This article was from our Spring 2020 issue and is written by Mikayla Overholt.
Deep in the rolling hills of Holmes County, OH, lies Springhill Dairy, home of the Lang family. Visible from the road are the farm’s large red barns and Guernseys, Holsteins and Ayrshires speckled throughout the pasture. The Lang family has much to be proud of after celebrating their bicentennial year in 2019.In 1819, President James Monroe deeded the land to the Lang family. Chris Lang, the current owner and operator, grew up on the farm working with his parents Tom and Karen, sister Kendra, and grandfather Wendell Lang.
The first Registered Guernseys were established in the early 1900s and over the last 200 years, the farm has been home to every breed at one point, and today the focus is on Guernseys, Holsteins and Ayrshires.
Managing multi breeds has never been much of a challenge for the farm. “The main reason we chose Guernseys, and now a few Ayrshires, to go with the Holsteins is because we want them to be able to compete in the same environment. We chose cows that are similar in size, and that utilize their feed the same [we have the same rations for all of them]. That is why these breeds have worked well for us,” said Chris.
He did admit the unique challenge is getting to know the different breeds genetically. To help with the hurdle of learning genetics and what to breed different cows to, he credits the Dixon family, Blaine Crosser and Lee Kohler for their expertise in Guernseys and Evan Creek for his advice on Ayrshires. Chris believes growing up watching his dad taught him a lot about Holstein genetics. He is passing what he knows down to a long-time employee, Marshall Overholt. Marshall showed and achieved a lot throughout his junior career with Guernseys and has a strong passion for the breed.“I think it’s important whenever you are doing this, adding in new breeds, to seek advice,” Chris said.
The first Holsteins were introduced in 1974 by Tom and Wendell, and by 1975 they had their first home bred heifer. The second home bred heifer born on the farm was Langacres Elevation Hope 2E-91, who became the foundation of the Holsteins at Springhill. “Nearly all of our Holsteins we have on the farm go back to Hope,” said Chris. This includes the 2019 Mid-East Summer National Grand Champion Springhill-OH Wind Jada EX-91.
In 1979, the Langs sold all their Guernseys and focused primarily on the Holstein breed. But, in 2007, Chris wanted to go back to his Guernsey roots. With a final bid of $23,600, Dix Lee Tiller Joke was on her way to Springhill from the 2007 National Guernsey Convention. Fate and a little nudge from longtime employee Danny Pszenitzki landed her there.
Fellow Guernsey enthusiasts, Bobby Griggs and Blaine Crosser,spoke very highly of Joke and urged Chris to buy her sight unseen. On the day of the sale,Chris had his price limit of $20,000. He and Danny were on the landline phones, one in the office and one in the hallway. The bid on Joke was up to $22,000, so Chris stopped, but Danny kept the bid going.
“The Joke story is pretty cool. I did stop bidding, but Danny knew how much I wanted that cow. If we wouldn’t have bought her that day, I honestly believe that we would not have Guernseys on the farm today,” remarked Chris. Joke became Springhill’s foundation cow, and she has far exceeded their expectations.
“Joke provided us with daughters and granddaughters that will pave the way into the future,” said Chris. She has had six sons sire All-American nominations, and her last son Jaguar is at Select Sires in the active A.I. lineup. She is also the dam of the 2019 All-American Produce of Dam. In addition, Joke is the mother to the 2017 Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo, Springhill Mentor Jazzy EX-95.
The Guernseys shine in the ring both at a state and national level. With numerous class winners, champions and All-Americans, it’s no shock Chris has a lot to be proud of with the genetics he has created over the years.Embryos have been exported to every continent but Antarctica, showing just how vast the impact of the Springhill herd is.
In 2019, Springhill had 21 National Open Show class winners, two Premier Breeder banners, National Supreme Champion Heifer, 12 National Champion recognition’s and a National Total Performance winner. “To have Grand Champion at our state fair with two home bred cows in two breeds is incredibly exciting,” Chis stated.
While Chris is extremely proud of what Springhill has accomplished thus far, he said, “I hope our greatest accomplishments haven’t happened yet. We are still always reaching for the stars.”
The Hope family has been the predominant and most consistent Holstein family in the herd. They have been bred true and with success for many years. The farm has a 10th generation home bred excellent cow, Springhill-OH AW Cicely-ET EX-91 92-MS from this family.
While establishing their own breeding, Chris also believes it is important to incorporate new cow families into the herd. The Holstein cow family that has been introduced most recently was TK-Plain-View Ria-ET, a Goldwyn sister to All-American and All-Canadian TK-Plain-View Ripley EX-96. The purchase of Ria was made with long time friends Jim and Valerie Spreng, who have investments in other cattle on the farm as well. Ria is due in early June to sexed Doorman.
The Joke family is not the only standout Guernsey cow line at Springhill. Campbells Rodney’s Unify EX-94 has represented a significant part of the Lang family’s success. Unify arrived at the farm later in life, but that didn’t stop her from leaving a large legacy as she responded very well to IVF. Over the last few years, she has had six milking daughters nominated All-American and in 2019 alone, two heifers were named All-American. Her daughters also earned All-American honors in the Produce of Dam class in 2018, and Reserve honors in 2019.
Springhill just embarked on their adventure with Ayrshires in 2019, with the first purchase being a Lochinvar daughter out of All-American Palmyra Berkely P Ruth-ET EX-94 MAX. Chris also purchased Palmyra Shockwave BP Rosy EX-93 at World Dairy Expo in October from Kurt Wolf. In January, she was named HM All-American 4-Year-Old. With that recognition, Springhill has owned All-American Nominations in five breeds to date!
Chris explained, “We have almost completed a full circle, number-wise we are back to where we started when I was a kid with a mixed herd of Guernseys and Holsteins.”This is an exciting time for those at Springhill as they work with three breeds now at their new facilities.
In 2018, the Langs sold their commercial facilities and moved back to the original farm,where they have built new barns with business partner Dan Basse, who has a deep background in Guernsey cattle. The opportunity arose after the sale of the commercial herd and he wanted to be a part of the Springhill history.
They manage 70 cows in facilities that are modern with an emphasis on cow comfort. The facilities include a new calf barn, heifer barn and cow barn with a pack, box stalls and double 6 herringbone parlor. “We wanted to get back to our roots, and sometimes that comes at a cost on many parts, but we have always believed in great transmitting cows and cow families and so I think that is what has been good for us,” Chris added.
Parents Tom and Karen may not be as involved with the farm, but they are still an instrumental part of the process. “They may not always agree with everything, but they support me in all of these endeavors,even at times they thought my ideas were far-fetched,” said Chris. They can be seen traveling to shows and sitting in the stands watching with a glimmer of pride as a Springhill animal walks into the ring. Kendra,Chris’s sister, plays an important part as she feeds calves on the farm.
Chris believes that in the farming business,it is important to have a nice cross-section of people. “Whenever you are forming a business, no matter the size of the herd or number of acres, it’s about making sure you surround yourself with the right kind of people that understand the business and have a common goal.” Springhill has had two long-term employees, Danny Pszenitzki, 16 years, and Marshall Overholt, 10 years. Both play a significant role in where the farm is today.
While the farm certainly keeps Chris busy, he has also found time to build an impressive judging resume. He has judged at International Dairy Week, twice at the UK National Show, Louisville and the Western National in Washington,and served as an Associate Judge at World Dairy Expo. In 2020, he will judge at the All American in Harrisburg. He has also served on All-American panels in five breeds.
Over the years, Chris has also earned several accolades including: Ohio Holstein Junior Breeder, Ohio Holstein Outstanding Youth, National Holstein Distinguished Junior Member, Vice President and Treasurer of the American Guernsey Association, President of Purebred Publishing and Ohio Guernsey Association President for nine years.
“A good cow is a good cow, regardless of what breed it is,” said Chris, which is why they are having a multi-breed sale, Suits of Springhill, on May 16th. “We have been blessed with the consignments that are coming in, they are over the top,” Chris exclaimed, “We will have something there for everybody, whether it’s a cow or heifer competitive at a local or state or national level, high genomic offerings and some foundation kind of cattle as well. We never consign anything we would not be willing to buy.”