It is nice to get a pat on the back for doing things right.
That’s what happened at Boadwine Farms, Baltic, S.D., recently. The dairy received the 2020 national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) — Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Dairy Award for its dedication to consumer advocacy and education and its commitment to excellence in cow care.
“It doesn’t seem like we are doing more than most other dairies,” says Heidi Zwinger, Boadwine Farms herd manager. “But it is nice when someone who visits a lot of dairies sees what you are doing and gives you a pat on the back.”
Heidi Carroll, South Dakota State University Extension livestock stewardship field specialist and BQA coordinator, nominated Boadwine Farms for the award.
Boadwine Farms stands out not only for what it has accomplished but also for never resting on its laurels.
Lon TonnesonLIGHT INNOVATION: Bright lights installed in the parlor illuminate the cows’ udders during milking, creating a bright atmosphere for employees and guests and allowing employees to better inspect cows during milking.
“They are always looking to improve, whether its care for the cows, facilities, employee training and safety, or sharing the dairy story,” Carroll says.
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.
It’s one of the reasons why Lynn Boadwine, owner of Boadwine Farms, and Zwinger have made a commitment to sharing the stories of the dairy and beef industry with consumers. The dairy, located about 10 miles outside of Sioux Falls, S.D., (population 183,000) opens its facilities to the public dozens of times each year through open houses, tours and school programs.
COW COMFORT: Heidi Zwinger, Boadwine Farms herd manager, looks for continual improvement in cow care.
“We want people to come out and see where the cows live, to let people come inside and see what’s going on,” Zwinger says.
Boadwine Farms participates in educational outreach outside of its own facilities, as well, sharing dairy and beef stories throughout the state.
Each year during Dairy Fest, a community celebration held in Brookings, Zwinger and other employees volunteer to teach attendees about dairy farms and milk production. 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.
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.
Boadwine Farms’ milk is marketed through Land O’Lakes and is processed by Dean Foods, Sioux Falls; Agropur, Lake Norden, S.D., and Hull, Iowa; and BelBrands, Brookings, S.D.
“They take pride that the milk they produce stays in South Dakota for processing and is on the shelves at local grocery stores,” Carroll says.
Technology and training
Boadwine Farms 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 commitment to providing continual training and skill development opportunities for its employees.
In the late 1980s, the farm had just 40 milking cows in addition to hogs. By 2000, the farm had grown to 600 milking cows. 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 employs 40 people.
Lon TonnesonLONG HISTORY: A barn built in the 1900 is still in use on the Boadwine family’s farm, which was homesteaded in 1874.
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 also increases employee efficiency and reduces the farm’s impact on the environment. The BQA and FARM programs have helped standardize animal care practices and increase 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 says.
BQA guidelines combine commonsense husbandry techniques with scientific knowledge to raise better quality cattle, Carroll says.
Key employees are required to maintain BQA certification. Employees and contractors who haul their animals must be BQA Transportation certified. Both the BQA and FARM programs also are used in onboarding and providing continuing education opportunities for employees.
Lon TonnesonSAND BEDDING: Heifers lie on sand bedding. Boadwine Farms’ dedication to cow comfort was part of what earned the operation the national dairy award.
It’s important to Boadwine and Zwinger that employees are given opportunities for development, and that the farm helps prepare the next generation of beef and dairy producers. Boadwine Farms accepts interns from South Dakota State University’s dairy science and production programs. It also hosts SDSU’s Dairy Challenge Team, giving students hands-on experience in evaluating farm management.
Focus on cows
Everything at Boadwine Farms circles back the care and development of the dairy herd.
“Cows are still my ‘why,’” Zwinger says. “Every day, there’s room for improvement. Five years from now, I want to see us better than we are today.”
You can get a firsthand look at Boadwine Farms in the video below:
The BQA-FARM Dairy Award is funded in part by the Beef Checkoff with additional support from Cargill. Go online for more information about Boadwine Farms and other 2020 BQA Award winners.Beef Quality Assurance provided additional reporting for this article.