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Dairy facilities expert named 2024 Kansas Dairy Leader

Dairy Month: Joseph P. Harner III was honored for his pioneering work in heat abatement in dairy barns.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

June 11, 2024

3 Min Read
Six people standing in front of K-State sign
DAIRY LEADER: Joseph P. Harner III (center), retired agricultural engineering specialist for Kansas State University Research and Extension, was named the 2024 Kansas Dairy Leader by the Kansas Dairy Association Board. Harner was joined by his wife, Milly, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary, as well as Victor Gomez Leon and Mike Brouk, K-State Extension dairy specialists. Jennifer M. Latzke

When he first came to Kansas State University more than 40 years ago, Joseph “Joe” P. Harner III taught sewing machine repair workshops as part of his Extension outreach. It may not entirely have been in his wheelhouse as a state agricultural engineering Extension specialist, but it was information the people needed, and he was there to serve.

That dedication to Kansas farmers and farm families in finding solutions that would improve their lives at home and on the farm was just one of the many reasons why the Kansas Dairy Association Board recognized Harner as its 2024 Kansas Dairy Leader, during its annual meeting March 22 in Manhattan, Kan.

Harner provided 28 years of technical support to the dairy industry as a member of the K-State Dairy Team. During that time, he pioneered new strategies and new engineering designed to ease heat stress and improve cow comfort in dairies. Among them:

  • He collaborated in the development of global heat stress abatement strategies.

  • He conceptualized the idea of a low-profile, cross-ventilated, dairy-free stall housing system.

  • He designed the single-row, dairy-free stall housing system for smaller domestic and international dairies.

  • He developed guidelines and methods for recycling sand used for bedding in freestalls.

  • He developed the dairy weep wall manure system, protecting the waters of the state of Kansas.

In recognizing Harner, Mike Brouk, K-State Dairy Extension specialist, said he helped improve designs on farms that are industry standards today — such as the low-profile freestall system. His work reduced costs for farmers and improved cow comfort and productivity for large and small farms, in Kansas and around the world, Brouk said.

Lynda Foster, a dairy farmer and member of the KDA, said, “Dr. Joe” years ago helped her family dairy design a new barn after a storm destroyed their old freestall barn years ago. “He made sure our construction crew understood the importance of getting the pitch just right on the roof” in order to mitigate any heat that could affect cow comfort, she said. It was his attention to detail, and his offer of help to all dairy farmers improve their operations, that made him a leader in the industry, she added.

Harner said it was truly an honor to be named 2024 Dairy Leader and join a list of giants in the industry with their plaques up in Call Hall. He credited the members of the Kansas Dairy Team with using their individual talents for the good of all dairy farmers, in the state and around the world, no matter who got the credit. He also thanked the Kansas dairy farmers for their support of research projects on the farm that changed the industry for the better today and in the future — across the nation.

“The state of Washington has received a large federal grant to look at new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the manure handling process,” Harner said. There was one technology that stood out on that list of tools that the state is implementing, he added, and that was weep wall basins — which have been used in Kansas for 20 years. Those came about because of the partnership between Extension and dairy farmers.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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