Young Dairy Network USA Study Tour 2023

Twenty emerging leaders in the Murray dairying community have been given an exceptional opportunity to explore succession pathways, learn valuable leadership skills and build industry connections on a 14-day tour of the dairying regions of Wisconsin, California and Indiana, USA. 

Murray Dairy would like to thank the following sponsors for their support for the YDN Dairy Development program: Gardiner Dairy Foundation; Pioneer Seeds (Gold Sponsors); Bega Group; Noumi; ProviCo Rural; Riverina Fresh (Silver Sponsors); Genetics Australia; STgenetics Australia; Rex James Stockfeed; Phibro Animal Health Corporation; Reid Stockfeeds; Rochester Veterinary Practice; Eagle Direct; Kyvalley Dairy Group, and Hunters (Bronze Sponsors).

Follow along with the journey and hear from the program participants, below! 

Day 1

The Murray Dairy YDN USA study tour is underway with participants flying into San Francisco this morning and spending the day exploring the city, before setting off to start farm visits tomorrow

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera 

Day 2

Summary prepared by Tour participants Hannah Kerrins, Jamie Collins, Nick Minogue and Andrew Rushton.

Our first farm visit for the tour was the Beretta Family Dairy, a generational dairy farm in Santa Rosa, California, milking 300 crossbred and jersey cows organically through a 12 stand walk through with cows spending 30-45% of the year housed. The highlight of this farm being the effluent separator, where solids are pulled from the effluent and used for the compost bedding. And irrigation water being reclaimed water from the city and no irrigation water pulled from the ground.
The group then visited Jim Moreda, 33, in Santa Rosa who in March 2020 started his own Dairy Farm. Located in the rolling hills, he runs a pasture based Dairy business on leased land supplying his milk to Valley Ford Cheese and Creamery, a small 5th Generation business.
Jim had a contagious enthusiasm and passion for the industry explaining his pathway into the industry, milking 95 jersey cows through an 8 stand walk through dairy. Jim is working towards lowering inputs, and becoming more self sustainable. Key things the group took away from the business: it is possible to get into dairy by starting at the smaller scale and supplying a nichè: have goals setout with a business plan that made it quick to make the most of the opportunity he was given.
Lunch was had at Valley Ford Cheese on the popular tourist route Shoreline Highway, where owner Karen took the group through her business and provided a delicious lunch.
The group moved onto Davis where Professor Russ Hovey of UC Davis provided dinner, and an insight into some of the issues and opportunities in the region.
 YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera

Day 3

Today our YDN group visited a family owned almond farm and processor, Travaille and Phippen, as well as a research farm facility looking at innovative irrigation systems. We ended our day meeting local young farmer from the region.

The quote of the day came from the owner of Travaille and Phippen - "I'm still learning even though I'm old." Dave was a great mentor into the progression of an industry over a large period of time from many perspectives, including his leadership role within the almond board of California. His passion and and hard work influenced the YDN group to pursue their wider goals within the dairy industry.
A massive thanks to Lisa and Shane from Rubicon Water for going above and beyond for assisting us with our logistics while in Modesto
Tonight we caught up with the committee from the California Young Farmers and Ranchers in Turlock for a evening of networking. We had the opportunity to discus different farming tactic in USA vs AUS and different industries, especially almond farmers and dairy farmers over some pizzas. Thanks for the great evening.
Thanks to participants Amabel Grinter, Kaleb Quinn, Amie Hourrigan and Tristan Grinter for putting together todays summary.

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera

Day 4

Our first visit was to Erin and Trevor Nutcher from Hidden Valley Dairy who run a 2100 cow dairy on around 600 acres, in a fully housed barn system. We had a tour of their 35 double up rapid exit dairy, 8 barns, commodity and waste management areas, and they shared with us their succession journey- undertaking a partnership with Trevor’s parents. A factor in their successful transition has been ensuring Trevor’s other siblings are considered in a fair manner.

It was great to see such a large herd meet reproductive and milk targets due to good management and a well organised team.

One of their biggest factors in ensuring the farms production success has been to maximise cow comfort and welfare - a lot of expense has gone into installing fans, sprinklers, larger stalls, and upgraded barns.

Our second stop was to Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc., one of the largest cheese processors in the world, using 500 000 litres of milk daily to produce wholesale cheeses for a variety of companies. This company was initially formed by a group of 12 dairy farmers, and carried in through succession to the next generation. We had a chat with one of the company owners Vance Ahlem, who gave us great insight to the business and difficulties facing agribusinesses in California- including many regulating bodies, prohibitive costs and water issues. Vance is still a dairy farmer, milking 2000 cows in 32 Lely robots. He has seen great benefits in automating his system, including ceasing his herd synchronisation program, reduced hoof treatments, reduced labour by 50% and increased profit per litre. Permanent staff were retained and upskilled.

Future plans for the cheese company include building a new plant in Kansas, and research and development into potential use of plant based proteins, and even cellular products.

Today we got a great insight into what larger scale barn operations look like in California, and what difficulties farmers and processors face in this country

Thanks to participants Ebony Mull, Tom Hay, Tim Murray and Amy Perry for putting together todays day summary

Day 5

Today the group had a wonderful experience visiting Yosemite National Park. They experienced the wonderful diverse landscape, including the flora and fauna native to this region. There was much excitement to see squirrels and Deers in their natural habitat. We were disappointed not to see any bears though. Lots of snow melting created incredible water flows to observe with the group hiking 12km. A snow fight for some to finish the day off perfectly.

Thanks to Brooke Monk and Brady Hore for putting together todays reflection.

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera

Day 6

Today the group is on the move and flying to chicago to start the next leg of our tour through Wisconsin and Indiana. Afternoon of sight seeing before heading out on farms again tomorrow

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera

Day 7

Today we got to explore the 450 head STgenetics bull farm at Fond du Lac. Rodger Breunig walked us through all aspects of the process from bull rearing and milking, to the lab, to distribution. It was extremely interesting to learn about the cutting edge technology being developed by the company and all that goes into the finished product we’re familiar with on farm.

We were lucky enough to see a couple of the most popular sires in the Holstein breed, including the #1 GTPI sire Stgen Cowen Thorson - ET.
We were surprised to learn that AI started in dairy to control disease spread within herds and has progressed to the health & safety and herd improvement tool we know today.

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera

Day 8

Today we had the privilege of visiting Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC. Originally a family owned business, but neither of their daughters wanting to come home to the farm, they have designed a business structure where partners can join in shares to pass on the wealth with out selling the farm. Interesting farm business, with registered cows and no use of antibiotics in milking herd, we all took away some inspiration from the Holterman family.

Budjon Farms Budjon Farms was our second farm was a unique farming business, capitalising on the niche market of elite genetics. Budjon Farms boards show animals, makes hay and milks a small herd of show cows. Kelli & Tom’s passion for their animals and the show industry was an inspiration to all of us.
Thanks to Victoria Mulchay and Blake Randle for putting together todays summary.

YDN Tour participants smiling at the camera



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