Wisconsin dairy and processing plant earn 2022 Sustainability Award

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
Barry Bubolz, left, NRCS Area Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Coordinator, with Derek Ducat, on a field planted with barley, winter rye and radish. The field is planned to go into no-till alfalfa.

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program recognized a class of seven exceptional farms, businesses and partnerships for their socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound practices and technologies that have a broad and positive impact.

This year’s winners displayed excellence in areas such as methane and other greenhouse gas reduction practices as well as water use efficiencies that support the industrywide 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals.

The awards, hosted by the farmer-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, have recognized more than 80 winners from nearly 300 nominees since their creation in 2012.

“This year’s winners exemplify how forward-thinking and regenerative efforts across the entire supply chain have led to positive results and what it means to be an environmental solution,” said Barbara O’Brien, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Considered collectively, these stories of success serve as examples of all the good things U.S. dairy is doing for planetary health and why the aggressive goals we have set are within reach.”

The awards are judged by an independent panel of dairy and conservation experts who consider innovation, scalability and replicability when evaluating nominations. Among the criteria to apply for the awards is participation and good standing in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program and agreement to participate in the FARM Environmental Stewardship online tool for determining their GHG and energy footprint. Both initiatives are part of the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, U.S. dairy’s social responsibility pledge to consumers, customers and other stakeholders.

“As a dairy farmer, I understand the importance of community and being a true caretaker of the environment that surrounds our farm and these winners demonstrate these values to their neighbors every day,” said Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of the Dairy Management Inc. board of directors. “These all are solution- and results-oriented businesses who are not only making meaningful contributions locally but to the U.S. dairy industry overall.”

Deer Run Dairy hosted a field day where the Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, center, attended to learn about the benefits of soil health. (2) No-till alfalfa, peas and oats into rye on June 21, 2019.

Deer Run Dairy

At Deer Run Dairy, farming is a continuous learning process. Owners Duane and Derek Ducat along with their partner Dale Bogart, work to keep the farming legacy the Ducat's grandfather started thriving.

The Kewaunee, Wis., dairy farm is among the winners of the 2022 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award.

Since 1984, the family has worked to expand the dairy farm.  in small steps, working up to milking 120 cows in a stanchion barn. The family also grows crops and does custom work on the side.

Together they wanted to grow and expand their dairy by making conservation-minded decisions along the way.

The partners actively participate in Wisconsin’s Demonstration Farm Network and Discovery Research program. The region’s topography, shallow soils, and proximity to Lake Michigan pose water quality challenges, and the partners have implemented numerous conservation practices to protect the water and to improve soil health.

As big believers in the value of cover crops, they set and achieved a goal to seed 100% of their cropland with cover crops in the fall of 2021.

Additional goals encompass the entire 1,850-cow operation, including minimal antibiotic use and feeding trials to reduce methane gas production in the rumen of the cow.

All goals ladder up to the ability to be a profitable business on land that is sustained for generations to come.

MORE: Demo Farm Network helps Deer Run Dairy thrive

Other dairy operations honored include: Grayhouse Farms, Inc., Stony Point, North Carolina; Steve and Cheryl Schlangen Dairy Farm, Albany, Minnesota; and Bar 20, Kermen, California.

Milk Specialties Global

The Milk Specialties Global plant in Monroe, Wisconsin is the winner of the Outstanding Dairy Processing Sustainability award.

A whey processing project at Milk Specialties Global (MSG) demonstrates how making one change can deliver sustainability benefits across the supply chain. 

To meet surging demand for dairy protein in foods and beverages, MSG acquired a plant in Monroe, WI to collect and process whey, a by-product of cheesemaking, into whey proteins. However, the whey supply from local cheesemakers far outweighed processing capacity.

Instead of trucking the whey to a larger plant, MSG found a way to double capacity at the plant without increasing the facility’s footprint.

Artisanal cheesemakers saw a waste product turn into a revenue stream. The local community benefitted too: truck miles decreased by 237,232 miles, saving 47,446 gallons of diesel fuel and reducing GHG emissions by 486 metric tons; 2.9 million gallons of water are now reclaimed and returned to the local watershed; and more than 53,000 pounds of whey protein is produced annually to fuel athletes and animals around the globe.

Other award winners include: Outstanding Community Impact: Maryland & Virginia Milk  Producers and Outstanding Supply Chain Sustainability: Bel Brands, Land O’Lakes Inc., Boadwine Dairy.

A formal celebration of the winners is scheduled in conjunction with the Dairy Sustainability Alliance® Fall Meeting, Nov. 14-15 in Glendale, Ariz.