For over 15 years, the World Dairy Expo Virtual Farm Tours have been bringing the best dairy operations in North America to attendees at the Alliant Energy Center.
This year is no exception featuring dairies that have value-added products, focus on cow comfort, utilize technology, are innovative, produce quality forages, are a family commitment, are expanding and are community partners.
These free tours include a half-hour visual presentation of the operation by the owners or herd managers with time for questions and discussion afterwards. Tours are presented daily, Tuesday through Saturday, in the Mendota 1 meeting room in the Exhibition Hall. All presentations will be available for viewing after the show on the Expo website.
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.
Kings Ransom Farm, Schuylerville, NY
Highlights: 1,000 milking/Value-Added Dairying
Sponsored by: Holstein Association USA, Inc.
Deep-seeded roots in dairying have brought the King brothers, Jeff and Jan, full circle with their dairy. Combining their family tradition of milk delivery with progressive Registered Holstein genetics has created a successful value-added dairy operation.
The Kings’ family, including their grandfather, had a milk and cream delivery service in the Saratoga area from 1932 until the early 1960s, a service that was re-established in 2010 by Jeff and Jan. Thanks to the demand, the dairy has recently added a milk bottling plant that became operational in April 2016.
The Kings have continually been focused on breeding an elite herd of Registered Holsteins. The current 1,000-cow herd has a rolling herd average of 28,000 lbs. of milk and merchandises embryos, 150-250 females and 40-50 bulls annually around the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, England and Germany.
To date, the brothers have bred 192 Excellent cows, 55 Dams of Merit and 33 Gold Medal Dams; all with the Kings-Ransom prefix. Among the most notable of the cows is Kings-Ransom Dorcy Dextra-ET, a genomic giant with a top net merit index.
The Kings’ intense breeding program has garnered its share of accolades, having received Holstein Association USA’s Progressive Genetics Herd award for 18 years, and Kings Ransom Farm was awarded the association’s Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder Award in 2009.
Wednesday, Oct. 5, Noon
Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, WI
Highlights: 326 milking/Cow Comfort and Environmental Stewards
Sponsored by: Vita Plus Corporation
At Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., when you take care of the cows, they will take care of you. This philosophy is at the core of everything that brothers Tim and Mark Keller do.
Along with Mark’s wife, Kareen, and Tim’s wife, Sandy, and their family, they manage a 326-cow Holstein herd with a rolling herd average of 31,974 lbs. of milk, 4.1% fat (1,300 lbs.) and 3.1% protein.
Cow comfort is key and no detail is overlooked. From stall design to air flow to cow-handling techniques, this team uses proven management practices to maximize each animal’s genetic potential. Disappointed with the comfort of their previous stall design, the Kellers invested in an extensive redesign and remodel. The results speak for themselves.
Kellercrest has produced 98 cows with more than 200,000 lbs. of lifetime milk, 33 cows above 250,000 lbs., and 10 cows topping 300,000 lbs. Additionally, the herd has garnered numerous genetic awards, including 16 Progressive Genetics Herd awards and 14 Progressive Breeders’ Registry awards. They have developed 35 Gold Medal Dams and 19 Dams of Merit. Innovation and commitment extend to their cropping practices as well.
The Kellers use the latest technology and soil management practices to minimize erosion and maximize field yield. Currently, half of their corn is planted in 15-inch rows and the rest is in 30-inch rows. Winter rye is used as a cover crop and harvested for forage. They follow a strict nutrient management plan and recycle as much water as possible.
The Keller family proudly shares their farming story with many visitors throughout the year, ranging from elementary school classes to international visitors, to help educate consumers about the modern dairy industry. All of these achievements helped Kellercrest Registered Holsteins become the 2008 National Dairy Shrine Progressive Dairy Award winner.
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m.
Twin Brook Creamery, Lynden, WA
Highlights: 185 milking/Utilizing Technology
Sponsored by: Lely
Through the use of technology, Twin Brook Creamery is able to provide sustainability and future security for its sixth generation of dairy producers and beyond.
Larry and Debbie Stap, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Michelle and Mark Tolsma, wanted to find ways to keep the farm financially viable through the use of technology and selling their product directly to the consumer. In 2007, the family started the Twin Brook Creamery, which ships fresh dairy products to more than 200 retailers in the Seattle and Portland markets including Albertsons, Thriftway, Safeway and QFC.
Products produced include heavy cream, half & half, chocolate milk, eggnog and whole, 1%, 2% and skim milk – all bottled in glass jars. Through this management model, the Twin Brook Creamery has been able to take control of the milk check instead of relying on the conventional milk pricing system.
The new facility uses three Lely Astronaut A4 milking systems to control labor cost and increase milk production in the 185-cow Jersey herd. The AMS robots are responsible for delivering more than 60% of the daily feed to the herd. The rest of the ration is fed in a TMR or received out on pasture in the warmer months. Recently, Twin Brook Creamery was nominated for their county’s small business of the year award.
Thursday, Oc. 6, Noon
Mapleline Farm, LLC, Hadley, MA
Highlights: 135 milking/Innovation
Sponsored by: American Jersey Cattle Association
Innovation coupled with a fluid milk processing plant have brought John Kokoski and Mapleline Farms, LLC to the forefront of the dairy industry.
Mapleline Farms is home to a 135-cow herd of Registered Jerseys with a rolling herd average of 17,499 lbs. of milk, 3.8% protein and 5.1% fat.
After taking over the family operation in 1986, Kokoski hauled his own milk to be bottled off-site and then returned for sale on the farm; in 2004 he purchased the processing equipment and relocated it to the farm.
Today, Mapleline processes a complete range of fluid products, including flavored milks and orange cream and eggnog seasonally. A total of 275,000 lbs. of milk is processed each month, most from the Mapleline Jersey herd with additional milk sourced from neighboring farms as required to meet demand.
Mapleline Farm milk is a feature at local restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops plus five university campuses, including Kokoski’s alma mater, UMass-Amherst.
Located in a highly urban area, the farm has been featured extensively in articles and tours sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service due to its conservation efforts and nutrient management plan. Mapleline Farm has earned numerous recognitions including New England Dairy Farmer of the Year, Massachusetts Outstanding Dairy Farm and Massachusetts Farm Bureau’s “Dairy of Distinction,” to name a few.
Thursday, Oct. 6, 2 p.m.
Ruby Ridge Dairy, Pasco, WA
Highlights: 2,300 milking/Forage Quality and Precision Feeding
Sponsored by: DuPont Pioneer
Ruby Ridge Dairy is taking precision feeding to a whole new level. In order to ensure forage quality and to further customize feeding.
Dick and Ruby Bengen, along with their son Todd, designed, built and refined an all-in-one automated forage and concentrate feeding system. This unique system has the capability of feeding over 10,000 animals a variety of TMRs.
For the Bengens, this level of precision can only be achieved with the highest quality forages, which requires constant management from field to feeding. Forages are harvested at peak quality. To preserve this quality, feed is stored in 10 well-managed bunkers. Each has sides lined in plastic to varying depths and is packed to appropriate densities depending upon the moisture level of its contents.
Bunkers are faced daily to minimize losses from heat and sun exposure and capped daily with a layer of oxygen-barrier film and conventional plastic. They also ensure the first forages in the bunkers are the first ones out.
From there the automated system takes over mixing the custom TMRs. Currently, it is mixing 10 different TMRs three times daily for a 4,500-head herd of Holstein young stock and cows. With a rolling herd average of 28,211 lbs. of milk, 3.1% protein and 3.9% fat, the dairy has been recognized the last four years as one of the top herds for energy corrected milk.
Friday, Oct. 7, Noon
Ocooch Dairy, Hillsboro, WI
Highlights: 736 milking/Family Commitment
Sponsored by: Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc.
Sharing their passion for agriculture is very important to the Mlsna family of Ocooch Dairy. Family members Jim, Peter, Jacqui, Stacy, Tony and Thomas all take active roles on the dairy and in the community promoting good health and agriculture.
Ocooch Dairy began in 1978, when Jim purchased the current location and a small herd of cows. Since then, as the family has grown, so has the dairy. Today it is home to a 736-cow herd with a rolling herd average of 29,860 lbs. of milk.
Jim oversees the farm and draws from his experience as a veterinarian to help manage the team. Daughter Jacqui oversees sick and fresh cows and daily cow management. Stacey cares for the calves and heifers while Peter manages employees and records. Tony focuses on feed and equipment maintenance and Thomas deals with wildlife conservation.
Each family members’ role has transformed into a volunteer aspect as well. Jim serves on numerous boards, among them, helping to keep St. Joseph's Hospital as a health care provider in the community. Jacqui was the county coordinator for Ag in the Classroom and is the creator of Local Lit – an organization promoting reading by young kids and parents. Stacy created the Feeding Our Cubs program, which supplies meals to needy children in local elementary schools, and Thomas educates about farms as a wildlife habit. Peter and Tony coach Junior High school and youth wrestling programs.
Together, this dynamic family has hosted numerous community events including an annual farm party, the Destination Dairy interactive program for elementary students, and the Vernon County Dairy Breakfast in 2016, to name a few.
Friday, Oct. 7, 2 p.m.
Forget-Me-Not Farms, Cimarron, KS
Highlights: 8,900 milking/Expansion
Sponsored by: Kansas Department of Agriculture
Forget-Me-Not Farms has grown from 140 to 8,900 cows; a dream that has become a reality for the Boersma family.
In 1984, Ted and Nancy Boersma, along with Ted’s parents, started in New Mexico, south of Albuquerque, with the initial 140 cows. As the family and farm grew, the operation was relocated to a state-of-the-art facility in Clovis, in northeast New Mexico, and started milking 1,000 cows, eventually they expanded to 5,000 cows on two farms.
As the dairy market in Clovis kept growing and more of the family was returning home to farm, the time to add another dairy had arrived. The Boersmas searched for a new location that offered good water and feed availability, while maintaining a climate for an open lot dairy. In 2008, the family successfully relocated and started milking 7,000 cows at their current location in Kansas.
Last year, an additional 1,200-cow facility was purchased in Nebraska. With nine children, every expansion allowed more key family members to join the day-to-day operations at Forget-Me-Not Farms. Two daughters and their husbands, Naci and Josh Littlejohn and Kelsi and TJ Curtis, now oversee the workforce, feed management and the farm offices.
As the Boersmas look to the future, more children and grandchildren are likely to become active in the dairy, reinforcing the importance of a family business. Forget-Me-Not Farms is regarded as a favorite destination for ag tours, and the family was honored as the Kansas Dairy Association Farm Family of the Year in 2016.
Saturday, Oct. 8, Noon
Ponderovey Jerseys, Glendale, AZ
Highlights: 2,000 Milking/Community Partners
Sponsored by: Betaseed, Inc.
The Rovey family strives to provide safe, high-quality milk and dairy products at Ponderovey Jerseys through sustainable practices.
Paul and his wife, Deborah, along with their five children, operate the 2,000-cow herd which has a rolling herd average of 16,300 lbs. of milk with 3.5% protein and 4.5% fat.
In 1943, the current site of the dairy was purchased by Emil Rovey, Paul’s father. Since that time, the Rovey farm enterprises have included 24,000 laying hens and the addition of several ranches through the years. Currently, the Roveys raise sheep and Watusis cattle in addition to Jerseys.
Being located in a largely urban area, the Roveys take conscious steps to be good neighbors. They have worked with the University of Arizona on a project where water from their dairies can be recycled with no harm to the environment. Additionally, they have planted trees around the property and try to make the dairy as inconspicuous as possible, right down to controlling the fly and mosquito populations.
Paul Rovey is also the chairman of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, which helps to facilitate more than $6 billion in dairy exports. For his tireless dedication to the community and agriculture, Rovey recently received the Agriculturist of the Year award from the Arizona State FFA.
American Jersey Cattle Association, Betaseed, Inc., DuPont Pioneer, Holstein Association USA, Inc., Kansas Department of Agriculture, Lely, Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc. and Vita Plus Corporation are sponsors of the 2016 Virtual Farm Tours.