Breed Key to Keeping Conebella Farm Profitable

Don and Pam Gable on their farm with sons Josh, Tyler, and Kevin.

Nearly 80 years ago, Don Gable’s grandfather had a problem, and the solution to said problem was Ayrshires.

“The milk company at the time told him that he had to raise his butterfat or they were going to cut him off,” Don says. “His brother was a herd manager at a local farm that had Ayrshires. He bought 10 Ayrshires— it’s been Ayrshires ever since.”

Today, Gable’s herd at Conebel­la Farm is now entirely Ayrshires numbering more than 200, with 115 currently milking.

“I grew up with the breed, so it’s all I know,” Gable says. “It’s sort of ingrained in me. I know the breed. I know the sires. I just choose to work with them and keep Ayrshires.”

Gable and his wife Pam have certainly done well with their Ayrshires over the years. Conebella has often been ranked among the top five in the country for farms with 80 or more Ayrshires. They currently have nine cows that are rated as excellent in their classification, and the herd is averaging just under 19,000 pounds of milk a year.

The breed is known for the quality of cheese that it pro­duces, hence Gable’s grandfather’s decision to buy Ayrshires in the first place, and the Gable family has turned cheese into a profitable side business. They own a cheese shop on the grounds of their farm, and they take their cheese and cheese spreads to farmers’ markets throughout the year.

“It makes excellent cheese,” Gable says, “because of the protein, the fat, and the size of the globules.”

The cheese shop on the Gable farm also sells yogurt that is made with milk that they get from other local farms. In addi­tion to that side business, the Gables sell hay.

“We try to get high‑quality grass hay,” he says. “We have a good client base of horse owners that we sell to.”

Although he’s been able to make ends meet by adding the two side businesses, Gable laments the fact that it’s gotten to that point for so many small farmers.

“You try to get into a niche business, whether it’s cheese or (whatever),” he says. “When you do have these inconsis­tencies with the milk prices, you have to be able to iron it out with something else.”

Gable is hopeful that Conebella, which has been in his family for four generations, will continue to be profitable for his sons (Josh, Tyler, and Kevin).

“They love working in agriculture,” says Gable, whose sons are between the ages of 19 and 26. “They love the cropping and the field work.”

Farming can be a back‑breaking industry, but it can also reward its practitioners handsomely. Such was the case last September when the World Ayrshire Conference picked Conebella Farm for one of its farm tours in the U.S.

“That was a highlight for me,” Gable says. “I had a blast just talking to people from all over the world about Ayrshires. We were able to interact with pretty much everyone that was here. It was a fun afternoon.”