From pasture views of the grand expanse of the cosmos to a beautifully staged patriotic red Holstein, MMPA photographers captured their best in the fifth annual MMPA photo contest. Selected from over 80 entries, the winning photographers capture stunning scenes on dairy farms throughout the Great Lakes region. In this year’s contest, there were five awards given: first, second and third place judged by a panel of judges, along with a people’s choice award determined by public voting and a staff choice award, the favorite photo among MMPA employees.

1st Place

Photographer: Freda Diemer
Photo Title: Early Season Snowfall
Hometown: McBain, Michigan

2nd Place

Photographer: Julia Troyer
Photo Title: Red, White & Moo
Hometown: Laotto, Indiana

3rd Place

Photographer: Vickie Rupprecht
Photo Title: The Other Side
Hometown: Vassar, Michigan

People’s Choice Award

Photographer: Britney Hood
Photo Title: Just a Girl and Her Calf
Hometown: Paw Paw, Michigan

Staff Choice Award

Photographer: Freda Diemer
Photo Title: Milky Way Cows
Hometown: McBain, Michigan

By Doug Chapin, MMPA Board Chairman

We are obviously in an election year. The news, advertisements and just plain noise are constant reminders of that. However, if you’re a Michigan dairy producer, you have an extra ballot to cast. You will have an opportunity to decide where and how your promotion dollars are used. We are asking all Michigan members to vote “yes” on the Dairy Promotion Referendum. A yes vote does not have a cost to any producer. The passage of the referendum allows 10 cents of the 15 cent checkoff to remain in Michigan.

The Dairy and Tobacco Adjustment Act of 1983 mandates that all dairy producers in the United States contribute 15 cents per hundred weight for promotion and research. This act also allows for state referendums to determine how the mandated 15 cents per hundred weight is divided. If the referendum passes, 10 cents stays in Michigan and 5 cents goes to the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board for national activities. The statute also requires that the referendum be voted on by producers every 5 years. 2022 marks the fifth year of the cycle.

The 10 cents that will stay in Michigan is under the direction of the Michigan Dairy Market Program Committee. This committee is made up of dairy producers that are selected by the Governor. We have several MMPA members on this committee. The Michigan Dairy Market Program Committee has selected the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) to administer our checkoff dollars. MMPA also has several members that serve on the UDIM Board. Our MMPA members who serve on these committees represent all Michigan dairy farmers and they provide direction and oversight of our promotion dollars. You can see the value of keeping our promotion and research dollars close to home where we have a very strong voice in how they are used.

UDIM utilizes programs that help our producers promote dairy and showcase our producers’ efforts on sustainability. UDIM also does a great job with consumer outreach. They have programs that work with schools, health professionals and sports teams. They keep an active and high profile on social media and make sure consumers have the correct information. I invite you to learn more about UDIM at milkmeansmore.com or reach out to one of our UDIM or MMPA board members. UDIM also has staff that are willing to help you.

This October all Michigan dairy farmers have a voice. Vote yes to keep your checkoff dollars in Michigan so that we can decide where and how those funds can be used to their full value. Remember, the 15 cent deduction from your milk check is unaffected by this referendum. A yes vote keeps it in Michigan.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Hannah Tietz

Shelby, MI

Internship: Quality Assurance
College or University: Michigan State University
Year in School: Graduated August 12th
Major/Degree Program: Food Science – Technology Concentration

What experiences did you gain as an intern at MMPA?
I learned a great deal during my time interning at MMPA. The bulk of it can be summed up as technical skills related to the dairy industry, but the most important things I learned came in the form of personal skills. I learned a lot about how to treat others and gain respect. Putting effort into the people around you goes a long way in terms of cultivating the company culture and promoting personal relationships.

What do you like most about working in the dairy industry?
Milk has a very rich history. During the industrial revolution, raw milk production moved from farms that cared about their livestock to high-demand industries that only cared about production. This shift away from animal welfare resulted in illness in the cattle, which resulted in contaminated milk. Furthermore, in the 1800’s there were no standard practices that would control adulteration, things like dilution, replacing cream with calf brains, even adding borax were commonplace. Milk quickly became known as the “white death” which took the lives of many vulnerable people. After necessary changes were enforced, the milk industry recovered from its bad reputation. This change didn’t happen overnight or without penalty. As someone who is highly motivated by food safety and quality, I enjoy working in an industry that is highly scrutinized. We need to constantly prove ourselves by upholding best practices. On the farm side, there is proof that animal welfare is a priority, and on the processing side, we are proving that we have nothing to hide and that we are producing the best quality product. Food safety and quality are never-ending in the dairy industry.

How does this MMPA internship experience fit into your future career goals?
I believe that this internship experience has set me up for success within my career. I am a planner, I am constantly thinking ahead and plotting my next move. My career goals for myself begin with spending 5-10 years in a quality assurance leadership position for a dairy processing facility. I then want to use that experience to boost my career as an MDARD dairy division inspector, which I want to spend the bulk of my career (about 20 years). Then finish out my career as a travelling SQF auditor. Prior to starting this internship, I did not have a defined plan for my career, but this position gave me insight into the daily events of a processing facility and audits that helped me realize
my passions.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

With nearly 10 million residents in Michigan, there’s a lot of work to be done building the next generation of dairy enjoyers, reaching dairy consumers, and fighting food insecurity with the power of dairy’s nutrition. Since 1983, Michigan dairy farmers have supported the effort by providing 10 cents from every hundredweight of milk to fund and guide the work that the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) can do in local Michigan communities.

As Michigan’s dairy checkoff, UDIM strives to build demand for all dairy foods and to exceed consumer and member expectations of products and services. And while not every consumer is a targeted audience of the checkoff, UDIM impacts influential consumers with key dairy messages in order to put the hard-earned dollars of Michigan dairy farmers to work gaining reach, growing engagement, and garnering impressions to make milk relevant to our neighbors.

Building the Next Generation

Virtual Farm Tours

UDIM reaches teachers and students with virtual tours of Michigan dairy farms and processing facilities. During the virtual tours, teachers and students can interact and have real conversations with dairy farmers from the convenience of their classroom while learning directly from dairy farmers how milk and other dairy foods get from the farm to their schools.

By the numbers, since the program began in 2019:

  • 16 tours
  • 141,300 people reached

Chocolate Milk Grants

Chocolate milk is Nature’s Sports Drink and provides important nutrients high school athletes need to support muscle and bone development. The Milk Means More Chocolate Grant Program helps to support not only successful refueling after workouts and games, but also provides energy and nutrition to growing bodies, fuels student athletes in the classroom and fills nutrient gaps for many young people who may live with food insecurity.

Since the program started in 2011:

  • 2,019 teams
  • 91,562 student athletes

Reaching Consumers

Piston Partnership

Partnering with the Detroit Pistons, UDIM works to amplify the benefits of dairy foods with influential and diverse generational audiences. The program features billboards, in-arena signage, photo ops, game-day activities, branded swag, community events, social media and more to help amplify the nutritional and performance benefits of milk. The outreach created unique moments to position milk as top-of-mind among athletes, amateurs and youth across Detroit, southeast Michigan and beyond.

By the numbers:

  • 3 million impressions by targeted digital ads and social media posts
  • 12 million impressions by a series of billboards along I-96

Social

With more than 3.4 billion people actively using channels like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and others, social media presents an incredible opportunity to share the benefits of dairy foods as part of a healthy diet and share about modern dairy farming practices.

By the numbers (January-July):

  • Overall Social Media Impact:
    • Impressions: 13.8M
    • Engagements: 289.9K
  • Influencer Impact:
    • Impressions: 954.3K
    • Engagements: 109.4K

Fighting Food Insecurity

Milk Drives

Milk and other dairy foods are among the most requested items by food bank clients and UDIM helps increase opportunities to provide needed nutrition by partnering with retailers to encourage customers to donate milk to help meet local food bank dairy food needs.

By the numbers in 2021:

  • 2 retail partners
  • 220,309 gallons of milk donated

Food Bank Dairy Distribution

UDIM works with food banks and dairy farmers to ensure that local food pantries have the proper infrastructure to handle milk and other dairy products. Their goal is for all of those visiting Michigan’s food pantries to have access to nutrient-rich dairy foods.

By the numbers:

  • Two years ago when our farmers saw more need in their local communities, we started a grant which provided a dairy cooler and dairy foods starter grant to food pantries. This program has since grown and to date we have placed 61 coolers, 10 infrastructure grants and 25 dairy food grants.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

With a natural curiosity toward everything dairy, a laser-focused drive and a love of problem-solving, Katelyn Packard, 2022 MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC), is a master of making change that allows everything else to fall in place.

On her family’s farm, in Manchester, Michigan, she manages 400 milking cows, expertly developing spreadsheets to find efficiencies, working with consultants to maximize profitability, and participating in research studies to improve herd health. She’s willing to seek out experts, consultants and researchers to learn more and implement change to leave a lasting legacy as the sixth generation on Horning Farms.

“When I first came back to the farm after college, my dad would give me a couple projects like managing our medicine inventory and ordering,” Packard said. “And then that grew from just the medicines to all the chemicals and now I manage most of the ordering. It’s just grown over time.”

The growth that she’s had on the farm is similar to the opportunities that they provide their employees as well and Packard attributes a lot of that to her dad, Jeff Horning.

“Our employees have been here longer than most other farms,” Packard said. “There’s not a lot of room to get promoted to senior vice president, but you can be in charge of more projects and more things. My dad is really good at recognizing what people’s skills and talents are and trying to keep them going in that direction. That kind of thing keeps people happy and makes them want to stay around.”

Full Reign to Leave a Legacy

For Packard, her dad has let her fall into place on the farm and given her full reign in the department of cow health and reproduction.

“I find cow reproduction really interesting. I would go to conferences and hear about trying new things and I’d dig into all of it,” Packard said. “Now I’m managing our artificial insemination schedule and breeding decisions. All of those responsibilities have grown.”

Packard implemented an activity monitoring system which was something she saw at a conference and brought back to the farm to improve their heat detection rate and conception rate. It was so successful that they’re now waiting longer to breed and they’ve seen improvement in other areas like animal health as well.

“On the mastitis side of things, a Michigan State University Extension study got me into culturing for mastitis management and pathogens,” Packard said. “I add milk to a plate and see if there’s any bacterial growth before making the decision if I’m actually intervening with antibiotics or not.”

The culturing has radically influenced their mastitis treatment plan. Packard has found that since they started the culturing program, only about half of the cows detected with mastitis have bacteria still present.

Katelyn and her family run a successful farm store where they sell beef and chicken, along with dairy products like cheese and ice cream. 

“Most of the time, the cow’s body is doing their job and their immune system is taking care of it,” Packard said. “Often, if they have a lot of garget and chunks in the milk, there won’t be any bacteria present. Historically I’d think it was a really bad case of mastitis and I have to use antibiotics, but I found now that that’s their immune system doing its job and in another three to five days, they’ll be totally clear without ever having to give antibiotics.”

This antibiotic stewardship is one of the many messages that Packard shares during the numerous farm tours and events that they put on. With her family’s help, Packard hosts monthly events on the farm and an annual neighborhood event, which all involve farm tours and education to tackle what Packard sees as the great challenge facing the industry.

“The greatest challenge facing the industry is public perception,” Packard said. “The negative perception that people have just because they don’t have any experience with dairy farming or understand what’s happening on farms and they hear negative views and take that as it is.”

Packard is doing her part though, hosting 5Ks, fun on the farms and virtual tours. “I love sharing about our farm and giving tours,” Packard said. “My favorite part is that we’re having events and tours and people are coming to our farm all the time.”

As part of the Horning Farm experience, visitors get to enjoy games and visit a farm shop featuring dairy products and meat. During the tours, Packard is an open and honest source about dairy farming and dairy products. She’s utilized the United Dairy Industry of Michigan resources to put the best foot forward for dairy in activities and messaging.

“Environmental sustainability is a huge topic right now, but why would I treat my land poorly so that in five years it’s not worth anything?” Packard asked. “Why would I treat my animals poorly when, if I treat them better, then they perform better? It’s like at a restaurant and if you give a customer terrible service, they’re not going to come back so you’re not going to make money.”

Calves on Horning Farms are a main attraction during the many dairy promotion events they host.

Everything Ties Together

The simplicity in sharing messages carries forward in how Horning Farms does business. Across the farm, Packard and her family believe, “In management, everything ties together. Just making the cows happy and comfortable, lets everything else fall into place.”

Falling into place is what led Packard to run for the MMPA OYDC program and go on to be recently named the 2022 OYDC by a panel of judges.

“The OYDC program is one of those things that my parents and grandparents did, so it’s something that felt really natural,” Packard said. “I’m looking forward to the chance to learn a little bit more about what goes on in the co-op and what is involved with being in one of those leadership positions.”

Packard’s experience with the co-op does run deep though. Along with her involvement as an MMPA Dairy Communicator in the Saline-Ann Arbor Local and participation in a variety of member services programs, Packard also interned with MMPA in college and went on to marry Joe Packard, MMPA member representative.

“I enjoyed the MMPA internship, but I learned that an office wasn’t for me,” Katelyn said. That’s an important realization for someone working full time on a dairy farm and excelling at it. “My favorite part of this job and why I enjoy it is because it’s a really good mix of being physically active and mentally active. I’m out moving around doing stuff physically each day and I’m problem solving all the time.”

The perk of being married to a field rep is that “I’ll ask Joe all kinds of questions because I see him every day. When it comes to my parlor performance or anything in general, I know that there’s somebody there that I can ask those questions when I don’t know those things.”

Katelyn’s willingness to listen to experts and make impactful changes is one of the many reasons she’s been so successful at letting everything fall into place – from improving heat detection rates to reducing antibiotic usage to being selected as 2022 MMPA OYDC.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

The MMPA Dairy Communicator program is an on-going effort of approximately 60 members in the Great Lakes region. Elected members of a local work diligently to speak out and communicate on behalf of dairy farmers in their local area. Dairy Communicators are involved in a wide variety of local promotion activities ranging from hosting farm tours, going to schools to present to classrooms and engaging with consumers on various social media platforms. The Dairy Communicators met on May 16 to swap promotion ideas and recognize service award winners. Thank you, MMPA Dairy Communicators, for your years of service to the dairy industry and your local communities.

2022 Dairy Communicator Service Awards

25 Years –
Jodi Hill, Livingston Charter Local

15 Years –
Patti Jandernoa, Mid-Michigan Local
Lynda Horning, Saline Ann Arbor Local

10 Years –
Ann Folkersma, Chippewa Local
Gertie van den Goor, Mid-Sanilac Local

5 Years –
Amy Bergdolt, Frankenmuth Local
Samantha Mamarow, Saline Ann Arbor Local

 

Jodi Hill

FARM: Clarinda Farms
HOMETOWN: Webberville, Michigan
BECAME INVOLVED IN DAIRY FARMING: At birth!
BECAME A DAIRY COMMUNICATOR: 1997

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
I love my dairy products – the one kind of food I’d never want to be without is my milk. I love my cows and I love communicating. We take our cows to the fair and when we are milking them there is an observation window. So many people come up and are so excited to hear about the cows and they will just stand there for a half an hour or an hour as we’re milking the cows and asking us questions and petting the cows. Being part of a farming community is everything. It’s been my whole life.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
Dairy Communicators are always really supportive. Every time I’ve gone to the meetings, there’s lots of helpful information and the other communicators openly share their experiences. UDIM is such a good resource too. What I love about being a dairy communicator is the promotion part.

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
I’ve done Project Reds and showed kids what the milker is like putting their fingers in it. Giving out milk and ice cream at the fair. I passed out chocolate milk when my daughter ran cross country. All of that stuff! I couldn’t pick a particular favorite!

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
Try anything. Any idea you can come up with as a way of promoting dairy – go for it! You never know if it will be successful, but most people are very receptive any time you hand out product. They love learning about cows. Dive into any community event you can get into and find an outlet for your promotion.

Patti Jandernoa

FARM: Dutch Meadows Dairy, LLC
HOMETOWN: Fowler, Michigan
BECAME INVOLVED IN DAIRY FARMING: 2007
BECAME A DAIRY COMMUNICATOR: 2007

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
The dairy community is a wonderful community to be part of. Unlike other businesses or even other agriculture sectors, it’s amazing how dairy farmers are willing to share their successes and failures with each other. It truly is a community that wants to see everyone succeed.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
The Dairy Communicator program is a great program. Communicators meet once a year and not only learn about what’s going on in our co-op, we also have a chance to talk about different promotion events that are held and opportunities for promotion. There’s nothing better than learning about promotion ideas from the people doing the promoting!

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
My favorite dairy promotion event that we’ve held was hosting Breakfast on the Farm (the first in Michigan) in 2009. There were so people that attended that had no idea about dairy and agriculture. It was a wonderful day of answering questions and most attendees were eager to learn about the industry and how a dairy farm operates.

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
My advice would be that the little things turn into big things. You don’t have to hold a huge event, or stress over promotion. A conversation in a grocery store or with friends or family or the sharing or liking of a Facebook post can educate and promote the industry.

Lynda Horning

FARM: Horning Farms
HOMETOWN: Manchester, Michigan
BECAME INVOLVED IN DAIRY FARMING: 1995
BECAME A DAIRY COMMUNICATOR: 2007

What do you enjoy most about being part of the dairy community?
One thing I enjoy is seeing the family every day. I also enjoy educating people about dairy because when I married into it, I had no clue about what we did and what was involved. There are so many people who don’t know about dairy and it’s important to tell them what we do.

How has the MMPA Dairy Communicator program helped you promote dairy?
The Dairy Communicator program provides valuable resources. I don’t have the background in dairy, and I don’t keep up with industry news on my own. The workshops and information sent to us give us an opportunity to learn quickly and easily, rather than having me reading 50 different industry magazines. There are still things that I do not know and that’s why I like going to the meeting. I also get a lot out of the networking we do with others as far as sharing ideas. It’s nice to hear what others do and what has worked, or not worked, for them, and then turn around and fit it with our own community and what we want to do.

Share your favorite dairy promotion memory.
I would say when we started doing our annual neighbor open houses. It was such a success that we just had our 5th annual. Most of the attendees learn a lot about our operation and are surprised at the environmental sustainability of our dairy farm.

What advice would you share with someone just starting their dairy promotion journey?
Just go with what you think might work and take your passion for dairy and run with it! If you find something missing somewhere in the community, fill in the gap. Or try an event that is already established that doesn’t have a dairy presence. Plugging in with an event that already has their own audience is a great way to get started.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA leads the way in quality milk production and it all begins with member farms’ hard work and dedication to producing a wholesome product. MMPA members are committed to producing a quality, wholesome product while demonstrating high-quality care for their cows, the environment and their employees.

Behind every MMPA member is a team of dedicated member representatives who provide services and programs that equip MMPA members with leading management and production information. The variety of member services that the member representatives offer is designed to help members succeed and to maintain good standing with the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program and with federal regulations.

MMPA members can take advantage of the wide breadth of available services indicated over the next few pages by contacting their member representative or calling the Novi office at 248-474-6672.

FDA Certified Milk Testing Laboratory

MMPA OWNS AND OPERATES ITS OWN LABORATORY SO MMPA MEMBERS ARE ASSURED OF ACCURATE, TIMELY TESTING.

The MMPA laboratory, located at the Novi, Michigan office, operates six days a week, performing a variety of lab tests on milk samples. Samples tested are maintained at 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit at all times prior to testing. Members are notified immediately after lab tests are completed. Quality information is automatically updated as new tests are performed and members can receive notifications when new results are available through their preferred communication channel.

The laboratory is a critical piece of MMPA’s portfolio of member services to help members produce the highest quality milk possible. Through routine and special testing done at the lab, MMPA’s team of field representatives provide
an on-farm partnership that helps each member achieve milk quality and udder health goals. MMPA also offers a quality premium incentive for its members producing higher quality milk.

Udder Health Program and Milk Testing

Milk samples are tested regularly for components including butterfat, protein, other solids and somatic cell count (SCC). In addition, quality tests are run monthly for raw bacteria counts (RBC), pre-incubated count and lab pasteurized counts. MMPA offers bulk tank and individual cow cultures, along with somatic cell counts and coliform testing on bulk tank samples.

In addition to testing at the MMPA lab, MMPA has partnered with labs in the state to provide additional testing services like mycoplasma and bacteriology cultures, bovine viral diarrhea, Johne’s milk test, bovine leukosis test and milk pregnancy ELISA. Additional fees for these tests may apply.

All tests must be scheduled through your MMPA member representative or the laboratory for proper sample submission protocol. For a complete list of tests and fees, go to producers. mimilk.com and click on the MMPA Premiums and Testing Information document.

Calf Milk Pasteurizer Program

The MMPA Calf Milk Pasteurizer Program can help members evaluate and troubleshoot the effectiveness of on-farm pasteurizer processes. This program can help assess the cleanliness of milk harvesting, on-farm pasteurizing and milk storage equipment. If needed, the program could also be used to diagnose potential bacteria issues with automatic calf feeders. Samples can be submitted routinely or as needed to troubleshoot an issue with a calf feeding program.

Milking Systems Analysis 

MMPA member representatives are also trained to provide milk quality troubleshooting services on member farms. This includes vacuum analysis of milking systems which impact cow health and somatic cell counts as well as cleaning analysis of equipment which helps to identify potential causes of high bacteria counts and soiled milking equipment.

MORE INFORMATION: FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF TESTS AND FEES, GO TO PRODUCERS.MIMILK.COM AND CLICK ON THE MMPA PREMIUMS AND TESTING INFORMATION DOCUMENT.

MMPA Member and Employee Training

SUCCESSFUL DAIRY OPERATIONS RELY ON QUALITY EMPLOYEE TRAINING.

Training keeps all animal caretakers on task and performing best practices. MMPA member representatives provide a variety of solutions to help ensure that members and employees understand the importance of their role and learn the science behind each step of the milking process in the parlor.

Dairy Care Academy

Dairy Care Academy is an MMPA animal care training program for farm owners and employees. Designed to help farms meet Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program training requirements, it also educates employees and improves performance. Traditionally, the day-long training takes place across the state and includes three sessions: proper milking practices, stockmanship and calf care.

In addition to in person training, MMPA members have access to an on-demand, FARM program compliant online training platform. The resource covers the traditional Dairy Care Academy topics of milking practices, calf management and dairy stockmanship along with FARM program required training areas of euthanasia, non-ambulatory animal management and fitness to transport. This training resource is available year-round for unlimited use.

On-Farm Milker Training Schools

MMPA Milker Training Schools teach the best milking procedures to members and their employees to improve milk quality and increase production. The school takes place by-request, right on a member’s farm and is geared toward the member’s needs. After a short presentation, milkers practice the routine they learn in the parlor, reinforcing expectations while the member representatives provide guidance along the way.

Farm Supply Store

THE MMPA FARM SUPPLY STORE IS A DIVISION OF MMPA.

Started in the early 1970’s as the MMPA merchandise program, the Farm Supply Store was developed to give member farms a consistent and reliable source for everyday items on their farms. It has since grown to service the entire Great Lakes region offering a variety of product lines and options at affordable prices. As a cooperative resource, the Farm Supply Store returns all profits back to member-owners every February through cash patronage refunds. They are also able to leverage the collective power of member farms to negotiate competitive pricing on select products. The store offers direct delivery and cooperative stops, where farms can pool their orders with neighbors in their geographic area to deliver at a specified location.

Sustainability Program

MMPA IS COMMITTED TO COOPERATIVE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES

throughout our entire supply chain. Sustainability is vital to MMPA’s transparency, growth and success for our members, employees, stakeholders and our communities.

U.S. Dairy Stewardship

MMPA has adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, which is a demonstration of U.S. dairy’s long-standing values, and a pledge to uphold those values for today, tomorrow and the future. Through the commitment, MMPA follows a rigorous set of standards that demonstrate positive impact and contribute to U.S. dairy’s ability to track, aggregate and report on progress.

Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee

MMPA’s Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee formalizes member engagement in our sustainability program and fosters feedback and insights from members on farm sustainability efforts. MMPA partners with customers to develop programs like the Cover Crops Projects and MMPA’s field staff offers on-farm energy audits.

Cover Crops Project

The MMPA Cover Crop Project is a collaboration between MMPA, Unilever and Barry-Callebaut to demonstrate what farmers are doing for soil health and carbon sequestration through cover crops. In 2022, there are 30 member farms with a total of 3,200 acres participating in the program.

MORE INFORMATION: IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN ENROLLING IN THE COVER CROPS PROGRAM OR ANY FUTURE SUSTAINABILITY PROJECTS, PLEASE CONTACT SARAH MICHALEK AT 248-305-0537.

State Certified Member Representatives

ALL MMPA FARMS ARE ASSIGNED A MEMBER REPRESENTATIVE.

This representative will work alongside members to help them produce high-quality milk and provide the best possible animal care. Member representatives can also help members verify environmental stewardships, provide training to their employees and consult MMPA farms on energy use, equipment and milking system analysis. Member representatives routinely visit farms, but also visit by request and to make special troubleshooting visits in the event of abnormal milk quality results. If a farm receives a pre-incubated count (PIC) over 75,000 or a raw bacteria count (RBC) over 30,000 the farm’s assigned member representative will provide on-the-ground guidance to help improve milk quality. Member representatives are a valuable resource to help members continually improve on their farms.

MORE INFORMATION: MMPA MEMBERS CAN FIND WHO THEIR MEMBER REPRESENTATIVE IS BY SEARCHING THEIR PRODUCER NUMBER AT HTTPS://WWW.MIMILK. COM/CONTACT/FIELD-STAFF/.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Delegates recently elected Brian Preston to serve a three-year term on the MMPA board of directors. He joins the 12 other dairy farmers on the MMPA board of directors, helping guide the direction of the cooperative and setting strategic goals. Prior to being elected to the MMPA board of directors, he sat on the MMPA advisory committee and resolutions committee, along with serving as the Hillsdale/Litchfield local president and District 1 vice president. In 2014, Preston and his wife, Carrie, were named the MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators and they served as the chair couple of the National Milk Producers Federation Young Cooperator Council. Together with his family, Preston operates Preston Dairy LLC, a 1,000-cow dairy in Quincy, Michigan. He has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in agriscience with an emphasis in agriculture business management. He and Carrie have three children.

How has MMPA impacted your farm?
MMPA has given us a reliable and consistent market. We’ve never had to worry about where our milk was going. MMPA has also given our farm a sense of community with neighbors and fellow dairy farmers.

What do you value most about MMPA?
I value the co-op structure and being able to be a member-owner. Being a part of a cooperative allows us to join together and own the marketing and processing assets. Together, with other dairy farmers, we have bargaining power in the marketplace to help control how our milk is marketed.

Why did you want to join the board of directors?
I wanted to be more involved in the co-op. I wanted to better understand the direction that the co-op was moving in, while also helping influence that direction. I’d like to see our co-op own more processing assets while moving closer to the consumer and having more direct product on shelves for consumers to purchase. Commodities are always going to be a part of our business, and I think they should be part of our business, but I’d like to see us increasingly move up the supply chain to the customer.

What are your goals and vision while serving on the board of directors?
The primary purpose of the board is to hire and evaluate the CEO, so my first goal is to make sure we have the right management in place and to have a plan for our management for the future. Beyond that, to a certain degree, you have to let the management and employees do
their job. It’s not my goal to be a micromanager or to have to know every detail, but I want to make sure we have the right people working for us at the co-op – and I think we do. The greatest strength of our co-op is the people who work for us.

What would you tell members looking to become more active within the cooperative?
I would encourage them to attend their local meetings, to reach out and talk to their board representatives and attend the Annual Meeting, even if they aren’t a delegate, attend as a member. I’d also encourage them to talk to our management. Go and do and show up!

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA is committed to cooperative social responsibility and sustainable business practices throughout our entire supply chain. At the farm level, MMPA members are also on a sustainability journey. We’re checking in with a handful of member farmers leading the charge with this sustainability spotlight series. 

Efficiency is the name of the game for Brian DeMann at Clearview Dairy Farm in Martin, Michigan. With their 560-cow milking herd, DeMann and his family continuously seek additional efficiencies. They’ve found that many sustainable practices work hand-in-hand with achieving their goals.

“I think a lot of efficiency is gained through some of these sustainable practices,” DeMann said. “A lot of these farms did many of these practices forever, but now that there’s more focus on them, we’re really figuring them out and fine tuning.”

An area where DeMann has recently been fine tuning on the farm is with new precision agriculture equipment that gives him access to data beyond what he has had before and allows for site-specific crop management.

“I think on the cropping side of it, we’re having to purchase less commercial fertilizers because we’re really keying in on where we put our nutrients to where it counts,” DeMann said. “We’re able to know nutrient removal on every acre, so we’re specific in fertilizer application and not just applying to the whole field.”

DeMann’s new equipment also includes a chopper that can cover 300 to 400 acres in two days. The new equipment is not only precise, but also larger, which has had many unexpected benefits according to DeMann.

“We’re kind of a smaller farm, in a lot of aspects, but having that equipment matched to Michigan’s weather has been really favorable,” DeMann said. “We also have a happier crew because we are only going to chop eight hours a day versus twelve hours a day, but we’re doing the same amount of work in the eight hours. We’re able to balance life and work all through that machine.”

Precision agriculture is only the tip of the sustainability iceberg though for DeMann. He focuses not only on the environment, but also in ensuring that his daughter Kinsler has the opportunity to take over the farm one day.

“We always think environment right away when it comes to sustainability, but it’s also from a business model,” DeMann said. “You have to be financially sound and to be financially sound, you have to have business practices that allow that in a really volatile market. Sustainability is just having a financially sound business and a good business plan.”

For Clearview Dairy Farm, a good business plan means making a living, being willing to change and seeking to continuously improve. Sustainability is at the root of that.

“If we weren’t so worried about improving, or just didn’t worry about it whatsoever and just did how we were taught or how it always was, we wouldn’t be a lasting business from both the financial standpoint or from a consumer standpoint,” DeMann said. “I can tell you through practicing sustainability, we’ve become more efficient and really a cleaner farm.”

In his efforts to be more sustainable, DeMann has found that very few of the changes he’s made he’s regretted or had to go back on. He recommends to all farmers, “Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it. We can always be comfortable, but you have to push yourself outside of that comfort zone, especially as things continue to evolve.”

When looking back at the evolution overtime, DeMann recalls the pushback for implementing forage cover crops on the farm. “I heard, ‘Oh, that’s just going to take us all the longer.’ But because we started using them, we’ve had 50 percent or better of our heifer feed made by cover crops in years we really needed it.”

Clearview Dairy Farm has been ahead of the curve on many of the practices deemed sustainable today, simply because of their drive to improve and willingness to change. As a result, DeMann is proud of his farm and excited for the future.

“We’re farming in a responsible way and we’re able to continue to do so and build upon that and improve,” DeMann said. “Sustainability is an everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week effort that we’re always doing. We’re always working on improving animal care, air quality, water quality and those kinds of things.”

Put simply, DeMann said, “Sustainability is that constant push to always improve. That little bit of a push makes you want to look for your efficiencies and look to get better because that makes you a better business.”

Clearview Dairy Farm is on a mission to be a better business for a better world.

KEYWORD

Precision Agriculture: Precision agriculture, or site-specific crop management (SSM), uses a variety of technologies such as sensing, information technologies, and mechanical systems to manage different parts of a field separately.

Site-Specific Crop Management (SSM): Uses a variety of technologies to manage different parts of a field separately. Natural, inherent variability within fields means that mechanized farming could traditionally apply only crop treatments for “average” soil, nutrient, moisture, weed, and growth conditions.

SOURCE: USDA National Agriculture Library, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

FARM

Clearview Dairy Farm LLC
Martin, Michigan

HERD

560 milking

LAND

 1,400 acres of corn, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat

VERIFICATIONS

MMPA Sustainability Survey, Nutrient Management Plan, FARM* Animal Care,
FARM* Environmental Stewardship

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Dean Letter, MMPA Member Services Director

The focus of the member services team continues to evolve to meet the needs of the marketplace. Historically, the member services team focused on improving milk quality on member farms and helping them maintain compliance with the Grade A dairy law. For the last several years, MMPA has been well represented among the National Dairy Quality Award program awardees and we’re known in the marketplace for producing high quality milk. While these two areas continue to be important for milk marketing, the focus has broadened to include sustainability or regenerative agriculture.

Our focus began to expand over ten years ago with the adoption of the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Animal Care (FARM AC) program. FARM AC was a voluntary program initially but transitioned into a mandatory program in response to food company requirements. Videos posted on social media highlighted the need for a very robust animal care program.

MMPA animal care evaluators work with members and their veterinarians to develop and maintain herd health plans and write animal care standard operating procedures. The animal care program stresses continuous training for the employee and continuing education for the farm owner. To aid in this animal care requirement, MMPA staff began providing Dairy Care Academy trainings hosted across the region every spring. The training was a day-long, interactive workshop where participants learned about calf care, best milking practices and dairy herdsmanship.

In 2020, the member services team developed an online Dairy Care Academy that provides the same quality training, but available year-round. By scanning a QR code, members and their employees can access training videos for various animal care tasks. After viewing the videos and passing a post-video test, you can receive a certificate indicating satisfactory completion of the training module.

Today, the focus for most companies, and probably all publicly traded companies, is greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. MMPA member services have been tracking GHG emissions from member farms for the last several years using the FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) tool. Currently, MMPA can estimate farm GHG emissions using a stratified random sampling protocol which means that a good estimate could be made without needing to visit every member farm. The aggregated GHG intensity of our member farms (pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent gas (GHG) released per pound of milk produced) can be shared with interested customers.

This expansion of the member services team provides opportunities for farmer-led sustainability initiatives through arrangements with MMPA customers. The Farmer Sustainability Advisory Council is regularly reviewing customer projects that aim to further reduce GHG emissions, improve soil health and resiliency, reduce water use and/or increase its reuse, and demonstrate that workers work in a safe work environment while making a reasonable wage.

MMPA member services will continue to partner and engage with members and MMPA customers to assure that we can continue to market MMPA members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Brad Parks, MMPA Director of Business Development

Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) acquired Superior Dairy at the end of last year and together we have continued to transition plant operations while strengthening the synergies between the two organizations. As MMPA’s new Director of Business Development, and former president of Creative Edge Design Group, a subsidiary of LEL Operating Company along with Superior Dairy, I wanted to introduce myself and share more about MMPA’s new Canton, Ohio plant.

I grew up in and around the dairy industry. My grandfather worked as a dairy herdsman
in Sparta, Michigan, and my father, Delton Parks, had a long successful career in the dairy industry in Michigan. He grew Country Fresh from a single plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to over seven operations regionally.

Many of my family members worked at Country Fresh Dairy in various positions as we were needed, including myself. I started working for Country Fresh during my college years and then began my professional career as a plant controller in the Livonia, Michigan plant before transferring to the McDonald plant in Flint, Michigan, which was a former MMPA plant acquired by Country Fresh.

As the plant controller, I learned all facets of the dairy business and eventually went on to become general manager, overseeing the operation for 10 years. I helped transformed the business, adding extended shelf-life technology. It was at that plant, and the others that I went on to work for, where I gained appreciation for the value of the high-quality milk supplied by MMPA. The quality of the products the plant produces starts with the milk.

I started at Superior Dairy in 2013 as president of the Creative Edge Design Group. In this role, I helped redesign the caseless bottle, secured other manufacturing licenses and worked with regional and national customers to form strategic partnerships. At Creative Edge, we focus on innovation and technology that keeps pace with the everchanging consumer. While the caseless bottle continues to be a major success, we are continuing to look at areas where we can innovate the packaging and technology required to satisfy evolving consumer diets. We are working to meet consumers’ needs for dairy products that have a longer shelf life and are higher in protein, while adding more value to milk.

At Superior Dairy, we predominantly co-pack private label for customer brands. We bottle fluid milk and manufacture cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream mixes, five-quart pails of ice cream and ice cream cakes. Our products are distributed to 45 states, and we are known for our innovative packaging and processing concepts.

A few examples of Superior Dairy products include Sam’s Club and Costco milk, Sam’s Club five-quart pails of ice cream and Aldi’s cottage cheese and sour cream. Our plant code is 39-13, so be sure to look for that on the side of your favorite dairy products to see if it was manufactured in Canton, Ohio.

Now as the Director of Business Development for MMPA, I will continue to simplify the complex dairy industry issues while working with customers to provide nutritious food products to consumers and their families. I have been successful in leading consumer product manufacturers to record levels of sales and profits, consistently exceeding goals in turnaround situations, and transforming poorly performing plants, organizations and personnel into top performing organizations. I’m excited to bring that experience to MMPA.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

MMPA is committed to cooperative social responsibility and sustainable business practices throughout our entire supply chain. At the farm level, MMPA members are also on a sustainability journey. We’re checking in with a handful of member farmers leading the charge with this sustainability spotlight series. 

Like many other farms, sustainability on Ladine Dairy Farm begins out of necessity and desire to pass the farm on through generations. “If I’m not sustaining, I’m not going to be here, and I want to pass it onto the next generation like my grandpa has to my uncle,” Parker Bivens (District 2, Bellevue, MI), owner of Ladine Dairy Farm said.

For Bivens, sustainability is at the root of his efforts to automate his operation. What started as a love of technology, coupled with the recognized labor challenges they were facing, turned into installing technology in all facets of their farm.

“I had to talk my dad into installing robot milkers, but he’s looking closer to retirement so it was once he realized how easy it would get, he was on board,” Bivens said. “Now, he’s glad that we did it because installing the robots helped us deal with labor, employees, and now one of us can do it all day long or even for a couple of days straight with no problem.”

Ladine Dairy Farm transitioned to robot milkers in February 2021. While it was a rough first few weeks, they have since seen significant improvements in their herd’s health.

“The biggest gain we’ve gotten from the robots is the labor savings and cow health and longevity just from not being on their feet for so long waiting to get into the parlor,” Bivens said. “We have seen a huge increase in conception rates, too. We were averaging probably 35-40% conception rate and now some months will be up to 60%. That’s something too that will just keep getting better over time.”

In addition to the robot milkers, Ladine Dairy Farm also utilizes automatic calf feeders which ensure that every calf receives the proper amount of nutrients for their age, and a robot feed pusher that helps provide cows consistent access to a well-balanced diet. The robots have created an ecosystem of technology on the farm, simplifying the transition for heifers.

“A big correlation with the heifers when they calve in is the technology they’re exposed to when they are younger. They do really well because we’ve been setting up for it over the last four years,” Bivens said. The forward-thinking nature also allows Bivens to recognize that the “technology is a decade of investment, but over a long period of time we will have healthier cows as a result.”

The technology on Ladine Dairy Farm also allows Bivens to monitor metrics that evaluate a cow’s health without just relying on visible signals.

“I’ve been able to catch sick cows faster,” Bivens said. “Usually when rumination begins to drop, I try to see what’s wrong with them. The software shows us which cows are suspected for ketosis and it takes into account rumination and activity while using protein and fat as an inversion as well. It’s all in there.”

For Bivens, the technology is also a way to ease his worries when it comes to carrying for his cattle. “I don’t sleep at night when I have a calf that isn’t doing as well as what it should. I worry about every animal’s health and stress when I have sick animals.”

Parker’s automation efforts underscore his desire to provide the best quality care for his cattle, all while sustainably approaching his smart farming practices. Perhaps fittingly, when asked what his definition of sustainability is, he recommended, “Ask Google.”

At the end of the day, Parker’s goal on his farm is to “be more successful with what we’ve been given” and that’s what sustainability is all about.

KEYWORD

Smart Farming: A broad range of new technologies that provide data to guide on-farm decisions and planning. This could include sensors for almost any variable of interest; everything from soil moisture sensors for irrigation control to electronic monitors for livestock health. Driving this revolution is the Internet of Things, an ever-growing network of sensors and devices with internet and machine-to-machine connectivity.

FARM

Ladine Dairy Farm LLP
Bellevue, Michigan

HERD

120 milking

LAND

380 acres of alfalfa, corn,
soybeans, rye and wheat

VERIFICATIONS

MMPA Sustainability Survey, Nutrient Management Plan, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Animal Care, MAEAP Verified in Livestock and Farmstead Systems

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »