Virtual farm tours showcase top notch dairies

Visit dairies from around the U.S. without leaving World Dairy Expo 2011. Virtual Farm Tours will focus on a variety of management topics, including: land conservation and forages, technology and innovation, unique marketing, robotic milkers, family transition, milk quality, reproductive success and transition cow management.

These free tours will be presented daily, Tuesday through Saturday, in the Mendota 1 meeting room in the Exhibition Hall. The managers will present a half-hour pictorial view of their operation, including general operation information and highlights of exceptional management practices. Time for questions and discussion will follow. The tours will be available for viewing on World Dairy Expo's website after the show.  Following is a short biography and description of each tour:

Tuesday, October 4, 2:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Simon Dairy, Westphalia, Mich.
705 Milking/Family Transition
Sponsored by: Quality Liquid Feeds

As the next generation joins the farm, the transition can be a difficult process. However, for the family of Simon Dairy Farm it has been a great opportunity to learn and grow together. Larry and Therese Simon are in the process of transferring responsibilities to their eldest son Brent and are planning for a partnership with Brent and his brother Scott, who is currently a junior at Michigan State University and working towards a degree in Agri-Business Management.  This multi-generational team has capitalized on the diverse blend of experience, education, and individual strengths. By working closely with Brent and other key members of the management team, the farm has been able to accomplish a rolling herd average of 27,072 lbs. with a somatic cell count of only 97,000. Additionally, Simon Dairy has been able to achieve a pregnancy rate of 28 percent with over 55 percent of the herd being pregnant. Simon Dairy has been honored with the Silver Award for SCC by the Michigan Milk Producers Association and has won numerous top honors for several individual cows. 

Wednesday, October 5, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Rosendale Dairy, LLC, Pickett, Wis.
8,400 Milking/Technology and Innovation
Sponsored by: Conestoga-Rovers &; Associates

Opened in 2008, Rosendale Dairy, LLC is the largest dairy in Wisconsin and utilizes the latest in technology. Rosendale Dairy is part of Milk Source, LLC which is a partnership between Jim Ostrom, John Vosters and Todd Willer. The partnership includes three additional dairies in Wisconsin, with a fourth one breaking ground this year. The 8,400-cow herd is housed in two-16 row barns featuring cross ventilation. Aisles are cleared using McLanahan push-pull augers that run the width of the barn and empty into a state-of-the-art sand separator. After waste and sand are separated, waste is further separated using dissolved air floatation that breaks waste into nutrients and water.  Waste water and manure is stored in three, concrete-lined storage ponds with a total capacity of 73 million gallons. Rosendale contracts with local land owners for manure agreements. The herd is milked three times a day in twin 80-cow rotary parlors and has a rolling herd average of 28,000 lbs. Last year, the dairy received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy Management.

Wednesday, October 5, 2:00 p.m.
Hosted by: St. Brigid's Farm, Kennedyville, Md.
70 Milking/ Unique Marketing
Sponsored by: American Jersey Cattle Association

St. Brigid's Farm was so named for the patron saint of dairymaids and scholars, which reflects the owners" backgrounds. Judy Gifford was raised on a small dairy farm and always had a love of cows, and Dr. Robert Fry is a veterinarian whose career has been focused on the production and health of dairy cattle. Their 55-acre farm, located on the scenic eastern shore of Maryland, near the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, is planted in permanent pasture and home to a 70-cow seasonal calving Jersey herd.  This top producing herd was ranked third nationally for herd average Jersey Performance Index™ at the end of 2010. Gifford and Fry also raise grass-fed Jersey steers that are processed and marketed locally. Since 2008, the farm has hosted a Field to Fork dinner, an elegant event featuring a five-course meal for 100 people set in the pasture at the farm. Local products are prepared and served while growers, including Gifford and Fry, share their stories with the diners. It is a unique opportunity to educate neighbors about their environmental efforts and animal husbandry. They reinforce this message through their website and blog. Proceeds from the dinner are donated to charity.

Thursday, October 6, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Nor-Bert Farms, LLC, Bermen, Ind.
140 Milking/Robotic Milkers
Sponsored by: Lely USA

Norman Krathwohl never imagined when he purchased Nor-Bert Farms in 1945 that 65 years later, three robots would be milking the herd. Nor-Bert Farm, LLC is owned and operated by Norman, his daughter and son-in law, Roger and Deb Dankert, his grandson, Jeremy Dankert, granddaughter Jennifer, and her family including her husband, Monty and their three children Dalton, Dillon and Breanne. Currently, Nor-Bert Farms milks 140 cows with a rolling herd average of 27,619 lbs.  After a trip to the Netherlands, Roger was convinced that robotic milking could be a good fit for their operation. The family visited other dairies that had robotics incorporated into their operation and researched their options for automated milking. In 2010, the farm broke ground to retro fit the robots into the existing farm set-up. Robotic milking has been a great improvement to Nor-Bert Farms allowing for flexibility in work schedules and allows the farm to continue to grow as the family grows. The family agrees that robotic milking definitely works.

Thursday October 6, 2:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Meadow Vista Dairy LLC, Bainbridge, Penn.
648 Milking/Land Conservation and Forages
Sponsored by: Quality Liquid Feed

Located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, producing quality forages while implementing best management practices for crop production is always top of mind for the Risser Family. Brothers Don and Gerald Risser, along with Don's son, Eric, and Gerald's son, Justin, are all partners in Meadow Vista Dairy LLC. Two of Gerald's sons, Jason and Jordan are also involved with the day-to-day operations. The farm is comprised of 740 acres on which corn, alfalfa, grass hay and small grain crops are grown. In 2008, the farm became 100 percent no-till cropping. The use of rye as a cover crop helps limit phosphorus and nitrogen runoff, and soil erosion. Rye is double cropped with corn.  With detailed feed and animal records, the family is able to know the exact cost per ton of each crop. In turn, this helps to reduce wasted feed. More importantly, it helps to allocate which crops are grown, how much fuel is used to plant and harvest crops, and how much fertilizer to apply. Currently, the farm milks 648 cows with a rolling herd average of 29,357 lbs.

Friday, October 7, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Blue Mound Dairy, Laverne, Minn.
1,000 Milking/Milk Quality
Sponsored by: Pioneer Hi-Bred

At Blue Mound Dairy, efficiency and quality are the goals. Those goals extend to every aspect of the operation – from milking protocols to feed production. Blue Mound Dairy, owned and operated by Rick and Carrie Van Santen and their four sons, is nationally recognized for both milk quality and reproduction management.  Honored for six consecutive years with the Milk Quality Award, they are industry leaders in milk quality with a bulk tank SCC average of just 112,000 for their 1,000-cow herd. As a 2009 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Silver Award Winner, they also lead the industry in reproductive performance across their herd. Finally, Blue Mound Dairy is able to maintain a rolling herd average of 28,500 lbs. with nearly all home-grown forages. By implementing several new procedures and practices, forage digestibility is at an all-time high for both haylage and corn silage.

Friday, October 7, 2:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Myers Farms, Inc., Union Grove, N.C.
1,200 Milking/Reproduction Success
Sponsored by: North Carolina Dairy Advantage

Myers Farms strives for the very best in cow comfort, milk quality and most importantly reproductive performance. Barry and MaryJane Myers, along with their family, own and operate Myers Farms, Inc. The herd of 1,200 milk cows maintains a rolling herd average of 26,990 lbs. with a somatic cell count of 70,000. More impressively, Myers Farms has a 35 percent pregnancy rate. By working with closely with their veterinarian, reproductive specialists and employees, they have a sound reproductive plan. After observing the voluntary waiting period of 72 days, all cows are placed on a PreSynch+Ovsynch program and then timed A.I. Any cows checked open after 36 days post breeding are put back into the Ovsynch program. Heifers are bred when observed in heat and animals found open or over 14 months of age are then synchronized using a CIDR. In 2009, Myers Farms, Inc. was recognized as one of the top four herds in the nation for their reproductive success and awarded Platinum Honors by the Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council.

Saturday, October 8, 12:00 p.m.
Hosted by: Maple Ridge Dairy, LLC, Stratford, Wis.
1,022 Milking/Transition Cow Management
Sponsored by: AgSource Cooperative Resources

Getting cows off to a good start after calving is essential to Maple Ridge Dairy, LLC. Ken Hein and his brother-in-law Gary Ruegsegger are partners in the dairy with assistance from Ken's dad, Phil Hein, Jr. Maple Ridge Dairy tracks several key areas very closely during the transition cow period including somatic cell count, feed intake and daily milk weights. When numbers appear inconsistent, the issue is immediately addressed. By doing this, the dairy addresses fresh cow problems and prevents them from becoming larger and more costly issues. Additionally, cows off to a good start have more productive lactations, which is reflected in their rolling herd average of 31,014 lbs. and a somatic cell count of 118,000. Both Ken and Gary are members of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and serve on numerous boards. Last year, they were honored as 2010 Master Agriculturalists.

World Dairy Expo is an international trade and cattle show for dairy producers.  This year's show will take place October 4-8 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis.  For more information, contact World Dairy Expo at 608-224-6455 or visit