Virtual Farm Tours at World Dairy Expo feature top dairies

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For more than a decade, the Virtual Farm Tours have been a producer favorite at World Dairy Expo, allowing attendees to visit a variety of dairies from around the U.S. without leaving the show. This year’s farms are among the very best in the dairy industry. They excel in the areas of cow care, technology, production, robots, genetics, calf and heifer care, cow management and RFID technology.

The free tours will be presented daily, Tuesday, October 1 through Saturday, October 5 in the Mendota 1 meeting room in the Exhibition Hall. The owners and managers will present a half-hour pictorial overview of their operation, including general operation information and highlights of exceptional management practices. Time for questions and discussion will follow. The presentations will be available for viewing on World Dairy Expo’s website after the show. Advanced Animal Diagnostics, AgSource Cooperative Services, American Jersey Cattle Association, DuPont Pioneer, Lely, Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc., Select Sires, Inc. and Vita Plus Corporation are sponsors of the 2013 Virtual Farm Tours. Following is a short biography and description of each tour:

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m
Hosted by: Si-Ellen Farms, Jerome, Idaho
10,800 Milking/Cow Care
Sponsored by: Advanced Animal Diagnostics

At Si-Ellen Farms, it is believed that if you take good care of the cows, they will take good care of you. Originally a 100 cow dairy located in Vancouver, Si-Ellen Farms has now grown into two farms, consisting of 10,200 Holsteins and 600 Jerseys on 7,000 acres. The entire family, including Mike Roth and his seven brothers and sisters, focus their efforts on cow care. A full-time veterinarian and nutritionist are part of the staff of 145 employees that strive to provide the best care possible. This effort has paid off as they have a rolling herd average of 29,007 pounds of milk with a 160,000 somatic cell count. Si-Ellen Farms are environmental stewards as well. Within the last five years, they have added a retaining lake to catch irrigation water and developed this lake into a wildlife habitat by adding trees and other vegetation. Additionally, Si-Ellen Farms composts their manure, reducing the amount of commercial fertilizer and non-renewable resources needed. The Roth Family has been honored with numerous awards including the 2002 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year Award by the International Dairy Foods Association and was recognized as the 2013 Farmer of the Year by DairyBusiness WEST at the Western Dairy Management Conference.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Larson Acres, Evansville, Wis. 
2,900 Milking/Technology
Sponsored by: DuPont Pioneer

By using the latest technology, Larson Acres produces high quality milk more efficiently while being good neighbors. The Larson Acres herd consists of 2,900 cows, each outfitted with their own electronic ID. With these ID's, the Larson family and farm employees can keep a close eye on production levels. Most of the herd is housed in a cross ventilated barn, built in 2010. Several new calf facilities have also been added along with a wastewater treatment plant. Thanks to this specialized facility, no additional liquid manure storage was needed with the expansion of the herd. Since Larson Acres is located near a growing population, the Larsons have joined the ranks of social media to keep people abreast of changes on the farm. They utilize YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and have their own website. Their website introduces the Larson family, explains their commitment to producing a high quality product and outlines the expansion process and how it created more jobs for the area. The farm even opened its doors to host the Rock County Dairy Breakfast in 1992 and again in 2012. For all their success, Larson Acres has been honored with the 2010 Distinguished Leadership Award by the Dairy Business Association and the 2011 Distinguished Agricultural Award by the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison. 

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Dutch Hollow Farm, LLC, Schodack Landing, N.Y.
627 Milking/Milk Production
Sponsored by: American Jersey Cattle Association

Dutch Hollow Farm is home to one of the most productive Jersey herds in the U.S. with a rolling herd average exceeding 19,500 lbs. milk at 4.7% fat and 3.6% protein. Since its inception in 1976 by Paul and Melanie Chittenden, the operation has expanded internally to four times its original size as three sons, Brian, Alan and Nathan, have joined the operation, with never a break in production and type improvement. More than 200 cows have achieved lifetime production in excess of 100,000 pounds milk. Three different Million Pound Clubs – a combination of five herdmates with total lifetime production of over 1 million pounds – have been developed and promoted. Dutch Hollow has been arguably the most influential source of polled Jersey genetics in the U.S. for more than 30 years, following the path blazed by Paul’s father, Stanley Chittenden, at Fair Weather Farms. Milk is marketed through premium quality cheeses manufactured by Cabot Creamery, the Creamery at Twin Brook and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in New York City. Because the farm is located near major urban areas in the densely populated northeast U.S., the Chittendens are keenly aware of how their farming and animal care practices impact consumer perceptions of the dairy business. In an effort to help educate consumers, the Discovery Dairy Center was opened in 2011. This educational program offers lessons that meet the New York education standards in science, social studies and math for children pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Dutch Hollow Farm was honored as the 2012 Master Breeders of the American Jersey Cattle Association.

Thursday, Oct. 3, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Cinnamon Ridge, Donahue, Iowa
260 Milking/Robots
Sponsored by: Lely

For over six generations, the Maxwell family, including brothers John and Edwin, and John’s daughters, Amy and Kara, has been farming in Iowa. During that time, Cinnamon Ridge has seen growth, adaptation of new technology and diversification. The farm is named for the “Cinnamon” color of the Jerseys and “Ridge” is for the elevation of the farm. In the last 12 months, the farm has expanded to 260 Jerseys, with a rolling herd average of 21,234 pounds of milk, making them the seventh highest producing Jersey herd in the U.S. This expansion was made possible by the addition of robotics. Cinnamon Ridge is focused on becoming the top Jersey production herd in the nation. Their milk is processed on the farm into cheese, which is sold in the retail store and restaurant on site. In addition to the dairy herd, Cinnamon Ridge is also home to a beef cow and embryo operation, a 10 thousand-head swine facility and poultry egg production. The store and restaurant feature all foods grown at Cinnamon Ridge. There is also an event center that the Maxwells’ use for farm tours. The farm hosts 2,500 visitors annually from all over the world. The center is also available for public events, such as weddings, and wine and cheese parties. The Maxwells were honored in 1997 as the National Outstanding Young Farmer.   

Thursday, Oct. 3, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Mystic Valley Dairy LLC, Sauk City, Wis.
425 Milking/Genetics
Sponsored by: Select Sires, Inc.

Mystic Valley Dairy LLC has developed some of the most influential Holstein bloodlines in the world. Mitch Breunig, his wife, Jackie and children, Alison, Lauren and Brayden, are the owners and operators of Mystic Valley Dairy. The 425-cow herd is home to the Jenny-Lou prefix and herd matriarch, Jenny-Lou Patron Toyane. She is the dam of Toystory, Lou and Trump. Toystory is the only bull in history to have more than 2 million doses sold. Trump is currently a Top 100 Type sire, and Lou is a producer favorite. Other notable families in the herd include Chief Adeen, 2nd-Look Durhm Juba and Mellary Goldwyn Fate. Mystic Valley is a top 10 BAA herd, for their herd size at 106.5 and has won numerous Progressive Breeder Awards. Top genetics isn’t their only focus. With great care being given to nutrition and cow comfort, this registered Holstein herd has a rolling herd average of 32,651 pounds of milk with a somatic cell count of just 87,000. The freestall barn features extra wide stalls and additional lunge space. The cows receive a SCR rumination monitor to measure cow health and wellness as well aid in achieving maximum reproductive performance.  These combined achievements has led to Mystic Valley marketing an extra 80 cows per year and selling embryos to Germany, the Netherlands, China and Australia.

Friday, Oct. 4, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Drumgoon Dairy, Lake Norden, S.D.  
1,950 Milking/Calf and Heifer Care
Sponsored by: Quality Liquid Feeds

Drumgoon Dairy made the move from Ireland to the U.S. in 2006. Rodney and Dorothy Elliott, along with their children David, James and Becky, wanted to expand their dairy, but were unable to do so in Ireland. After searching across Europe and finding limited opportunity to expand their dairy, the decision was made to build a new dairy in South Dakota. Over the last seven years, the Elliotts have focused their efforts on cow comfort and raising heifers. Calves are given the best start possible. Colostrum is collected and tested with a refractometer for quality. Within three days, calves are transitioned to one of the two automatic calf feeders. Calves are housed in small groups until they are weaned and transitioned again to a high energy diet. This helps heifers to reach a breeding weight of 800 pounds faster. Since implementing this heifer feeding system, heifers have gone from calving at 24 months to calving at 22 months. Currently, the 1,950-cow herd has a rolling herd average of 24,700 pounds of milk. After calving, heifers are moved into the cross ventilated barn to join the milking herd. Drumgoon Dairy contracts all their feed with neighboring farms. This ensures they are able to get local, high quality feed and keep their focus on cow comfort.

Friday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.
Hosted by: Finger Family Farm, LLC, Oconto, Wis.
582 Milking/Cow Management 
Sponsored by: Vita Plus Corporation 

Currently in its fifth generation, the Finger Family Farm has witnessed its share of changes since the dairy's beginning in 1872.  In 2008, the farm experienced marginal milk production, a high calf mortality rate and a high herd cull rate. With the dissolution of a business partnership, Jack and Nancy Finger capitalized on a fresh start with their son and daughter-in-law, Phil and Laura. They placed a higher priority on cow comfort and calf care. The family oversaw the building of a new freestall facility with wider and longer stalls for the 582-cow herd. Cows transitioned from mattresses to sand bedding which has led to improved foot and leg health. Calves moved to hutches and new heifer facilities were constructed in 2013. The family also focused more intently on feed quality and nutrition. These changes have shown in increased milk per cow. In four years, the Finger Family Farm has appreciated its average daily production to 100 pounds per day.  Their current rolling herd average surpasses 30,400 pounds of milk with a somatic cell count under 150,000. They have reduced their calf mortality rate to below two percent, allowing the family to start marketing animals.  All of these improvements have helped the farm to become more financially solvent in hopes to provide for the next generation.

Saturday, Oct. 5, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Scheps Dairy Inc., Almena, Wis.
920 Milking/RFID Technology
Sponsored by: AgSource Cooperative Services

At Scheps Dairy, efficiency is a top priority as the herd has continued to grow steadily since it was founded in 1977 by Ken Scheps. In 1999, Ken and his wife Debbie completed an initial expansion and welcomed Ken’s brother, Dan, as a partner in the operation. Dan brought with him a degree from UW-River Falls and five years of experience as a dairy nutritionist. To help improve the dairy’s efficiency, each of the 920 cows and young stock are outfitted with RFID tags. With these tags, the Scheps are able to closely monitor each cow. Tracking software is also used to monitor feed intake. Additionally, they rely heavily on milk test information and other tools to measure the dairy’s success. It was through these tools that they recognized the need to build a transition barn in 2007. Transition cows were struggling after calving, costing money through the course of their lactation. By working with financial advisors, they were able to justify the cost of building the facility they needed. Currently, the herd has a rolling herd average of 32,166 pounds of milk with 1,294 pounds of fat and 1,033 pounds of protein while maintaining a somatic cell count of 121,000. Scheps Dairy has been honored with numerous production awards and was named a Wisconsin Top Ten Production Herd in 2012.

 

There will be plenty to experience at the “Center of the Dairy Universe”, World Dairy Expo, which will be October 1 through October 5 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Admission is $10 daily or $30 for a season pass, parking included. The trade show is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Visit www.worlddairyexpo.com for the latest schedule details or follow Expo all year long on Facebook at facebook.com/worlddairyexpo.



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