castro), and we’d get Christmas cards from him,” Kaehler said. “It was interesting, you know, being on the cover of Time Magazine as a fifth grader.”
It’s always been a family affair on the Kaehler’s farm, and Seth said he’s learned a lot from his parents.
“The best thing we learned is just putting your heart and soul into something and finishing it and following through with it,” he said. “And always thinking ahead, and the biggest thing is trying to figure out what makes yourself stand apart.”
“If it wasn’t for (his parents), we wouldn’t be where we’re at today, trying to really grow it,” Kaehler said of the farm. “They put the drive and the love of the cattle and the operation into it, and it’s something I hope I can pass down to my kids in the future.”
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