Fifth-generation farmers Blaine and Kim Baker of Bakerlads Farms will receive the 2019 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year Award on Feb. 8 at the Dairy Industry Banquet. The event is part of the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference in Frankenmuth, Mich.
The Lenawee County, Clayton, farm has been in operation since the 1870s. The award is given by the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University.
Bakerlads Farms includes a dairy herd of 540 Holstein cattle and 607 replacements, as well as acreage for corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
The farm is verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program in livestock, farmstead and cropping systems, and evaluated by the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program for animal care.
Brothers Kim and Blaine formed their partnership in 1984 to continue the family dairy operation. They share responsibilities managing the milking herd and replacements. Kim has primary responsibility for employee management and machine maintenance, while Kim’s wife, Donna, does the accounting. Blaine has primary responsibility for managing the cropping enterprise and record keeping.
The dairy has Dairy Herd Improvement Association rolling herd averages reaching nearly 30,000 pounds, currently at 27,410 pounds of milk, 951 pounds of 3.5% fat and 805 pounds of 2.9% protein, with an average somatic cell count of 115,000. In 2016, a new double 14 parallel milking parlor was installed, improving milking efficiency and the employee environment.
The Bakers emphasize soil and water conservation in their dairy and crop operations. They are involved with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. In addition to erosion control practices and updated waste storage facilities, no-till methods have been part of the operation since 2008.
The Bakers were supporters in organizing the Lenawee County Center for Excellence. The Center for Excellence’s annual field day has been held at Bakerlads for 22 years, allowing producer research and development on new methods of production, with an eye on conservation. Area farmers benefit by learning from the results.
As part of the National Association of Conservation Districts’ Soil Health Champions Network, Blaine Baker says, “As far as our operation, we are committed to no-till, so when we purchase a new piece of ground, it gets no-tilled.” Cover crops are used for nutrient retention, soil conservation and soil organic matter.
“The Bakerlads Farm is just one example of how integrating conservation practices throughout the farming system, and attention to detail in on-farm nutrient management, can keep crop nutrients in the root zone and out of waterways,” says Tim Harrigan, professor and Extension specialist in MSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, in a 2015 MSU Extension article highlighting Bakerlads.
Water management, water quality and effective drainage practices are key aspects of the Bakerlads operation. The farm incorporates two stage ditches, blind inlets, buffers along ditches and closed-loop nutrient recycling, and does edge-of-field water sampling and applies fertilizer using variable rate technology.
Blaine and Kim are committed to various agriculture-related boards and committees, including the state Farm Services Agency Board, which Blaine serves on. He is chairman of the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, and Kim serves on the Lenawee County Holstein Board and the MSU Extension Dairy Advisory Team.
They have been recognized as Tel-Farm Managers of the Year and as Lenawee County Conservation Farmers of the Year. They have received the Michigan Farm Bureau Ecology Leadership Award and several milk quality awards from Dairy Farmers of America.
Blaine and his wife, Barbara, have a 29-year-old daughter. Kim and his wife, Donna, have five children from ages 15 to 23.
“Bakerlads Farm is a well-respected farm that leads by example,” says Pam Ruegg, Department of Animal Science chairwoman. “It is with great pleasure that the MSU Department of Animal Science recognizes Blaine and Kim Baker as the 2019 MSU Dairy Farmers of the Year.”