For modern dairy farmers, the amount of technology that goes into daily operations isn’t much of a surprise anymore. But many consumers may not realize that the industry is long past using a bucket and pail as the main tools in a milking parlor.
This is one of the reasons why Lynn Boadwine, owner of Boadwine Farms in Baltic, South Dakota, and Heidi Zwinger, herd manager at the farm, are invested in sharing the stories of the dairy and beef industry to consumers. The dairy farm opens its facilities to the public dozens of times each year through open houses, tours and school programs.
“We want people to come out and see where the cows live, to let people come inside and see what’s going on,” Zwinger said.
Boadwine Farms’ dedication to consumer advocacy, combined with its educational programs and commitment to excellence in its facilities, has earned the company the 2020 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) – Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Dairy Award.
The farm was homesteaded in 1874 by Lynn’s great grandparents. It has grown with each generation through the family’s passion for dairy and beef, openness to new technologies and techniques, and providing continual training and skill development opportunities for its employees. As of the late 1980s, the farm had just 40 milking cows in addition to hogs. By 2000, the farm had grown to 600 milking cows. And now, more than 2,000 Holstein dairy cows are cared for at the farm, with 2,500 acres planted with rotating crops of corn, alfalfa, rye grass and forage sorghum to provide feed. The farm also employs 40 Boadwine Farm team members, dedicated to the operation and care of the animals.
Cows are milked three times each day in a double 30 parallel parlor and housed in barns equipped with ventilation and sprinkler systems. Electronic RFID tags on each cow allow the farm’s computer system to track daily milk production. The milking parlor also features lights at udder level that create a bright, cheerful atmosphere for both employees and guests, as well as allow employees to better inspect cows for disease and hygiene during milking.
The farm’s use of technology not only benefits cow comfort but increases employee efficiency and reduces its impact on the environment. Boadwine Farms also credits using the BQA and Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) programs for standardizing animal care practices and increasing the farm’s sustainability — both programs built on many of the farm’s existing protocols.
“BQA was easy to implement because we were following a lot of the guidelines already,” Zwinger said.
BQA guidelines combine common sense husbandry techniques with scientific knowledge to raise better quality cattle. The results that Boadwine Farms has seen in following BQA and FARM guidelines at its facilities have been so positive that key employees are required to maintain BQA certification, and they expect employees or contractors who haul their animals to be BQA Transportation certified. Both the BQA and FARM programs are used in Boadwine Farms’ protocols in onboarding and providing continuing education opportunities for employees, as well.
It’s important to Boadwine and Zwinger that not only are employees given opportunities for development, but that the farm helps prepare the next generation of beef and dairy producers, too.
Boadwine Farms accepts interns from South Dakota State University’s dairy science and production programs to teach them herd health management, calf care, milking procedures, and stewardship, as well as farm management practices. The farm also hosts SDSU’s Dairy Challenge Team to allow students hands-on experience in evaluating farm management.
Boadwine Farms participates in educational outreach outside of their own facilities, as well, sharing dairy and beef stories with local communities and statewide.
Each year, Zwinger and other employees volunteer to teach more than 2,000 attendees about dairy farms and milk production during Dairy Fest in nearby Brookings, South Dakota. They record videos to show fourth grade students across the state what happens on a dairy farm through the Adopt-a-Farmer program from South Dakota’s Ag United organization.
“They take pride that the milk they produce stays in South Dakota for processing and is on the shelves at local grocery stores,” said Heidi Carroll, livestock stewardship field specialist and BQA coordinator with the SDSU Extension.
Additionally, for three years the dairy has brought pregnant cows to the birthing area at the Sioux Empire Fair’s annual Pipestone Discovery Barn to show thousands of fair attendees live calf births and answer questions about livestock care and food production. The farm also leases calves to local 4-H youth to give them experience showing and working with cattle.
Through all of Boadwine Farms’ activities, everything circles back to one focus — the care and development of their herd.
“Cows are still my ‘why,’” said Zwinger. “Every day, there’s room for improvement. Five years from now, I want to see us better than we are today.”
The BQA – FARM Dairy Award is funded in part by the Beef Checkoff with additional support from Cargill. For more information on Boadwine Farms and other 2020 BQA Award winners, visit www.bqa.org/about/bqa-awards.
About Beef Quality Assurance
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program funded by the Beef Checkoff that provides U.S. beef producers guidelines and certification drawn from common sense husbandry techniques and accepted scientific knowledge on how to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA reflects a positive public image and instills consumer confidence in the beef industry. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their cattle are the best they can be. For more information on BQA, visit www.bqa.org.