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Countdown to World Dairy Expo #6: Virtual Tours, Real (Good) Dairies

Dairies from New York to Idaho and 260 to 10,800 cows will be featured in the World Dairy Expo virtual tours, Oct. 1-5, in Madison, Wis. The free tours will be presented in the Exhibition Hall Mendota 1 meeting room. For additional profile information, click here.


Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m.

Si-Ellen Farms, Jerome, Idaho

Originally a 100-cow dairy located in Vancouver, Si-Ellen Farms has grown into two farms, consisting of 10,200 Holsteins and 600 Jerseys on 7,000 acres. 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 striving to provide the best care possible. This effort has paid off with a rolling herd average of 29,007 lbs. of milk with a 160,000 cells/milliliter SCC. 

Si-Ellen Farms are environmental stewards: they’ve added a retaining lake to catch irrigation water, creating 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.


Wednesday, Oct. 2, Noon

Larson Acres, Evansville, Wis.

 By using the latest technology, Larson Acres efficiently produces high-quality milk, while being good neighbors. The 2,900-cow herd is outfitted with electronic ID, enabling family and employees to keep a close eye on production levels. Most of the herd is housed in a cross-ventilated barn; 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 herd expansion. 

Since Larson Acres is located near a growing population, the Larsons have joined the ranks of social media to keep people abreast of farm changes. They utilize YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest, and have their own website, which introduces the Larson family, explains their commitment to producing a high-quality product, and describes how their expansion created area jobs.


Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2 p.m.

Dutch Hollow Farm, Schodack Landing, N.Y.

Dutch Hollow Farm, LLC, 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. Three sons, Brian, Alan and Nathan, have joined the operation. More than 200 cows have achieved lifetime production in excess of 100,000 lbs milk. 

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. 

In an effort to help educate consumers, a Discovery Dairy Center was opened in 2011, offering lessons meeting New York education standards in science, social studies and math. 

Thursday, Oct. 3, Noon

Cinnamon Ridge, Donahue, Iowa

For over six generations, the Maxwell family, including brothers John and Edwin, and John’s daughters, Amy and Kara, has been farming in Iowa. The farm is named for the “Cinnamon” color of the Jerseys, and “Ridge” is for the elevation of the farm. Incorporating robotic milkers, the herd was expanded to 260 Jerseys, with a rolling herd average of 21,234 lbs. of milk, making them the seventh-highest producing U.S. Jersey herd. Their milk is processed on the farm into cheese, which is sold in an on-site retail store and restaurant. They also feature other foods grown at Cinnamon Ridge, including beef, pork, poultry and eggs. There is also an event center the Maxwells’ use for farm tours, hosting 2,500 visitors annually. It is also available for public events, weddings and wine/cheese parties. 


Thursday, Oct. 3, 2 p.m.

Mystic Valley Dairy LLC, Sauk City, Wis.

Mitch Breunig, his wife, Jackie and children, Alison, Lauren and Brayden, have developed some of the most influential Holstein bloodlines in the world. The 425-cow Mystic Valley Dairy herd is home to the Jenny-Lou prefix and herd matriarch, Jenny-Lou Patron Toyane. She is the dam of Toystory, the only bull in history to have more than 2 million doses sold; Trump, currently a Top 100 Type sire; and Lou, 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.

With attention on nutrition and cow comfort, including extra-wide stalls for extra lunge space, this registered Holstein herd has a rolling herd average of 32,651 lbs. of milk with a 87,000 SCC. The cows receive a SCR rumination monitor to measure health and wellness, while maximizing reproductive performance. Mystic Valley markets an extra 80 cows per year, and sells embryos to Germany, the Netherlands, China and Australia.


Friday, Oct. 4, Noon

Drumgoon Dairy, Lake Norden, S.D.  

Drumgoon Dairy made the move from Ireland to the U.S. in 2006. After finding limited opportunity to expand in Europe, Rodney and Dorothy Elliott, along with their children David, James and Becky, decided to build a new dairy in South Dakota.

Drumgoon Dairy contracts all their feed with neighboring farms, enabling them to get local, high-quality feed while keeping their focus on cow comfort. 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, then transitioned to a high-energy diet. This helps them reach a breeding weight of 800 lbs. faster, calving at 22 months. After calving, heifers are moved into the cross-ventilated barn to join the milking herd. Currently, the 1,950-cow herd has a rolling herd average of 24,700 lbs, of milk.  


Friday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.

Finger Family Farm, LLC, Oconto, Wis.

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, high calf mortality and a high 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. They built a new freestall facility with wider and longer stalls for the 582-cow herd. Cows transitioned to sand bedding, improving 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, increasing average daily production to 100 lbs./cow/day within four years  Their current rolling herd average surpasses 30,400 lbs. of milk with a 150,000 SCC. Calf mortality is below 2%, allowing the family to start marketing animals.


Saturday, Oct. 5, Noon.

Scheps Dairy Inc., Almena, Wis.

At Scheps Dairy, efficiency is a top priority as the herd has continued to grow steadily since it was founded in 1977. In 1999, Ken and his wife Debbie completed an initial expansion and welcomed Ken’s brother, Dan, an experienced nutritionist, as a partner. 

To improve efficiency, each of the 920 cows and young stock are outfitted with RFID tags, enabling the Scheps to closely monitor each animal. Tracking software is also used to monitor feed intake. Additionally, they rely 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. Currently, the herd has a rolling herd average of 32,166 lbs. of milk with 1,294 lbs. of fat and 1,033 lbs. of protein, while maintaining a 121,000 SCC. They were named a Wisconsin Top Ten Production Herd in 2012.