Local dairy receives award and recognition from international dairy organization | News

Hildebrand Dairy won the Innovative Dairy Producer of the Year award from the International Dairy Foods Association.

Operations Manager Melissa Reed of Abilene said the dairy also featured in a cover story on the cover of Dairy Herd magazine.

“We were shocked – stunned,” she said upon learning of the award. “But they said, ‘You know, it’s not because you’re doing a big thing really well. You’re doing a bunch of little things exceptionally well. And so that was a big honor. It was a big deal. .”

Reed talked about some of the little things that helped the local dairy gain international recognition.

While many in the dairy industry “live by the mantra ‘you get big or go home,’” Reed said Hildebrand found ways to keep their small herd while keeping their farm going.

“With our farm, we kind of found a way to grow, to expand without just adding more cows,” she said. “With the on-site processing facility, we are able to keep our farm going, keep our family viable, be sustainable for the future, but also do something a little different. “

The Hildebrand herd itself is also a bit different, in a way that has allowed some people who can’t normally drink milk to drink Hildebrand milk.

“So it’s not just about on-site processing,” Reed said. “We also bred our cows with A2 genetics and this A2 genetics provides more digestible milk. So there is a beta casein that is in the protein and research has shown that based on what type of beta casein – be it A1 or A2 – moe people are responsive and (finding milk) easier to digest on this A2. So we’ve already received emails from customers saying, “hey, why can I drink your milk but I can’t drink any other milk?” And we really think it comes down to this A2 protein, which is pretty cool. So we used this breeding program.

The dairy has also forged a relationship with the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where the dairy partners with the school by providing on-site internships and research opportunities for students. This partnership has been in place for years, Reed said.

The dairy has also partnered with the USDA for a mosquito study to see how mosquitoes might impact dairy cows.

“We also work with the USDA,” she said. “Through the USDA, we are conducting a mosquito research project. So we know that flies really do affect cows in a big way – now we’re going to take it a step further and say, ‘what does the mosquito do? Using SCR tags, we monitor ear twitches, tail changes, rumination, and heat detection – all of this information coming from our heifers – to kind of see how this mosquito is affecting them? »

Reed thinks this particular program may have impressed the International Dairy Foods Association.

“We also get a little creative with our hires,” she said. “I usually don’t just hire average milkers like I used to.”

In addition to creating internships for K-State students, Reed has a history of hiring U.S. military veterans through a different internship program. The program for veterans allows participants to accumulate hours that can go towards a VA loan.

Reed said the dairy tries to provide “an educational opportunity” for employees in this way.

All of this culminated in the dairy receiving an award.

Late last month, Reed and her husband attended a conference hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association in California.

She doesn’t take all the credit for the accomplishment.

“It’s just a testament to my dad and my uncle — really,” Reed said.

They have been farming for decades, she said.

“While I can be the voice (of the dairy) and share our story, they are the ones who, while I was in California having a good time, were here to break the waters and check the heifers and work another seven days a week,” Reed said. “As I was giving my acceptance speech, I was saying (to the audience) ‘by this time, my fans back home have already done an eight-hour day’.

Looking to the future

In order to preserve the environment that helped the dairy receive this honor in the first place, Reed said she and her staff implemented a three-pronged plan.

“It’s about taking care of our cows and doing the right thing,” she says. “It’s about taking care of our land and making sure we preserve it for the future. But then it is also about growing the business and making sure that the business is also sustainable for the future.

Going forward, Reed said the dairy plans to add a new product. She’s not ready to release the details of this product to the world just yet, but she said something new may be on the horizon.

“We are also looking at potentially expanding our sizing options and providing a liter of our chocolate milk,” Reed said. “It’s one of our most popular products. And then on the farm side, we’re probably looking at milking robots.

The farm has been studying milking robots for years, she said.

“I don’t know because they would necessarily replace the workforce we have here, but it would be a huge support for the team… No one would be fired if the robots were installed,” Reed said. “If they left voluntarily, it is possible that we will not replace certain part-timers.

However, that’s far in the future – if it ever comes to fruition.

“It could be a year before we even have these robots,” Reed said. “Once we have the robots, it will take another six months to a year of transition before the work is really eliminated or lightened. And even with that, we would still need a full-time person plus an additional part-time person to deal with day-to-day tasks. Because the cows still need to be cared for, we still need to maintain the pens, feed the calves and help with calving and there is still a lot to do.

Virginia S. Braud