Jordan and Erin Booms

Hometown: Lake City, Michigan
Local: Evart
District: 5

Jordan and Erin Booms are do-gooders in their community. Along with farming on Booms Dairy LLC, Jordan is lieutenant of two area fire departments and Erin works full time off the farm as a nurse practitioner. Being the kind of people who run into fires, they take efficiency and profitability seriously, all while managing the ups and downs that come with the industry and raising their two kids Isaiah (7) and Edison (3) on the farm.

Q&A:

Q: What’s your farms greatest achievement?
J: Weathering the hard years and still going strong

Q: What’s the key to running a dairy farm?
J: Efficiency
E: Being flexible

Q: How can someone easily improve their milk quality?
J: Consistency

Q: What’s your favorite chore? Why?
J: Mowing hay.
E: Hauling hay. It’s enjoyable and the whole family can partake.

Q: Why do you milk cows?
J: It’s in my blood

Q: What’s one practice you’d try on your farm if you knew it was impossible to fail?
J: Robots

Q: What does your farm look like in 30 years?
E: Jordan and our boys working together for the next generation.

On their farm:

If you visit their farm in Lake City, Michigan, you’ll directly see the impact of Jordan and Erin’s mission to be as efficient as possible while remaining profitable. They recognize the challenges facing the dairy industry today and are proactively managing potential risks by working on their short comings and strategically growing over time.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Tom Downey, MMPA Chief Financial Officer

Fiscal year 2023 was my first full year with MMPA serving as chief financial officer and I am proud to report your cooperative continues to have a strong balance sheet poised for future growth. Working alongside the entire MMPA team, board of directors and independent auditors to market our members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible has been the most personally rewarding experience I have had in my career.

While acquiring Superior Dairy on January 1, 2022, was a significant milestone for MMPA, the hard work really started after the purchase was announced. Integrating two companies that are both over 100 years old is a complicated process that has required a significant amount of effort across both organizations. While those efforts will continue into the foreseeable future, I am excited about all that we have accomplished around the integration to date. We have made significant headway in combining the organizations across several teams (human resources, IT, accounting, quality, operations, etc.) and have prioritized ensuring our colleagues in Canton feel connected to MMPA and our member owners.

We continued to see a tight milk market in fiscal year 2022, marketing 4.7 billion pounds of milk (flat to prior year). These tighter markets drove elevated milk pricing and product margin throughout the year but that was partially offset by elevated input costs which I know our member owners had to navigate at the farm level as well. Despite the current inflationary environment, I am pleased with the synergies we have achieved bringing Superior into our manufacturing footprint that helped negate some of those cost headwinds.

This year’s audit presented a unique challenge as Superior Dairy transitioned from an MMPA customer to being MMPA owned. Combining the books and records of two large organizations is a complex process and I’d like to thank everyone that was involved for ensuring that the audit was completed on time with an unqualified or “clean” audit opinion. We had a lot of staff go above and beyond the normal call of duty to make that happen and their efforts are very much appreciated.

MMPA’s long-term debt to equity ratio, an industry standard used by lenders to determine the risk associated with lending to an entity, is extremely strong relative to other market participants. You can think of this value as how much of the cooperative’s assets are owned by our members, versus how much is owned by our lenders. While the membership percentage has decreased from the prior year, we are still well positioned to move forward on future growth opportunities based on our financial strength.

The example our member owners set with their tireless work ethic and unwavering commitment to doing the right thing is an inspiration to me and the MMPA team. Thank you to all MMPA members for the opportunity to work for and serve you. I am excited for what the future has in store.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

In a state where dairy ranks No. 1 in farm receipts among state agricultural commodities, accounts for nearly 5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, supports 111,000-plus jobs and generates $24 billion in revenue annually, it makes sense that Michigan’s land-grant university would have state-of-the-art dairy research and teaching facilities. That was the consensus of Michigan State University and more than 40 commodity groups when they rallied to raise $30 million to date for a new dairy facility – toward the goal of raising an additional $15-20 million.

When a fire broke out in the feed facility on MSU’s dairy in May 2021, the need for a new facility was accelerated, not to mention the 60-year-old setup fails to support the long list of desired research projects, veterinary school needs and basic education of current dairy trends and technologies.  A big team of supporters began to brainstorm and put feet to the project.

“Leadership at Michigan State organized a planning committee with faculty from several departments in early 2021. Our aim was to determine what research, teaching and outreach infrastructure needs our program would have over the next 20 years,” explained Dr. Barry Bradford, MSU professor in dairy management and nutrition. “The work of this committee was accelerated in May 2021, when a major fire at the dairy facility made it clear that we couldn’t continue to play the long game.”

Bradford explained from there, the stakeholders were essential. “We had conversations with many agricultural groups, as well as environmental groups, to explain the need for a new dairy facility and the problems we could address with an investment by the state. Our friends in agriculture came through in a big way, advocating with elected officials about the importance of the dairy for Michigan agriculture and rural economies. Achieving state funding in July 2022 was a result of all of those conversations, and we are extremely grateful to our stakeholders and legislators who saw the value proposition.”

He singled out Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) and its staff as an extremely important cog in the wheel of progress on funding. “MMPA was one of our strongest allies, with Doug Chapin and Sheila Burkhardt spending a lot of time helping with meetings and getting feedback on the project.”

Interim Michigan State University President Teresa K. Woodruff pointed to the importance of the ag community in securing the funding, “Michigan’s agricultural community is unique in its willingness to advocate for common goals with one voice, and we saw that sense of shared purpose play out with the dairy facility funding. Every phone call, every email, and every endorsement truly mattered in securing this transformational investment, and Michigan State University is so grateful for the support of our partners. This new facility will have a tremendous impact on Michigan agriculture – and we are proud that it is happening on our MSU campus.”

MSU AgBioResearch Director George Smith agreed it was a collaborative effort in the true sense of the word, involving the College of Agriculture and Natural Resource’s Department of Animal Science and Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) , MSU AgBioResearch, Extension, the state’s dairy industry, the entire Michigan agricultural community and state government. Smith added that Bradford, Dr. Annette O’Connor and Dr. Wei Liao were the faculty leads and played an indispensable role in developing the vision and justification for the new facility.

“The vision for this project epitomizes the land-grant mission of Michigan State University and our goal to provide teaching, research and Extension efforts that make a difference for the Michigan dairy industry now and into the future,” Smith noted. “Our hope would be this project would help lead to growth in and a better trained dairy workforce in the future, increased rate of research progress in addressing issues of importance to the dairy industry (e.g. nutrition, genetics, reproduction, animal health and welfare and management) and in solving problems of the future related to environmental sustainability.”

The current trend of undergraduate students from non-farm backgrounds underscores the need for state-of-the-art facilities. He said, “A quality educational experience at a dairy facility that more closely mimics the modern dairy industry versus the industry of the 1960s and 1970s will provide a more positive experience. Increased herd size linked to the new facility and accompanying infrastructure will increase throughput on research linked to industry needs and provide further opportunities for long-term research linked to environmental sustainability, such as anaerobic digestion and nutrient recovery.”

“This investment in the state is also essential to helping CVM fulfill their mission to train the veterinary medicine workforce (DVM and veterinary nurses), who are able to meet the needs of the modern dairy industry “ said Dr. Annette O’Connor, Chairperson of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. “This facility will be one where students will have full access to the physical spaces, technologies, and access to data associated with the modern dairy industry. In addition to workforce development, our research teams will have access to facilities to answer questions about maintaining the health, welfare, and production of dairy cattle as part of sustainable dairy production.”

The present farm provides access to 200 cows in a tie-stall barn for teaching and research, and that’s not adequate for the research projects on the docket. While all the specifics have not been pinpointed, the new facility will be built directly south of the present dairy and will likely accommodate 500 milking cows, with 700 head total. This will allow researchers to perform their projects and still facilitate educational opportunities for vet students and animal science majors.

Photo by Mikayla Bowen

Both a robotic milking system and a parallel parlor are being planned for the new project. The robots would provide training and research on new milking systems, while the parallel parlor would be beneficial for research that includes milking at fixed intervals.

Additionally, Bradford said, “We have a great deal of mastitis expertise here, and it makes sense to keep the parlor simple and have the cows more accessible and available for individual quarter sampling or infusions.” He pointed to environmental challenges in dairy and the need for cutting-edge research to provide solutions for nutrient management and emissions reduction.

Having a new facility with modern housing will also bolster valuable information for Michigan dairy producers. “The new facility will allow us to actually do controlled nutrition research in free-housed cows by using technology that detects what cow is there and basically open access to feed if it’s the right cow, and that will provide meaningful data for the industry,” Bradford explained.

Improving the economics for dairy producers in Michigan is of vital importance to MSU, and he noted this improvement in the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. “A lot of the work we’ve done for many decades has helped producers with economic sustainability, like making the best decisions with reproduction and nutritional programs. But we haven’t been able to help as much with environmental decisions like capturing carbon and separating phosphorus and nitrogen from manure or other nutrient management decisions. And we would like to be able to chase some of these challenges in the new facility, particularly when we can do so in a way that generates new revenue streams for dairies.”

MSU has already been a leader in optimizing anaerobic digestion on dairy farms. The MSU Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center (ADREC) has been working on value-added utilization of dairy manure and other wastes streams to enable a carbon neutral and zero-discharging dairy industry. Dr. Wei Liao, the director of MSU ADREC, explained: “Numerous research studies have been done on manure utilization, particularly anaerobic digestion of manure for renewable electricity and natural gas production. However, the current economics do not make them viable for small and medium-sized dairies in the U.S. In addition, nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) management of dairies needs to be further advanced to realize environmental sustainability for dairies”. With the new facility, plans are in place to integrate anaerobic digestion with electric vehicle charging stations to enable profitable systems to be implemented on smaller farms. Furthermore, MSU will work on finding cost-effective solutions to make phosphorus and ammonia removal from manure commercially viable.

Bradford described the third pillar of social sustainability with the goal of hosting consumers to give them an honest picture of the dairy industry and allowing them to see things for themselves. “But just as important, we think we can attract more students into the industry with a modern facility that has some cool technology, and help pipeline some students in that maybe that’s their calling – but they wouldn’t even give it a shot if they didn’t have something to draw their attention to it.”

“I can’t begin to express how much this means to MSU and, even more importantly, how much the transformational research made possible by this infrastructure investment will benefit Michigan farmers, their futures and livelihoods.” Smith said. “It’s been a collaborative approach, and one that we could never have endeavored on our own. Much appreciation is extended to the Governor’s office, Michigan legislature, commodity and farm organizations and our agricultural partners for assisting and providing support for these much-needed new research facilities, upgrades and improvements.”

With $30 million from the state, MSU will move forward with raising the remaining funds to complete the project. “We are excited for the future and grateful for what we have so far. We will continue to look for ways to raise the rest of the funds and to move the project forward,” Bradford concluded.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Frank Burkett working at a desk

Cyberattacks continue to appear in headlines every week across the world. From hospitals to retail giants, there aren’t many organizations or industries shielded from the effects of bad digital actors with criminal intent. MMPA member, Frank Burkett, recognizes the threat it plays to his farm and the agriculture industry as a whole.

“You’ve seen entire companies experience prolonged shut downs because of cyberattacks,” Burkett said. “What’s the electrical grid’s sensitivity to cyberattacks? How does that impact everything from manufacturing to farms to all the other pieces. As we continue to digitalize, which we’re not reversing from, then we’re going to have to continue to focus on how we protect and secure it.”

Burkett is the fifth generation on Clardale Farms, operating 1,900 acres and milking 699 Holsteins in Canal Fulton, Ohio. In partnership with his uncles, Burkett manages employees, account receivables, account payables, project management, along with planting and spraying corn and soybeans.

phone in front of dairy equipment
Nearly all data collected on Clardale Farms can be accessed from a cellphone. From automatic calf feeders to parlor data to camera systems, Burkett has his phone in hand to make data driven decisions no matter where he is working from.

“I actually wear a couple hats right now,” Burkett said. “I am manager and owner here on the farm. My second role is as an owner at Hills Supply which is a DeLaval dairy equipment dealership that covers the state of Ohio and parts of Michigan, Indiana and surrounding states. And then last April I stepped down as president of Ohio Farm Bureau and continue to be engaged in the community.”

His experiences off the farm, along with a couple bad encounters on the farm, is what guides the decisions he makes about keeping his farm’s digital presence secure.

Financial Security

“Cybersecurity and online fraud have become huge from a business standpoint. It’s definitely changed how we do business – at Hills and everywhere,” Burkett said. “On the farm, we’re actually running on our third checking account since I returned here because of fraud.”

Surprisingly enough, despite farm-related data starting in the milking parlor and in the fields, Burkett knows firsthand that some of the most critical information to protect can actually be what’s on paper.

“We’ve had three fraud related incidents at the farm in the last three years, and they’ve been traced back to processing centers like power bills, electric bills, stuff that goes to a lock box where somebody’s processing it,” Burkett said. “All it took was for somebody in a processing center to snap a picture of one of our checks and decide to start making checks off of it.”

As a consequence, Clardale Farms is transitioning to direct ACH payment to prevent putting checks in the mail. Burkett’s word of advice to anyone just starting to think about their farm’s security begins with simply keeping your checks locked up because “they’re an open door to your bank account and one of the highest risk areas on the farm.” Burkett’s other words of advice for financial security is to make reviewing your bank account part of your daily routine.

“A major advantage to us from a financial security standpoint is that almost every bank has an app for your phone that allows you to take five minutes every day and just scroll through what’s cleared the day before,” Burkett said. “Through that process is where I identified the fraud on our farm at first, and that’s when I contacted the bank right away because there was a substantial check in the tens of thousands of dollars that had cleared the bank. I did not write that check and when I pulled the image up on it, it clearly wasn’t even our check. Somebody had just taken a check image and put our numbers on it.”

Border Security

TV screen displaying camera feed footage
Clardale Farms’ camera system currently retains 14 days of footage. This year, Burkett is planning on extending the retention time to 30 days to better aid employee training and farm monitoring.

Clardale Farms also maintains an extensive camera system that’s relied on by employees to help save time by allowing them to check on certain pens and areas of the farm without needing to walk there. Burkett reviews the footage regularly for employee training and farm security.

“Cameras are a recent addition within the past year, and it keeps expanding to more and more cameras,” Burkett said. “We keep finding more and more things we want to monitor, like the freshening and holding pens. The team here has a dozen more cameras that they want added yet.”

The addition of cameras is driven by employees because of Burkett’s approach to using them for training, rather than catching people in the act.

“We don’t use the cameras as a gotcha type thing, but we do use it to look at procedures and then we will tailor our training to it,” Burkett explained. “For example, our cell count is a little higher right now than we want to see it and we’ve been looking at videos and we see some things we don’t like, so we’ll do some general training with everybody.”

In addition, the cameras serve the obvious benefit of giving Burkett and his team the ability to monitor the farm for security purposes. Living in a densely populated area and with the farm being a staple in the community, they often receive a lot of visitors both scheduled and unscheduled. The camera system that Clardale Farms uses allows Burkett and the team to view the live video feeds and replay clips from them to monitor what’s happening on the farm from anywhere and at any time.

Frank Burkett working at a desk
Modeled after what he saw in corporate settings, Burkett’s desks in each of his offices is set up with monitors and a docking station for his laptop which allows him to seamlessly move between locations while providing the same access to information regardless of where he’s working from.

Digital Improvements

As for what’s next, Burkett is always reviewing current best practices that he experiences in leadership roles off the farm and his next project is setting up emails for his farm employees.

“Right now, everybody’s just using their personal email for farm business, but now we’re transitioning to an Outlook account with an administrator,” Burkett said. “From a liability standpoint, it makes a lot of sense that if your business, even as a dairy farm, if your employees are doing farm related business, they’re using farm emails.”

The step is in response to realizing Hills made the transition to Outlook a long time ago, and now recently even added multifactor authentication, where a secondary pin must be entered to prove your identity before logging in. Burkett recognizes that when it comes to multifactor authentication, “I use it everywhere else now. This is the only place I don’t use it.” And while it can be annoying to get the pin sent via email or text and to enter it in, a farm is a business too and Burkett is playing a game of chess with bad actors in the cyberspace.

“There’s always somebody trying to disrupt your business, whether it’s for financial reasons or they just think it’s fun, and then there’s always somebody trying to prevent that disruption. How are those two interacting and ultimately who’s winning? I think in our business, whether it’s Hills Supply or Clardale Farms, at some point you ask, what level of disruption am I comfortable with? I personally like to manage it.”

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

By Joe Diglio, MMPA President & CEO

For years, the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) has navigated our member-owners growth while maintaining financial strength in order to react to the evolving dairy environment. It’s critically important to have a strong, fiscally responsible cooperative that is capable of being there for members by looking for opportunities to enhance value.

One great example from this year is the acquisition of Superior Dairy in Canton, Ohio. With our shared values and vision, the acquisition has allowed us to come together to actively engage in the process of servicing an industry in need of continuous advancement. We will accomplish this by exploring and creating added-value products and technologies through innovations. By having an engaged and active board of directors who constantly seek new opportunities, all members should have confidence in the direction of our cooperative. As we move forward, we are continuing to look for more ways to service the marketplace, utilizing the creativity and different organizational aptitudes that came with the acquisition.

We can’t capitalize on serving the marketplace without dedicated employees committed to our shared goals. MMPA’s key assets aren’t just our manufacturing presence and equipment used to produce the products, but also the many employees who work on our members’ behalf. Just like the dedication we witnessed during the pandemic, we’ve seen a seamless transition throughout the acquisition with our employees staying committed to our mission and our vision. While we’ve had challenges like anybody in the marketplace with securing labor, we’ve also seen remarkable commitment from the employees who have been a part of this organization to keep our business moving forward. As we look into the future, it will not only take employees to advance our organization, but the innovations they seek out and deliver to achieve our desired results.

In the marketplace, 2022 has been a different year. We have transitioned from a market saturated with excess milk to a tighter milk supply causing increased competition in the dairy landscape. Today’s environment has given us the ability to relook at how we service the marketplace, including reviewing the use of our new assets: Creative Edge and Superior Dairy. As we move forward, with the many consolidations that have taken place over the last couple years, servicing the market will be much different than it has been in the past.

Through efforts in 2022, we’ve grown our footprint to accommodate voids caused by consolidation, diversified our product mix to rely less on volatile commodity markets, and addressed consumer desires in the process. We’re looking forward to continuing those efforts in 2023, along with investing in technology and product mixes that require us to think outside of the box, take some risks and make room for further growth. Partnerships will be key for our success in the future and I’m excited for what’s to come. I can’t say enough how important it is to be mindful and thankful for all of those that work together to generate the results that we have. The team that works on behalf of MMPA members and owners is a great team and I’m excited to share more of the good work with you in the future and for many years to come.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

A Lifetime Career

Life has a way of working itself out in some of the most unexpected ways. For Duane Farmer, his job out of high school turned into a lifelong career that’s recently culminated with being named 2022 Michigan Fieldperson of the Year.

While a 40-year career for the same organization could have been a direct straight path, Duane’s experience was anything but. His long-time supervisor, Gary Trimner, set most of the trajectory, but the chaos that would ensue began on Duane’s very first day at Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) in 1983.

“On my first day, I went into the office and the clerical staff had gone on strike. It was crazy,” Duane recalled. “I remember walking out of the office with Gary Trimner that day to the strike line to help people get out safely.”

From there, Duane’s career never slowed. He spent the first two weeks training as a sample van driver, and after being turned lose for the first time in Detroit, he got lost.

“I got lost down on Grand River south of Eight Mile with the sample van,” Duane said. “It was a little nerve wracking for a small-town kid. I wasn’t sure where I was going and it took me awhile, but it worked out and I survived.”

The experiences Duane had under his belt just within six months of working at MMPA left him thinking that that was enough.

“I thought, ‘Six months in, that’s a long time…’” Duane said. “I’ll give Gary Trimner credit for why I never left. He was very good at finding roles or finding people for certain roles. He put people in a role that would really make them succeed. Here I am 40 years later.”

After realizing that being a sample van driver wasn’t for him, Trimner encouraged Duane to work in plant quality and then later pushed him to become a member representative.

“I really didn’t have any farm experience,” Duane said. “I grew up around farms, but other than shovel manure for somebody or putting up hay for people, I really didn’t have a lot of experience. Thankfully, I worked with some really good people and they taught me a lot.”

Duane’s experiences gained both in the plants and as a member representative, troubleshooting quality issues on the farm and familiarizing himself with equipment, set him up for success working with members in his current role at the Farm Supply Store.

“We do a lot of special orders, we make sure customers have product on time, and we try to make sure if members have questions, that we can answer them,” Duane said about the Farm Supply Store. “Sometimes they throw us oddball questions about mastitis and other stuff so we try to steer them to people that know more, but some of that we can answer too.”

When Duane started at the Farm Supply Store, it was referred to as MMPA’s merchandise program and it was at a warehouse in St. Louis, Michigan. He was promoted from Member Rep/Merchandise Coordinator to his current title, Member Merchandise Supervisor, and led the transition to the current My. Pleasant location two years later.

“My greatest accomplishment is the relationships I’ve built with the farms and with the people that we provide service to,” Duane said. “We make sure that we give everyone good service and that we’re friendly and not hard to get along with.”

His dedication to members is one of the many reasons Duane was recognized as the 2022 Michigan Fieldperson of the Year during the Michigan Dairy Industry Conference held in May 2022. Duane received one of two awards announced there. His wife, Teresa Farmer, received the other, the Industry Service Award. Now, as Duane approaches 40 years with MMPA next year, his career has come full circle and he has his sights set on retirement.

“I’ve had a nice career as far as how varied it was with working with different people. I didn’t expect to be here 40 years. When I started, I thought, ‘Okay, I can do that job for a few years and I’ll move to something else,’” Duane said. “So far, it’s worked out.”

Worked out, in fact.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

A Humble Type of Extraordinary Service

The pandemic continues to shed light on the quiet reliance we have on each other to do our part. While shortages still abound and delivery times aren’t fast, the people in the dairy supply chain with boots on the ground have never stopped. Farmers, haulers and plant workers are some of the first to come to mind, but an often forgotten group is those who work in the labs to ensure a safe milk supply and accurate pay price for producers. One lab technician in particular, Teresa Farmer, was recently recognized with the 2022 Industry Service Award for her dedication to Michigan dairy farmers.

“Our lab results actually help producers,” Teresa said. “It helps determines their pay, but if they are having issues, we can also give them results to help them figure out what the issues are. The bottom line is if members don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. We want to do anything we can to help them.”

With 32 years of experience working at Michigan Milk Producers Association in the Novi laboratory, Teresa knows the importance of providing accurate and precise testing results for members.

“At the lab, we do member pay testing and we help them by allowing producers to send in special testing, which is a bulk of what we do,” Teresa said. “Because of our results, producers can monitor for antibiotics in their milk, along with their RAW, PI, lab pasteurized and coliform counts. If they have cows with mastitis, we can help give them a clue as to what might be causing it.”

The technical jargon comes from years of diagnosing problems and working with farmers to meet their testing needs. Teresa’s dedication to the industry would never have happened if she didn’t have an influential family member or professor in college.

“I was in college at Michigan State University (MSU) and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Teresa confessed. “I was at a loss and my cousin, who was in food science, recommended I take a couple classes. I fell in love with dairy because of Dr. Partridge’s classes. It just stuck.”

Teresa graduated from MSU with a degree in food science and went on to work at Michigan Dairy in Livonia where she met her husband, Duane Farmer, named 2022 Fieldperson of the Year. She started working at MMPA in 1990 and since found her place in the industry.

“My first impression of MMPA was how friendly everybody was,” Teresa said. “The girls in the lab work so well together and because we rotate, we’re always doing something a little bit different.”

Because of the precision that is required for lab testing, the job can be routine, but Teresa and the others in the lab work to make every day slightly different. A big part of that is developing relationships with each other for the greater good of providing extraordinary service day in and day out.

“My favorite part about my job is the camaraderie and the people,” Teresa said. “It feels like it means so much for the producers to be able to do their job the best they can with the help of the results we provide.”

During Teresa’s service at MMPA she’s experienced the changes in the industry. In the past 30 years, she’s seen the lab expand, new tests be offered and advances in technology.

“When I started, we had eight or nine people working in the lab, now we have four because we have machines that do things that we used to do by hand,” Teresa said. “The greatest advancement I’ve seen is probably the Bactoscan. It’s a machine that gives you bacteria counts in raw milk. We used to have to plate samples, make the agar, autoclave it, plate it, pour the agar in, swirl it and then incubate it for 48 hours. Now the process is simple, we just run it through the machine and get results in about seven minutes.”

With technology though comes break downs and since milk is a perishable product, Teresa confesses that it’s a love-hate relationship. Fortunately, when breakdowns happen, Teresa and her team work together to find a solution.

“When things go wrong, it’s amazing how well we work together to solve the problem,” Teresa said about her coworkers. “We’ve worked together so long that we don’t even have to say anything. We just know what to do.”

For that reason, Teresa’s humbled by the recognition she received as the 2022 Industry Service Award recipient during the Michigan Dairy Industry Conference held in May 2022.

“The girls in the lab work so well together. The service to the industry is a group effort because we all work together. It’s not a one-person job,” Teresa said. “I come in and I do my job, but I don’t feel like I do anything extraordinary. We all do our job.”

Doing your job is enough, especially when it’s as critical to the industry as lab results and executed extraordinarily well.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

Nearly every college graduate has one story about a wild night or an unforgettable memory that forever changed the trajectory of their life. The memories are typically set in scenes of college parties and dorms – not in dairy sale barns like it is in the case for Drew and Beth Rupprecht, the 2022 MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator (OYDC) Runners-Up.

“I went to Michigan State University and I joined Dairy Club, because I didn’t know anything about cows, and that’s where I met Drew,” Beth recalled. “I went with him to a couple shows and then I bought my own heifer that I kept at his family’s place. It’s like getting a dog together, only bigger, and it’s not that easy to move it.”

The comedy is quickly humbled by the fact that 12 years later, that heifer is the foundation of their now 65-cow herd on Thistle Dew Dairy in Vassar, Michigan, at the original Rupprecht homestead established in 1865.

“My parents had a dairy, but they sold out in 2004,” Drew said. “When I met Beth, we started showing more and our cows started to multiply. At one point we had 15 milk cows out on six different people’s farms and it got to the point where we either had to reduce the herd size or milk cows.”

They chose to milk cows and Drew quit his post-college job as an MMPA field representative to begin dairying full time. Since Drew’s family had always intended to return to dairying, the equipment was left behind and was in good condition.

“I took the opportunity when it came to fix the barn back up and I bought 10 head to start out milking 30 cows,” Drew said. “We took some of the stanchions out and made them into calf pens on the north side of the barn and used ten stalls as a flat parlor. We reran the highline too because I don’t know how it ever washed the way it was run before.”

Drew’s experience as an MMPA field representative prepared them well, with Beth pointing out that many of the renovations and upgrades were a consequence of having a “fieldman turned dairy farmer.” Wanting more flexibility in their schedules as their family was growing, Drew and Beth installed a Lely A3 milking robot that went into operation in 2019.

“We’ve talked to a lot of people who are looking at getting robots and while it looks like we have so much free time, it’s not free time, it’s different time,” Beth said. “It’s more flexible time so I can pick my kids up from school and go to their ball games, but it’s not less work.”

The robot has been a good addition to their farm and they’re working to continue finding efficiencies, with a major breakthrough happening just this summer.

“There aren’t a lot of mixed herds that operate in robots so accommodating our Holsteins and our Jerseys required us to figure out where that sweet spot is,” Beth said. “After two years of trying to figure out the little differences between the two breeds, we finally figured it out this summer.”

Drew and Beth analyzed the robot’s data to make small adjustments to the nutrition and milk access the different breeds had to the robot. Within days, their changes resulted in their herd jumping from an average of 2.5 milkings per day to 3.4 milkings per day, and their Jersey herd is milking an average five pounds more per day than before.

“One thing we’ve learned through this process is that we know our farm best and we need to go with our gut,” Beth said. “We know when something’s not right and we recognize that there are experts who have extensive training, but our setup is not traditional with the open barnyard and being a mixed herd. We’re getting better at going with our gut because we know our cows.”

These small changes to their operation are happening in all areas and sustainability is at the forefront of their efforts. Along with being a 100% no-till operation, the Rupprechts have been using cover crops to provide forage for their heifers and dry cows.

“We’re tinkering and dialing things in,” Drew said. “We’re finding more sustainable and better ways to do things to become more efficient.” Beth added, “We spent the first five years getting the farm where we wanted it, and now we are honing in and capitalizing on our efficiencies by making those little changes.”

Another change the Drew has made is to their farm’s breeding program. Drew’s passionate about registered dairy cattle and creating high type functioning cows. In the past two years, Drew began aAa analyzing his cows to make mating choices in conjunction with typical trait analysis. The aAa analysis is based on six categories that looks at structural balance and internal functionality of the cows.

“I’m still breeding for type, I’m just trying to mesh in more health traits, balance and longevity,” Drew said. “In my mind, if aAa is another tool to make a better cow, why not? I hope to make some good cows that can go and show well, but really, I want high type functional cows. Will it be a cherry on top to win a big show? Yes, but in the end those cows need to be healthy and need to last for that to happen.”

The dialing in is working, as Beth points out, “We have the top breed association average Holstein herd in the state, and have heifers ranking well at the national level, while still making improvements to cow functionality in the barn.” The success is a part of their continuous drive and are all part of the Rupprecht’s greater plan to give something to their kids that they never had – a life on the farm with the opportunity to return.

“In college I had wanted to come back to dairy farm or come back to the farm even if it wasn’t for dairy, but I couldn’t, because it couldn’t sustain both dad and I,” Drew admits. “I’d say a big goal of ours is to have our operation set up in a way where, when our kids get to that point in their life, there’s something for them to work at if they want to.”

To facilitate that, Drew and Beth have their sights set on installing a creamery, encouraging agritourism while making room for the next generation. They admit though, the creamery was the plan before their dairy herd even existed because having a clear vision is one of the many reasons they’ve had such success.

“At the end of the day, we’re not in this business for the milk check,” Beth said. “Obviously that’s what makes us cash flow and allows us to do what we do, but we both love cows, Drew likes breeding good cows and it’s both of our dreams to have a cheese operation. Really, milking cows is what’s getting us to our end goals.”

With lofty goals ahead of them, Drew and Beth recognize that the more you feel like you’re making progress, the more you find out what you have to do. While dairy farming can be overwhelming at times, it’s Drew and Beth’s drive to succeed that encourages them to keep dialing in and finding that success.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »

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 »