When you look back from the mid-point of a rewarding career, it is sometimes easier to see the tools that made success possible. In the case of Norman Nabholz of West Union Iowa there are three tools that stand out: Halter, Pen and Gavel. Norm has used all three of these tools to carve out a unique career spanning the show ring, the written word and as a sale promoter. However, like many of his peers, this 1989 Klussendorf Trophy Winner finds it impossible to talk about himself. He states simply that he “was born into dairying” and is emphatic that “cows have been my life from day one.”
Norman Nabholz of West Union, Iowa owns and operates Nabholz Farm that has owned or sold 16 Grand Champion Jerseys at World Dairy Expo, including two Supreme Champions. Nabholz has also owned two All-American Grand Champions, two Royal Winter Fair Grand Champions and five Jersey Jug winners. The farm has earned Premier Breeder and Exhibitor awards at World Dairy Expo and Premier Exhibitor at the NAILE in Louisville. Norm has served as Official Judge three times at World Dairy Expo and three times at the Royal Winter Fair. He has judged in more than 30 states, four Canadian provinces, Argentina, Australia, Ecuador and Mexico. In 1976, Norm started Nabholz Sales Company and has since managed or co-managed the highest selling Jersey dispersal of all time and several of the highest selling sales in history. Three of the breed’s 10 highest-selling females of all times have been sold through the Field of Dreams sales, managed by Nabholz.
Despite these achievements, Norm deflects praise regarding his breeding philosophies. “As I look at my office wall I don’t see a lot Premier Breeder Banners. If I did breed a good one it was pure luck. For that question I would turn to somebody like Darin Meyer or Frank Regan or Jeff and Alta Mae Core. I find it amusing all the people that talk about breeding cows and breeding philosophies and the ones that do the talking are not the ones that have bred great herds like De Su or Regancrest or Keightley Core”.
Great Mentors, Great Minds and Great Stories
He has definite opinions about those who have influenced him saying, “My parents and then several including Max Gordon, Lew Porter and, in later years, David Younger and Peter Heffering (Read more – Hanover Hill Holsteins: Peter Heffering 1931-2012). My dad and mom started with nothing and worked harder than anybody I have ever seen. My dad was as good a cowman as I have ever been around. Max Gordon was a genius and such a class act. Lew Porter taught me attention to detail. I was blessed to have considered Dave Younger and Peter Heffering personal friends and would talk to them on a weekly basis and, toward the end, more often. I learned so much from them. Not to offend but “they don’t make ‘em like those anymore”.
Norm’s PEN Pals in the Barn
Norm looks for value in people and has favorites in the barn as well. Frank Regan’s Dellias and Barbies are Norm’s choices for a cow family that has had the greatest impact on the breed. “”I have had the great opportunity to have lived close to them and watched their remarkable progress. I worked with the first daughters of Durham and Barbie’s dam “Brina” and believe she was one of the all time great show cows EVER. These two cow families breed so true that they are as close to sure things as there are in this business. I must say, in the Jerseys, Duncan Belle and Veronica have set the bar very high.”
Norm’s strong feelings don’t stop with his own cows although he avoids naming a favorite saying, “This would be like me asking a parent which of their kids is the greatest? I have a few that are special. Gil-Bar Unique Bonnie who was supreme champion at Madison, Taraley Astro Sherry (owned her for 2 days but she helped my confidence level a bit.) Quality Ridge Stormi Hazel (what a doll). Response Wonder, was a Jersey we owned for a month that might have been the greatest show cow I ever saw including the previous mentioned three cows.”
Norm with PEN in Hand
Since Norm’s first visit to the National Dairy Cattle Congress, he has been drawn to such dairy showplaces and returned every year. “I was captivated by it,” Nabholz said. “I remember everything, from the smells to the sights, sounds, and the people. It’s why I’m in the business that I’m in today”
In time for the 100th anniversary of the fall tradition, Norm penned a book recalling those days and “some of the greatest cows God created.” He wrote “Millionaires in the Cornfield: The Glory Days of the National Dairy Cattle Congress.” (To order the book contact Nabholz Farm) Nabholz said he wrote the book because the last great show at the Cattle congress was in 1965, and he wanted to record the stories of the people who were there before that generation passed”. Not only a record keeper, Norm is also an active admirer, “For days I’d just live in the past, remembering,” he said. “The millionaires of the cornfield were my idols, my rock stars.”
With GAVEL in Hand: From Show Ring to Auction Sale
While admiring those men and women around him, Norm Nabholz quietly established himself as a respected cow man as well. Today he sells cattle ranging from commercial animals for people who milk to show cattle. He also shows and judges dairy cattle and reads pedigrees. A simple resume that covers the facts of his career in the show ring as showman and judge, and in the sale box, as pedigree announcer or auctioneer. The facts but not the fine points of his attention to detail, eye for type, love for cattle and day-to-day passion for the dairy industry. Nabholz Sales Company — biannual Field of Dreams Sale which celebrated Sale VI in 2011. Whether he’s reviewing past successes or working with a team to present the best of today, Norm takes great pleasure in working hard and doing a good job at whatever he turns his hand to and then, diverting the praise to everyone else.
Change is Normal. Love is the Key.
Whether looking back or looking ahead, Norm is well aware that the only sure thing is that change is going to happen. “So many changes have occurred, some good, and some not. Technology has done so many great things to help with the care of cows and farming in general but perhaps has not helped create a new generation of cow people. The last generation spent more time with their cattle and that meant they learned what made them tick. Knowing a cows weaknesses made it easier to improve on them.” Considering technology somewhat further he makes two predictions and voices a concern. “Robotic milking will become the norm. Efficiency will be a word used more often than it is now. Something will have to be done with milk marketing in the U.S. The world will get smaller and smaller when it comes to genetics.” For someone starting out, Norm looks back at his decades in dairying and points out a truth he has learned. “You have to love this business to survive. It will give you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Being able to handle both will dictate how you survive.”
Norm says, “The cows are second to the people.”
Norm has no problem when facing difficult questions or situations. When asked, “If you could learn to do anything in an hour, what would it be?” he answers in a flash. “Learn the art of political correctness.” The dairy business – especially for those with a pen in their hand — can be quite challenging from that point of view. However, in Norm’s case, it goes without saying that he is driven by the best motivations and has been quoted as saying that “If you think the cows are impressive” you’re going to be amazed when you look at the people behind them. “The cows are second to the people.” He has a clear idea of the people he enjoys (everybody!) however if he had to narrow it down to few on an island he has a quick plan ready in response. “I have been told that I am not a very good vacation person, so being on an island, without the conveniences I so enjoy, would be tough. But if I had to be there, it would be fun to have Ray Brubacher, Bill Fetherstone, Bob Morrell and a couple of bottles (maybe more than that).” Like his halter, pen and gavel, Norm knows that it’s important to have the right kit at the right time. He concludes, “We would laugh and wouldn’t the stories be cool?”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
There is no doubt that Norman Nabholz has already left a strong influence on those near and far, who are privileged to have known him. He is a gifted thinker, talented cowman and a sincere ambassador of all that is great about the characters and cows that are building on the past to move the dairy business forward. For this dairy man “Exceptional” is the every day “NORM”. Thank you Norman Nabholz.