This was a feature article in our 2020 Fall issue written by Rachel Coyne.
Tucked at the end of a nearly mile long driveway in Litchfield, Minnesota is the All-American earning Corstar Farm. Cory and Kristen Salzl, along with their two-year old son, Joe, milk 25 cows, mainly Milking Shorthorns, with a few Ayrshires and Guernseys sprinkled in the herd. Corstar Farm began in 2002, before they had met each other, when Cory bought his first registered dairy animal, a Red & White Holstein. Prior to that, Cory grew up on a grade Holstein farm and didn’t show through 4-H, but was a member of his local FFA chapter, where he got a start in dairy judging. Through FFA and learning alongside his family’s Select Sires breeder when he visited the farm, Cory’s interest was sparked in dairy cattle genetics. In 2005, Cory exhibited his first animal at World Dairy Expo, a Red and White Fall Calf who placed last in her class, this ignited a fire within him.
Kristen grew up with Registered Guernseys and grade Holsteins. The granddaughter of Klussendorf winner Neill Heitke, showing has been in her blood since birth. She first showed at World Dairy Expo in fifth grade and has shown at Madison nearly every year since. Today, Cory and Kristen both work off the farm, Cory as a Dairy Inspector for the State of Minnesota and Kristen as the Program Coordinator for Minnesota Dairy Initiative.
It seems only fitting that Cory and Kristen first hit it off when he hired her to be his fitter at World Dairy Expo in 2009, the first year he took his own string to Madison.
Since 2009, Cory and Kristen have exhibited a string at World Dairy Expo every year. To date, they have earned 34 All-American Nominations in the Milking Shorthorn and Guernsey breeds. 11 All-Americans, 10 Expo class winners and four Minnesota State Fair Grand Champions have called Corstar home.
The first Milking Shorthorn that Cory bought came from a City Slickers Fall for Colors Sale. He was interested in getting into a breed other than Red and Whites, so he went to the sale looking for a calf to buy of a different breed. Russ Thyen pointed him in the direction of a little July born Milking Shorthorn calf, North Stars Mandy-ET. After having a heifer calf, she scored 83 points as a two-year old. In her second lactation, Mandy calved again with a heifer named Corstar Liriano Maize EXP.
Maize was three times nominated All-American and was named Honorable Mention All-American as a summer yearling, two-year old, and a four-year old. Kristen and Cory reminisced about Maize’s colored shavings run as a four-year old when they realized they never milked out her fore quarters the night before the show. “She looked awesome! She placed third that day despite her fore quarters never getting milked out,” stated Kristen. Maize is now 11 years old and is joined in the herd by her Innisfail Perfection EXP daughter scored Excellent 92.
From that same lineage came Corstar Deuce Mix P EXP TW 2E-90. Mix was Junior Champion at the Minnesota State Fair as a Spring Yearling heifer and took a little time to develop as a cow. As a as a Junior three-year old, Mix earned All-American honors in 2016 and won the Milking Shorthorn Futurity at World Dairy Expo. After being named All-American, Mix was injured and has now calved back in for a second time after her injury. She flushed well in that time off and is now really coming back on with the potential to one day show again.
The ‘L’ family at Corstar traces back to Nixs MA Love 2E-91. Cory purchased Love at the Minnesota State Milking Shorthorn Sale that used to be held in September. Love’s dam, Nixs Lilly Pad EX-93, had just been named Grand at the Minnesota State Fair and was Grand at Madison just weeks after Cory bought Love. In 2010, Love became a fourth generation All-American when she won as a two-year old at World Dairy Expo.
North Stars Mega Peanut EXP ET EX-92 was purchased as an embryo and turned out to be an exciting cow throughout her entire life. She was a fun, modern cow and won the futurity at World Dairy Expo. Along with being named Reserve All-American as a three-year old, Peanut was named All-American as a two-year old and spring calf, and was Reserve All-American as a spring yearling. She never had a heifer, had one ET heifer and all of her natural calves were bulls. Another Peanut daughter from a 2015 flush just hit the ground at Corstar.
A cow that has written her own story in Milking Shorthorn history books is Corstar Lovely Lady EXP ET EX-94. In 2017 and 2019, Lovely Lady topped the Milking Shorthorn production records for the year. 4-06 2x 305d 34070m 3.3% 1127f 2.9% 977p is her best record to date. Lovely Lady is a fifth generation excellent and All-American in milking form.
Lovely Lady’s most notable show accolades took Cory and Kristen completely by surprise. In 2014, Lovely Lady was a senior two-year old and won her class at Madison. Her herdmate, Peanut showed as a junior three-year old the same day. Peanut was known to the Salzls and their followers as their best cow that year. Lovely Lady winning her class was exciting, but they were waiting to see Peanut out in her class. Peanut placed second in her class to the Intermediate Champion cow from Harrisburg. Cory and Kristen were pleased with this result and assumed judge Michael Heath would name the winning junior three-year old as Intermediate, and hoped for Reserve with Peanut. Much to their surprise, judge Heath continued walking ahead to their senior two-year old and named Lovely Lady as Intermediate Champion and Peanut was named Honorable Mention Intermediate Champion! Lovely Lady’s day in the sun wasn’t over yet, as she went on to be named Reserve Grand Champion at the end of the show.
Prior to winning in 2014, Lovely Lady was third winter calf at World Dairy Expo and was nominated All-American as a Winter Yearling. As a three-year old and four-year old, Lovely Lady was again nominated All-American, was dry during show season as a five-year old, and in 2018 won the Lifetime Merit Cow class and was Honorable Mention Senior Champion at World Dairy Expo. Lovely Lady milked 120 pounds last test and will go on a flush program this Fall.
From both the ‘M’ and ‘L’ families came a day at the 2018 World Dairy Expo that the Salzls will never forget. Mix’s daughter, Corstar Presto Mango P EXP EX-90 won the junior three-year old class while her herdmate, Corstar Presto LuLu ET EX-92 placed second in that same class. Shortly after, Mango and LuLu were named Intermediate and Reserve Intermediate Champion, respectively. Later that day came Lovely Lady’s Lifetime Merit Cow class win and the Salzls ended the day winning Best Three Females. Not only was Mango Intermediate Champion in 2018, she was named All-American the year prior in her first lactation.
Corstar Presto LuLu ET EX-92 is out of a sister to Lovely Lady. Currently, four generations of that branch of the ‘L’ family are living on the farm right now: LuLu, her Very Good Disney dam, her EX-90 Justice daughter, and her Jekyll granddaughter.
At Corstar, Cory and Kristen want to build strong cow families, and their breeding philosophy is simple: “Showring ready is our number one goal, but they need to milk well in order to do well in the show ring,” said Cory. They like to use traits such as A2A2 and Polled genetics as tools in their breeding program, but they don’t rule bulls out in the absence of traits like these. Kristen and Cory like to keep cow families around and progressing, so bulls need to have a good pedigree, not just females. If a heifer has a hole in her pedigree, she will likely be used as a recipient and will get another chance to be bred herself once she calves in.
Since Cory’s first purchase of a Milking Shorthorn, the Salzls have kept the breed around because they work well for the program they run now. Milking Shorthorns are excellent grazers and don’t require special rations and extras. This is especially beneficial for Cory and Kristen, who own 30 acres of land, 25 acres of which is pasture. They purchase all of their hay and are able to market their milk to a small, artisan cheese creamery as grass-fed milk.
Prior to milking in their current barn, the Salzl’s cows were spread out at four farms under the care of others. They started milking two of their best show cows in a portable milker and raised their show heifers at Cory’s parent’s farm. To make things easier, they decided it was time to build a barn. While in Louisville for NAILE, Cory’s brother sent him a link to the listing for their current farm site. They purchased the farm and first worked on the house, then started building a heifer shed, built the barn, and finally finished the heifer shed. On January 4, 2016, Cory and Kristen milked their first cows in the new barn.
Looking ahead, Cory and Kristen are excited about some new additions on their farm, including three Guernsey calves that they purchased this spring. When they first started dating, Cory and Kristen had a Guernsey heifer that was named All-American as both a calf and heifer and because of Kristen’s background, Guernsey’s have always held a special place in their hearts and they are excited to rebuild their herd. The new calves are special. When Cory went looking for Guernsey genetics to incorporate into their herd, he purchased from the Tambourine family from Knapps, Jazzy family at Springhill, and the final calf is related to the popular bull, Latimer. In addition to the Guernseys, Cory and Kristen own a few Ayrshires, including a Excellent 93 point cow. When they needed some more cows in the barn, they purchased her from a large farm in New Mexico. She has continued to develop extremely well for the Salzls and has two daughters on the farm as well.
From standing on the bottom of the class at Madison, to exhibiting 34 All-American nominations in just 11 years, Cory and Kristen Salzl are a wonderful success story and a great reminder that determination and building strong cow families can lead to greatness on the colored shavings.