Two Wisconsin dairy farms earn national honors for sustainability efforts

Wisconsin State Farmer
The Keller family of Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, Wis., took home top honors for Resource Stewardship at the recent U.S. Dairy Sustainability award ceremony in Chicago for their conservation and partnership efforts in two local watersheds. Left to right are parents Jeanne and Daniel Keller, Mark and Kareen Keller.

MADISON - The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced its sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in a June 28 Chicago ceremony. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the wellbeing of people, animals and the planet. 

Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship. Kinnard Farms, Casco, was one of three winners for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. 

Award winners represent the U.S. dairy community’s voluntary efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainability.

“This year’s winners demonstrated impressive leadership and creativity in the application of technology and other practices that protect our land, air and water. And they’re proactive about building strong relationships with their communities and employees,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Based on this year’s nominations, it’s clear that all sizes of dairy farms and companies use sustainable practices because it’s good for the environment, good for their community and good for business.” 

Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel - including experts working with and throughout the dairy community - also considered learning, innovation, scalability and replicability. 

Through creative problem solving, this year’s winners addressed water quality, soil fertility, community outreach, energy efficiency and more. 

Keller family

For the category of Resource Stewardship the Keller family of Kellercrest Registered Holsteins participated in the Pleasant Valley Watershed Project, a collaboration among state, local and national agencies to reduce the local watershed’s phosphorus load. Results were dramatic and positive.

In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is expected to propose removing the Pleasant Valley Branch from the EPA’s list of sediment-impaired streams.

Other farms that participated in the project saw economic benefits too, and this spurred them to form a group to build on the learnings. The Kellers, whose family farmed the hills of Mount Horeb since the late 1840s, saw cost savings as well as environmental benefits.

Kinnard Farms, Casco, Wis., won a U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award at the awards ceremony in Chicago on June 28 for their innovative ways to maximize water, soil and cow comfort while supporting their rural community. Left to right are family members David and Jackie Stewart, Lee Kinnard, and Matt Nuckols, event emcee and Virginia dairy producer.

Kinnard family

One of three winners for Dairy Farm Sustainability, the Kinnard family milks more than 7,000 cows - a scale that allows them to maximize water, soil and cow comfort while supporting their rural community.

They retain the area’s young, college-educated residents by employing them to innovate farm technology. The Kinnards are often on the cutting edge; they made a first-of-its-kind sand recycling center - one that uses no fresh water in the process - to separate, wash and dry sand for repeated use. Sand is this farm’s preferred bedding material because it provides comfort and sure footing for cows and is bacteria-free, keeping udders healthy.

"These two Wisconsin farms are shining examples of the dedication our farmers have to preserving and improving the environment today and for future generations," said Patrick Geoghegan, senior vice president corporate communications for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. "By actively seeking ways to improve land management and water quality, these farmers are ensuring a bright future for their businesses and serve as resources for other farmers researching new areas of environmental care."

“These award-winning practices can serve as models for other farmers, too,” said Jason Bateman, dairy farmer, 2016 award winner and one of this year’s judges. “Winners made breakthroughs, and they improved everyday practices. It’s inspiring to see people collaborate with partners outside of dairy and build on ideas from other industries.”