High Plains Dairy of Friona, Texas, was named the 2009 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year this week at the International Dairy Foods Association's Dairy Forum 2009. Harry and Margret DeWit, owners of High Plains Dairy, received the award from IDFA Vice Chairman Gary Vanic, who is president and CEO of Great Lakes Cheese Company.
Now in its 11th year, this award recognizes U.S. dairy producers that apply creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater on-farm productivity and improved milk marketing. The award is co-sponsored by IDFA and Dairy Today magazine.
High Plains Dairy operates on more than 5,000 acres with 51 full-time employees and milks 4,400 cows. According to the judges, the farm was selected based on its innovative facilities and business solutions.
To cope with the weather extremes in West Texas, for example, High Plains Dairy installed cross ventilation in its barns. Providing this consistent environment has led to marked improvements in productivity, cow health and overall profitability. The dairy also raises heifers for replacements and produces most of the feed it uses to help control costs and limit market volatility.
Taking another innovative step, DeWit joined two other local dairy farmers to form Dairy Services, LLC. This partnership provides economies of scale for purchasing, and employs technicians and repairmen the individual farms couldn't afford to hire separately.
A brief video highlighting High Plains Dairy can be seen at www.agday.com. Click on the January 13th show. The farm will also be featured as the January cover story on Dairy Today, which mails this coming weekend.
High Plains Dairy was nominated by Todd Staples, the Texas commissioner of agriculture. The judges for this year's award were Geoffrey Benson of North Carolina State University, Mark Stephenson of Cornell University, Michael Brown of Glanbia Foods, Jim Dickrell of Dairy Today magazine, Bob Yonkers, IDFA vice president and chief economist, and Charles Fletcher from KBC Farms, the 2008 winner of this award.
Other winners of the Innovative Dairy Farmer title include Mason Dixon Farms, Gettysburg, Pa. (1999); Clauss Dairy Farms, Hilmar, Calif. (2000); Baldwin Dairy/Emerald Dairy, in Emerald, Wis. (2001); Si-Ellen Farms in Jerome, Idaho (2002); Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy of Kewaunee, Wis. (2003); C Bar M Dairy, Jerome, Idaho (2004); KF Dairy, El Centro, Calif. (2006); and Joseph Gallo Farms, Atwater, Calif. (2007). A call for nominations for the 2010 Innovative Dairy Farmer award will be released this summer.