COURTESY OF JANET KAPPERS
Tyler Kappers and his 2016 state fair cow, Mocha, enjoy a little time together on the Kappers family farm. 
COURTESY OF JANET KAPPERS Tyler Kappers and his 2016 state fair cow, Mocha, enjoy a little time together on the Kappers family farm. 
Tyler Kappers always wants to have a cow, man.

“I cannot imagine my life without cows. They have just always been such a big part of my life and such a big influence on me that I cannot imagine where I would be today without them,” he said.

Kappers, a rural Spring Valley resident and University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) student, just completed his freshman year in the UWRF dairy science program. He is studying further what he needs to know about the lineup of black-and-white ladies he’s come to love over the course of his lifetime.

The lights of town are something he’s never missed, though he did decide to go to UWRF to further his education. Living on a farm just plain suits Kappers, who graduated from Kingsland High School in 2017 and is known locally as a young man with a soft spot for anything that moos.

“I really enjoy living and working on the farm because I get to be outside all the time, and I know that even though it may be small, I am making a difference and helping feed the world’s ever-growing population,” he sated. “I also really enjoy the life lessons and values that are learned on the farm that have made me who I am today. It’s also very fun to watch my brother’s two kids growing up on the farm and seeing how much they enjoy it.”

He explained why he’s gone to college to educate himself on cows, something one might imagine he would know from head to tail.

“Growing up on the farm, I always knew that I wanted to do something in agriculture. For a long time, I wanted to be a veterinarian so that I could work with animals, but I eventually realized that I would rather operate a dairy farm,” Kappers said. “I can’t imagine a life doing anything but working with the cows or working out in the fields. I am majoring in dairy science, with a management option. UWRF is a well-known school for agriculture, so that’s what grabbed my attention in the first place. I really liked how small the campus was and how much open space there is. I also really liked the dairy science program that they have.”

Kappers’ freshman year at UWRF was both somewhat predictable and surprising.

He explained, “Most of the stuff I learned in my first year at school was stuff that I was fortunate to already know due to my involvement in the family farm, as well as both 4-H and FFA. I did learn more about some other species, including sheep and pigs. One thing that I learned about cows that I hadn’t learned before was how a cow actually produces milk and how the milk is released.”

He elaborated, “The most surprising thing I learned was actually how much I already knew from my involvement in 4-H and FFA. It gave me a big advantage in most of my classes. But in my animal nutrition class, I learned more about vitamins and minerals and their functions and importance in the body, as well as deficiency signs. I am hoping to use this information at home to make sure the cattle are performing at their best by watching for these deficiency signs and supplementing as needed.”

His favorite part of attending college for dairy science is getting to participate in lab activities. “UWRF has two separate lab farms for teaching and learning purposes. One lab farm has horses, and the other lab farm has beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, some poultry and some crops. The dairy portion of the lab farm has a bedded pack barn with a parlor and also raises calves. There is also a cannulated cow – a porthole-like device that allows access to the rumen of the cow – and in my one class, we got to reach inside and feel the inside of the cow’s stomach and the content of the rumen. I always enjoy going to the lab farm just because it is such a hands-on learning experience.”

A farm boy down to his very last fiber, Kappers eagerly awaited the end of the school year for two particular reasons. “The thing I missed most about the farm was definitely the cows and working with them, and the fact that there is always something to do. There was a little too much free time at school for my liking,” he said. “It was a huge relief when this school year was over. The spring semester got really long – with the weather being so nice – I just wanted to be outside. It’s almost relaxing to be home and being able to be outside and work with the cows. Things have stayed pretty much the same at home since I left. I really enjoy how little things have changed…it still feels like home.”

Kappers has plans for this summer, but they’re not his usual ones. “I’m not doing FFA or 4-H this summer because I am working for Gillespie Family Farms in Fountain and milking for Roadside Dairy in Preston, as well as still trying to help at home as much as I can, so I won’t have much time for 4-H projects this summer,” he said. “I am really excited for my jobs because both places are different than at home, so I know that there is a lot of stuff to learn that I can use in my future. I am also looking forward to being at home, helping and working with my cows during any free time I have.”

The coming school year will find him furthering his education in ways he never expected. “In my sophomore year at UWRF, I am taking some classes that I am really excited about, including Feeds and Feeding and Animal Health. I was also accepted to be a resident assistant in one of the dorms in the agriculture learning community, so I am excited to return for that journey and for the potential challenges that come with the job.”

And all school year long, he’ll be thinking of his Holstein honeys, lined up at home in the barn just outside of Spring Valley.

“I just really love what I do and can’t imagine life any other way. I am who I am because of the farm, and I believe that I owe everything to the farm for everything it has done for me. It has helped to make me a successful person,” Kappers said. “I hope to have a family of my own someday, and I wouldn’t want to raise my family any other place than the farm. I just hope to continue the family farm and keep doing what I love – helping to feed the world and producing nature’s most nearly-perfect food, milk.”