Dairy tours hosted each spring by the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania can be an eye-opening experience. PDMP’s recent tour of dairies in northern Indiana was no different.
The first full day of the tour in March was shared with PDMP managers’ fellow dairy operators from Indiana. They met up with members of the Indiana Dairy Producers at Fair Oaks Farms, the showcase agritourist destination founded by a dairy innovator, Mike McCloskey. McCloskey met with the group of more than 85 people in an open dialog about where the industry is going, responsibility as an industry, and what it means for the consumer to understand the animal welfare and environmental practices dairies adhere to on a daily basis. He shared how he and his wife, Sue, took their business from a 200-cow herd in 1988 to co-founding the sixth largest milk cooperative in the country. The operation also brands and processes its own bottled milk, gourmet cheese and ice cream.
McCloskey demonstrated his willingness to put it all out there to educate and inform the consumer on what modern dairy truly looks like ... right down to the birthing process, which was actually part of the tour. He challenged PDMP to open up their operations to neighbors and the community around them in order to build a relationship with the consumer.
The group visited the brand new Pig Adventure that Fair Oaks has added to their consumer education facility. The hog-raising facility is owned and operated by Belstra Milling Co.’s Legacy Farms.
Homestead Dairy was the next stop on the tour. The Houin family had 3,300 cows in four facilities and son Brian shared how he uses technology and the data it provides to improve their herd, production and profitability.
The group also visited the POET Biorefinery in North Manchester, where they initially suspected that the only result from the ethanol industry was high corn prices. However, what they learned about this company was that they were as uninformed about it as many are about their own industry. The plant turns some of their byproduct into Dakota Gold brand livestock feed for regional, national and international markets, and recycles every component of their raw materials, water and waste.
Later that day, the group saw a unique approach to forage: the shucklage used by Fraughiger Livestock. The digestible feedstock comes to the Fraughighers at only the price of transporting it to their Montpelier operation of 800 milking cows, 1,000 heifers and an auto feed calf barn.
Another unique operation they visited on the second day was Beer Farms Inc. in Berne. The Beers had developed a top-of-the-line niche market for their fresh heifers. The Beers focused on family, quality and technology. At dinner, Keith Beer checked his smartphone to monitor a live video stream of their maternity pen to determine if he needed to head back to the farm to assist with a birthing or if he could stay with PDMP for dessert.
The last day of the tour began in Syracuse where Joe Hibschman, son Roger, and several grandchildren operated Oneeda Farms. Joe Hibschman shared his family history in breeding Holsteins, to which he credits their great production numbers.
The day continued at Claredale Farms, just on the outskirts of Akron, Ohio, on their way east toward home. There, Frank Burkett and his grandfather talked about the advance planning taken to pass the farm ownership to next generations and showed them their extensive manure management system. With suburban neighbors surrounding their operations, Frank Burkett was acutely aware of their responsibility to demonstrate good practices at all times and opens the 800-cow operation to thousands of visitors each year to build a beneficial relationship with the public. The tour ended with Frank Burkett and a dozen other Ohio dairy producers for a dinner hosted by Elanco.
PDMP will host their own one-day tour in June.
Source: Professional Dairy Managers of Pa.