Free Registration for GLRDC 2021

The 19th annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) is going virtual in 2021. The conference will take place Feb. 4-5, 2021. Experts will share strategies and projections to help producers and industry representatives make the most of the next year and beyond. Due to the overwhelming support of the sponsors the committee is excited to announce that the conference is free for all to attend. We still need you to register online at

The first session will take place on Feb. 4 at 10:30 a.m. featuring Mary Ledman, Global Dairy Strategist with Rabobank. Ledman is a thought leader who has extensive knowledge of domestic and international dairy markets, policy and has more than thirty years of experience in production agriculture, food processing, government service, agricultural policy, dairy risk management, market information and dissemination, and milk and dairy product price forecasting. In addition to her global experience, she is very familiar with the Midwest and unique financial challenges presented in Michigan. She will provide recommendations to help your business thrive in 2021 and beyond.

The second session will start at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4, featuring Tangaroa Walker, a dairy producer and social media influencer from Southland, New Zealand. He will provide a virtual tour of his operation, discuss the challenges and successes of operating in New Zealand and share his perspective on the global dairy market. In addition, he will discuss his journey into social media and how that has helped enhance his operation. Back by popular demand Kreeger and Associates is hosting an online heifer auction prior to the session. Don’t miss your chance to bid on some beautiful animals before you join our session.

The last formal conference session will take place on Feb. 5 at 10:30 a.m. with a focus on Raising the Perfect Calf: Your Future Herd Profit Center with Dr. Sandra Godden, DVM, DVSc from the University of Minnesota. Godden will discuss current recommendations for key management areas for care of the pre-weaned calf, including goals for monitoring health and growth, transfer of passive immunity, newborn care, colostrum management, nutritional management, and pros and cons of individual versus group housing systems.  Learning to manage the newborn calves will help ensure a lifetime of performance and profitability.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is hosting a bonus session with a focus on how strategic planning can change the dairy and is scheduled for Feb. 5 from 2-3:30 p.m. MSU Extension experts Melissa McKendree, Stan Moore, Corey Clark, Jonathan LaPorte, and Barry Bradford along with a panel of producers will discuss strategic business planning for dairies. The producers will share how they have gone through significant changes in their own dairy businesses.

The conference will also feature a short informational presentation hosted by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) as a part of each session where you will hear an overview of the organization’s dairy promotional activities.

In addition to the exceptional educational sessions, attendees can connect with various agricultural companies by visiting our website sponsor page or joining the networking session. In addition, producers will have the opportunity to purchase heifers and cows through Kreeger and Associates GLRDC All Breeds Online Exchange on Thursday evening.

While registration is free attendees are asked to register by Feb. 3, 2021. For more information about the conference or to register online, visit To register by phone, call 517-884-7089.

Benthem Brothers Dairy announced as 2021 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year

Release From: Farm News Media; Michigan State University
Michigan Farm News
Benthem Brothers Dairy, located near McBain in Missaukee County has been named 2021 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year by the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University. Pictured above (left to right) Jason, Kyle, Ryan, and Bruce Benthem. | MSU photo


Benthem Brothers Dairy will receive the 2021 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year Award. The dairy is a family operation run by brothers Doug and Bruce, along with Doug’s son Jason, and Bruce’s sons Ryan and Kyle.

The award is given by the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University and will be presented during the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference, which will be held virtually Feb. 4-5.

Benthem Brothers Dairy, located in McBain, started with 30 cows in 1981, when Doug and Bruce took over the family farm started by their parents, Edwin and Trina Benthem, in the 1940s.

Today, Doug and Bruce are in the process of transitioning the farm ownership and management to their sons, while providing leadership and counsel. Jason and the herdsman manage the cows and work with the employees.

Ryan manages feed, purchasing and business aspects, while Kyle is taking on the role of crop production and serves as the lead for managing milk price risk. Jason is also the main contact for inspections conducted by regulatory agencies and dairy cooperative field staff.

Character, unity and teamwork were evident, when representatives from the Department of Animal Science and MSU Extension visited the farm. “The family trusts one another and their employees and look to each other to make sure all aspects of the farm are managed and maintained”, said Phil Durst, Extension educator in northern Michigan.

The nomination statement encapsulates the reason Benthem Brothers Dairy was chosen for this award.

“Their forward-thinking nature has allowed them to successfully grow and adapt to the challenges facing the dairy industry and has proven them a role model amongst Michigan dairy farmers,” he said.

The dairy has grown to around 2,850 cows. Expansion was accompanied by increases in acreage as opportunities arose, including purchase of the original Benthem homestead farm dating back to the 1880s, as well as infrastructure upgrades and additions.

The history of the farm and its trajectory were featured in a virtual farm tour during the 2018 World Dairy Expo.

A hallmark of the Benthem Brothers Dairy is the incorporation of technology. Perhaps the most influential technological improvement began in 2016 with their search for a rotary parlor to improve efficiency and to accommodate a larger herd size without around-the-clock milking.

The search led them as far as New Zealand and ended with a Waikato Milking Systems 60-stall rotary parlor, the first in the United States.

The parlor has a laminate composite platform that is 75% lighter than the usual concrete and can be operated by two people with only a few steps in the process. It includes automatic pre- and post-dip sprayers, automatic detachers and electronic milk meters (

The Benthems also incorporated a CowManager motion-sensing system to monitor rumen and cow activity. In addition, radio-frequency identification tags and automated sort gates aid in reducing labor hours and decreasing cow stress.

The World Dairy Expo virtual tour emphasized the family’s appreciation for their employees and cow welfare. Ryan Benthem noted that “providing a quality working environment…gives us good quality employees. That’s the key for our farm. We have great employees we can rely on every day.”

The dairy operation stands out in its dedication to the community. Family member involvement includes Big Brothers Big Sisters, youth basketball coaching, church activities, Michigan Milk Producers Association, company boards and local youth shows. Among its outreach endeavors, the farm hosted Breakfast on the Farm in 2011 and recently hosted a farm tour for MMPA young farmers.

Quality, efficiency, and good management have been operational goals for Benthem Brothers Dairy, and it has been recognized for the effort. In 2019 and 2020 it was awarded National Mastitis Council National Dairy Quality Awards (Silver).

In 2017, not only did the dairy receive a Gold MMPA Quality Award, but it also was a finalist for Consumers Energy Project of the Year. The farm is featured as a case study by Consumers Energy for upgrades resulting in 687,598 kWh electric savings each year. In the words of the nominator, “Their congeniality and open-farm policy to any of their fellow producers make the Benthems an outstanding neighbor, dairy producer and nominee for this award.”

“The Benthems are leading the way in using new technologies which benefit farm economics, employee satisfaction and animal welfare,” said Dr. Dale Rozeboom, interim co-chair of the Department of Animal Science. “It is with great pleasure that the MSU Department of Animal Science recognizes the Benthem Brothers Dairy as the 2021 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year.”


Benthem Brothers Dairy is Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verified in farmstead, cropping and livestock systems. Pictured above (left to right) Bruce, Jason, Kyle, and Doug Benthem.