Patricia Kling stands next to her breeding wheel on her farm Dec. 16, 2021, near Taylor, Wisconsin. Kling started using the breeding wheel after she took over managing the farm in 2016.
Patricia Kling stands next to her breeding wheel on her farm Dec. 16, 2021, near Taylor, Wisconsin. Kling started using the breeding wheel after she took over managing the farm in 2016. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER

TAYLOR, Wis. – When Patricia Kling’s husband, Steve, had a lung transplant six years ago, she thought they would have to sell the cows. The couple had always farmed as a team, but Steve was not able to go in the barn after the transplant due to a compromised immune system. But rather than ending their dairying career, Kling took over the management of the 40-cow farm near Taylor.

“When Steve had his transplant, we were gone for 19 days,” Kling said. “When we got home, I stayed in the house the first day because this was new territory. He seemed to be fine, so I went out to the barn the next morning, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Kling milks in a swing-8 parlor and runs 160 acres of owned land and 240 tillable acres of rented land in addition to a pasture for grazing on her family’s dairy in Jackson County. While Kling does a majority of the work in the barn herself, she also works alongside part-time employee Yvonne Weihrouch.
For the first year and a half after Steve’s diagnosis and before the transplant, the Klings’ children, Joel and Sam, and some hired hands helped run the farm. Once Kling was at the helm, however, Steve wanted someone to be in the barn with her on a more consistent schedule.
“I was doing it by myself, and Steve was concerned about me down there (in the barn) by myself,” Kling said. “He put an ad for help on the radio, and (Weihrouch) answered it.” 
Weihrouch farmed with her husband until her son took over in 2018. Weihrouch said after a month without milking cows, she was bored.
“People ask me why I don’t quit, and I say my brain would turn to mush for one thing,” Weihrouch said. “Plus, it gets me out of the house.”
Weihrouch had always milked in a tiestall barn with her husband and was excited about the prospect of milking in a parlor.
“When I first showed (Weihrouch) the parlor she said, ‘You mean I don’t have to bend over to milk the cows? This could be kind of fun,’” Kling said.
Weihrouch has helped the Klings with the morning milking for over three years and is a reliable employee if Kling needs to attend to Steve. 
“Having Yvonne here, she is like the Steady Eddie,” Kling said. “She knows the farm, she is here every day, she knows the cows, and we need somebody like that.”
With Weihrouch’s help, Kling has made significant changes to how the farm is managed. The first thing she noticed when she took over was that Steve did not have any written herd health records. 
“He kept it all in his head,” Kling said. “He could tell the cows apart by the spots on their back. I needed a tag with a number.”
All the cows were tagged, and Kling dusted off the old breeding wheel. 
“We always had this breeding wheel hanging up here, but Steve never really used it,” Kling said. “He just kind of knew. So, I got it going and life has been much better ever since. I write everything down.”
Kling also started using heat detection stickers on the cows’ backs. Weihrouch breeds the cows if they discover a cow in heat while she is there. Kling said she did not even realize that Weihrouch could breed cows at first.
“I went to call the breeder the one day, and Yvonne said she could do it for me,” Kling said. 
Weihrouch had taken an artificial insemination class over 30 years prior.
Perhaps the biggest management change Kling implemented was the transition to organic. She and Steve had rotationally grazed the cows in an organic pasture since 1993. After Kling took over managing the herd and before Weihrouch was on the scene, Kling was at the mercy of inexperienced help, and she had to dump two tanks of milk because treated cows were milked in the tank.
“That’s when I said, ‘I’m ready for the switch,’” Kling said. “We had been talking about it anyway, but it didn’t happen until I was at the helm.”
She looks to Dr. Detloff in Arcadia for nutrition advice on feeding organically. After reading his books, Kling started adding organic kelp to the cows’ diets as a way to help boost their immune systems. 
“I mix the kelp in with the mineral and feed in the bunk,” Kling said. “We are getting the cows bred back, and we haven’t had trouble with cleaning. Kelp is a good overall immune booster.”
The herd is comprised of Holstein which are crossbred with Fleckvieh. Kling said the breed fits well with the grazing operation.
“They’re so substantial,” Kling said. “They’re pretty mellow, and they like grazing, so it’s the perfect fit.” 
Steve does fieldwork and runs the skidloader, and Kling has formed a team to help fill in the other labor gaps that he can no longer do. Kling relies on an A.I. technician when Weihrouch is not around and a veterinarian out of Black River Falls.
“With the vets and the A.I. guy and our service people, it’s just a nice team to fall back on,” Kling said.
Kling tries to stay prepared by keeping records in case Steve’s health ever does take an unexpected turn for the worse. She has a young man help with heavy lifting on the weekends who is also on call if they ever need him. 
Their son, Nathan, farms a mile north of the Klings. He and his crew put up the haylage, corn silage and high moisture corn. Another son, Sam, comes over to help with silo repair, and their other son, Joel, milked cows when they were at the hospital for the transplant. Now the grandchildren have started milking.  
“We are just carrying on the Christmas miracle that we have our husband, father and grandfather,” Kling said. 
While the Klings are open to the idea of helping a young couple get started in the industry, they are also content with how the farm is managed by Kling and Weihrouch.
“I was really nervous at first,” said Kling about taking over. “I didn’t know if I could do it or not, but I guess it’s still afloat.”