Michigan Dairy Ambassador Program Gearing Up for 2021, Applications Due March 15.

Any Michigan high school and college students interested in dairy and/or pursuing a career in the dairy industry have until March 15 to apply for the 2021 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program. The program offers dairy communication and leadership training to participants as well as opportunities to promote dairy in their community and throughout the state.

All applicants meeting baseline criteria will be invited to participate in several trainings and activities as part of the program. The program will conclude at the 2022 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC). The 2021 Michigan Dairy Ambassadors will be equipped with the messaging and practice to effectively communicate with consumers in-person and online.

Participation throughout the year in trainings, virtual activities and dairy promotion will earn points with the opportunity to advance to the interview round. Applications, resume and participation along with an interview will be considered for scholarship recipient selections. Two scholarships will be awarded to the representatives, one to a junior winner and another to a senior winner.

The senior division is reserved for college students up to age 22, with the winner receiving a $1,500 scholarship. The junior division is limited to high school students in grades nine to 12, and the winner receives $1,000 that can be applied toward higher education or the purchase of a dairy animal within the upcoming year. Applicants are not required to have a dairy farm background, but they must plan to pursue a career related to the dairy industry. The scholarship program is funded through a benefit auction held at the annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC).

Students interested in applying for the 2021 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program can download an application or contact Megghan Honke Seidel at 989-666-3773.

Applications must be submitted electronically to 1glrdc@gmail.com and will be accepted until March 15, 2021.

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 www.glrdc.org.

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 www.glrdc.org. 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 (https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/people/family-at-center-of-benthem-brothers-commitment-to-quality).

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.”

large-Benthem_Borthers_-_Exterior.jpg

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.

19th annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference will be held virtually in February   

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.

Dairy producers have navigated unprecedented challenges for the past five years and the novel corona virus only added to these difficult and challenging times. This year’s conference is designed to hit these challenges head on and provide producers with important updates and information to help them stay competitive and improve their operation. The conference will feature three, two-hour sessions and one bonus session hosted by Michigan State University Extension.

“While we are incredibility disappointed that we are not able to gather for our annual meeting face to face, we are excited to share three specific sessions with producers and industry representatives,” said Brian Troyer, Committee Chair. “The sessions will provide attendees with both the 30,000-foot level perspective of the industry and more detailed sessions to enhance practical applications on the farm.”

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.

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.

The registration fee for the full conference is only $35 and attendees are asked to register by Feb. 3, 2021. For more information about the conference or to register online, visit www.glrdc.org. To register by phone, call 517-884-7089.

How can we better support our dairy farmers?

I used to hear about the old days. I never really understood that, but I’m starting to now. I saw my grandparents operate a dairy farm by growing their hay and silage, by milking and breeding their cows, and by selling their milk. Although I don’t remember when my grandparents pasteurized their own milk, I do remember going up north and getting pasteurized, but not homogenized, milk from Shetler’s Dairy. The milk from Shetler’s Dairy came in glass bottles and was not homogenized; meaning, the cream rose to the top of the bottle creating two inches of cream on top of the milk.

Dairy farming is labor intensive and hard work. The work is hard but you know your animals and they know you. It has become increasingly difficult to find quality, dedicated, and willing workers to work on a dairy farm.  In addition, fewer people are willing to do the kind of hard work dairy farming requires.

Shetler’s Dairy Farm closed in August. Nationwide in 2018 more than 2,700 dairy farms have closed across the country. Michigan has 1500 dairy farms, 97 percent being family owned.  Only 1.7 percent of the U. S. population produces the food for our world. What does this mean for Michigan dairy farmers?

I am concerned about the future of dairy farming and the future of our dairy food supply.  What will we do when our dairy farms are few in number? What will happen to the iconic farms we as a community are used to seeing in our rural landscape? What will happen to the fabric of our rural communities as our small farms, often the backbone of their communities, diminish in number? How do we continue to generate demand for the nutrient rich white milk only dairy cows can provide?  What will we have to pay for milk? Will we have enough milk to meet society’s demand?  Will we end up being forced to drink white vegetable juice someone wants us to believe is an acceptable alternative to real dairy milk, which contains nine essential nutrients?   As the number of dairy producers decrease, how is our production going to be maintained?

Jonathan Sayles

Query:  How can we better support dairy farmers in their businesses, how do we attract employees for dairy farms, and how do we maintain supply of such a basic staple of our nutritional needs?  What do you think? I think I am concerned and I am missing the good old days already.

Safety Tips for the Fair

Growing up I couldn’t wait until the week of fair. I had been working with my fair calf since January and I was ready to take him to fair. I couldn’t wait to cheer on my friends with their animals, inhale fair food between showing classes, ride the roller coasters, play fair games, look at all the venders merchandise, and assess all the crafts the other 4-H and FFA members made.

While I am looking forward to all the fun, I also know that with the hundreds of people flooding the grounds for the fair and the animals traveling from all over the county being placed under the same roof, safety becomes of the utmost importance.  As such, I would like to share some simple tips for staying safe at the county fair this summer while interacting with all the livestock exhibits.

First, ask before touching. The exhibitors know their animal best. I have had animals that everyone could pet, and they wouldn’t care. I also had animals that didn’t adjust well to being at the fair and I didn’t want to make the animal feel unsafe or in danger. FFA members and 4-H kids have been working with their livestock for as little as a month to as long as several years. We know when they are having a bad day and when they feel good. We don’t want our animals to feel threatened or endangered. It is safest for the animal, the handler, other animals and yourself if you ask before touching.

Never approach the rear of an animal. Livestock animals have eyes in the side of their heads with 180° degrees of vision. They can’t see you when you approach from behind. Something as little as brushing up against them can spook them. When spooked they could be injured, injury a bystander, harm their handler or hurt another animal. For the safety of the animal, handler, bystanders including yourself and other animals please don’t approach an animal from behind.

Please do not feed the animals. What can seem like a harmless prank or inquisitive observation can be deadly for an animal. They have special feed that delivers 100 percent of their daily needs. Animals have different types of digestive systems and cannot process food like humans.  If a station at the fair is offering an option to purchase feed to feed an animal, it is ok to feed that specific feed to the animal as it is designed with the animal in mind. For the health of the animals, please don’t share your food with them.

Please do not release an animal. The pens they are in are designed according to livestock standards and laws and help the animal feel safe and protected. If you are concerned the animal is not able to get enough exercise please know that before the fair opens 4-H and FFA members walk and care for their animals. Most larger livestock species are untied and walked at least once every two hours for exercise and a drink of water. A loose animal can seriously injure or kill an innocent bystander, injure themselves, or hurt another animal. Although they are trained, animals that are scared resort to their fight or flight instinct. For the safety of all fair goers and animals, please don’t release an animal.

Remember to wash your hands after touching animals. Animals at the fair are required to be vaccinated for specific diseases before being brought to the fair, however just like humans, diseases and illness can still occur. Sometimes a disease is zoonotic and can spread from one species to another. Even if an animal is vaccinated against a zoonotic disease, the animal can still be a carrier of that disease. Touching an animal that is carrying a zoonotic disease can result in you or an immunocompromised (young kids and the elderly) family member to contract the disease. For the health and safety of other animals and people, please wash your hands after touching an animal.

To protect the health and wellness of the animals, yourself, the 4-H and FFA members caring for the animals and other people at the fair, please keep in mind these safety tips while attending the county fair. I hope you have a great and safe fair experience!

 

 

-Elyze Zimmerlee

Aspiring to be a Dairy Farmer

Working on a family dairy farm, I saw firsthand that dairy farmers are amazing caretakers of the cows that provide fresh wholesome milk for all to enjoy. Dairy farmers are also community volunteers, crop farmers, mechanics, accountants,  and family members.

 

When I think about a dairy farmer, I think about a person who is caring and loving, but is also able to dig in deep and fight for the things they care about so passionately. Taking care of their cows is the number one mission for dairy framers. I love the way they will work from sun up to sun down and are there at all hours of the night just to be sure that their animals are okay.

 

It truly takes a lot of heart to be a dairy farmer. They care so much and try so hard for something that does not always have a desirable outcome. When things get hard, they do everything that they can to make things work while their love and care for their cows never wavers. For example, they have barns to house their cattle and put in fans and curtains to keep the cows content in all weather conditions. Farmers are also dialed in closely on a cow’s diet to make sure she is getting the nutrients she needs to make wholesome milk. Out of all the things a farmer does, I think the most important is that they are literally always there for their cows no matter the time of day. If something goes wrong, the farmer is there to help.

 

There are a lot of things that go on in a day at the farm from fieldwork to feeding the cows to administration, but from my personal experiences of working on a family dairy farm, I learned that cows always come first, no matter what else is going on around the farm. Nothing makes me happier than working alongside people that have the same care and compassion as I do for these amazing animals.

 

Dairy farmers are extraordinary men and women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. So many people have assumptions about farmers, but I’m not sure we are really letting the words sink in. The life of a dairy farmer is not just a pastime. It is a timeless livelihood. One of the biggest misconceptions that I had before I started working at a farm is the amount of time and hard work it takes to be a dairy farmer. Now I know first-hand that it takes countless hours, blood, sweat and tears to make a farm run and operate smoothly.

 

When I was young I was never sure what I wanted to be “when I got older,” but now I know with both my love for cattle and having dairy farmers as role models whom I look up to, that one day I aspire to be just like them. I do not just aspire to one day have the same title as a dairy farmer, but I hope to have the same work ethic, knowledge and compassion for the work I do, no matter where I am employed.

Makin’ Hay While the Sun Shines

May through August is a very busy time for dairy farmers in the state of Michigan. Ask any dairy farmer what they like to do when the sun shines, and I bet they’ll tell you with a grin, “Make hay” and that’s just what dairy farmers do — they make hay to feed their cows.

 

A typical day of “making hay” on a dairy farm may look different depending on the size of the farm and management styles. No way is right or wrong, and all have one end goal in sight: Feed our dairy cows a nutritious and balanced diet so they produce high quality, wholesome milk that can be poured into a glass on someone’s dinner table, or made into cheese, butter, yogurt or ice cream.

 

Growing up on a dairy farm, I was very involved in making hay with my family. On our farm when we make hay, we do it two different ways. We either chop it or we make it into bales.

 

This is the process when we chop hay:

 

  1. Cutting hay is somewhat like cutting the grass in your yard.  We cut it with a haybine, which could almost be called a glorified lawnmower, and then let it dry for a short amount of time before we take the next steps.
  2. Merging hay is taking one or two rows and combining it into an even larger row called a windrow. This is one of my favorite jobs on the farm.
  3. After the hay is merged, my Dad will chop the hay with the chopper into little pieces. When the hay is chopped, is still has a good deal of moisture in it. It is similar to when humans canning our food. This process is amazing to me, and I still get goosebumps whenever I see the chopper pull into the field (farming nerd, I know).
  4. The chopped hay goes right from the chopper into trucks or wagons pulled by tractors. The trucks will then haul the chopped hay — or haylage — back to the farm where it will be dumped onto the cement pad and packed into the haylage pile. The haylage is packed tightly to remove the air and keep it fresh for us to feed our cows over the next year. Some farms also store haylage in giant bags, like big food-saver bags that we use in our kitchens.

 

The hay that isn’t chopped is made into dry hay, or bales. Baling dry hay is a comparison to humans dehydrating their food.To make hay bales, we:

 

  1. Cut the hay, the same way we cut it for making haylage.
  2. We ted the hay after we cut it. Tedding hay is spreading out the hay so it can lay flat on the ground to dry. This is one of my jobs when we make dry hay. This allows it to dry nicely before we rake it and then eventually bale it.

 

  1. After we ted the hay, we go to the field with different machinery and rake the hay after it’s had plenty of time to dry in the sun. After it is raked, two rows are often merged into windrows using a large rake.
  2. Finally, my dad goes into the field and bales the hay.

 

The type of hay determines if we’ll chop it or bale it.  Typically, we will chop alfalfa, to use as cow feed.  We will chop grass hay for heifer feed, and then bale the remainder of the grass hay or grass and alfalfa mixtures.  Whether we chop or bale the hay  also depends on whether it is first, second or third cutting. A “cutting” of hay is the number of times the farmer re-cuts the hay for the summer. In northern Michigan, we typically only get three cuttings from each field. In many parts of mid to southern Michigan, they average around four to five cuttings. The weather can also play a role in what we chop or bale. Because we need the hay to dry for long periods of time before we bale it, we will chop the hay if it gets rained on more than once.

 

As you can see, there are no wrong or right ways to make hay. Every farm is different. The important thing is that everyone has the best interest of providing their cows safe, nutritious food throughout the year. We are all aiming to make feed for our cattle that helps them produce high quality, wholesome milk!

 

-Leta

 

Dairy Farms May Look Different, but They Share One Goal

All dairy farms, even though they may look vastly different, strive for the same common goals: Having healthy and happy animals, making safe milk, caring for the environment, providing food for everyone to enjoy and promoting a safe workplace for employees. One type of dairy farm is a rotational grazing dairy farm, which is the type I grew up on and am most familiar with.

 

Things on a rotational grazing dairy farm run differently than on other farms; each farm is unique like each family is unique. On our family farm we have around 200 acres of pasture, which is sectioned off into smaller areas for the cows to graze at different times during the day. The younger animals also spend as much time as possible on pasture. Every day I am lucky to see our cows right from our house windows.

 

When our cows come into the barn to be milked twice a day, they get a TMR (total mixed ration) which is a complete meal with all the nutrients they need to make milk, in addition to the grass they graze on all day. We also have barns with sand stalls where the cows can comfortably lay down. During the winter months, the younger animals are in barns and we feed them a TMR.

 

A grazing dairy farm has different tasks compared to farms that have their cows housed year-round in freestall barns. One type of farm isn’t better than the other — they are just different. Some days I spend more time on a quad, or four-wheeler, checking fence and cattle than I spend on my feet. Regular visits and calls from our neighbors are cause for alarm, as it usually means the cows are out again. At the end of each day, my family’s goals are the same as our dairy peers: To raise healthy cows who give us high-quality milk.

-Miriam Cook

Miriam Cook will be a senior in the fall of 2018 at Pewamo-Westphalia High School. She lives and works on her family’s grazing dairy farm year-round. Her passion for agriculture started with the family farm and has expanded through her involvement in 4-H and FFA. Not only does she have a strong passion for dairy, but she loves to work with her Nigerian dwarf goats, horses, steers, ducks and, at times, pigs. She hopes to continue to gain knowledge on all things agriculture through an agriculture degree in college. With her increased knowledge, she plans to continue to teach others and maybe one day come back to the family farm to help feed the population. Miriam is participating in the Michigan Dairy Ambassador program.