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June Dairy Month farm tours resume in South Dakota

MoDak Dairy near Goodwin reopened its doors to the public on Saturday, June 12, a return of a nearly annual tradition at the dairy to hold open houses.

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The Moes family of Goodwin, S.D., enjoys opening the doors of their MoDak Dairy to the public to answer questions, explain how things work on the dairy and show how important the care of cattle is to the dairy industry. Photo taken June 12, 2021. (Michelle Rook / Agweek)
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GOODWIN, S.D. — After a hiatus last year due to the pandemic, June Dairy Month farm tours are resuming in South Dakota.

MoDak Dairy near Goodwin reopened its doors to the public on Saturday, June 12. Co-owner Greg Moes said the family is marking various milestones in 2021. The family has owned the farm for 125 years and they’re also celebrating 30 years at MoDak Dairy, starting with just 200 cows in 1991. It was fitting that they carried on a tradition they’ve held nearly all of the years they’ve been in operation by holding an open house to commemorate June Dairy Month. Moes said the public was excited to come back out and see their 2,000-cow facility and milking parlor, which produces 70 million pounds of milk annually.

Consumers got see how the milk is harvested on a daily basis in the double 30 parlor. MoDak milks its cows three times a day, and each animal produces an average of four gallons of milk per milking. Ryder Peterson, 9, of Stockholm, S.D., was anxious to talk about what he learned during the tour about how cows produce milk.

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Ryder Peterson, right, learned about how cows turn total mixed rations and water into milk during a June Dairy Month farm tour at MoDak Dairy on June 12, 2021. (Michelle Rook / Agweek)

“They eat this ration that mixes together in their body and then they drink water to, like, produce the milk,” he said.

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Consumers got the full dairy experience as they were treated to a range of dairy products, from grilled cheese to malts, milk and cheese.

One of the goals at MoDak Dairy is to demonstrate the extra steps they take to care for their animals and bring safe and nutritious milk and dairy products to consumers' tables. They also want to be transparent and answer commonly asked questions, like how they use antibiotics in milk production.

“The milk can’t be unloaded if there’s any antibiotics. It’s tested before it's unloaded,” Moes said.

He said the research on the nutrition of protein and butterfat in whole milk also proves it is a healthy product versus various food and beverage alternatives.

Other common questions involve the impact the dairy industry has on the environment. Moes told tour participants they are highly regulated by the state, especially when it comes to manure application. They start out with a soil test to determine which nutrients are on their cropland.

“When we go to apply our liquid manure, it's all applied through recommendations from the state,” he said.

Technology has changed tremendously since they started the dairy operation 30 years ago. Moes said some of the biggest advancements have been in facilities and genetics. MoDak Dairy uses DNA testing to identify the top-producing heifers in the herd.

“We determine these are the best of the best, these are going to get artificially inseminated with female semen,” he said, referring to semen that has been DNA-tested to determine what sex of calves it will produce.

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Those cows will produce heifers that will go back into the milking string, while the rest are bred with male semen from a beef breed to produce bull calves that will go into beef production.

“Limousine is what we’re using for a cross so we can put better meat on the market,” he said.

He said it comes as a big surprise to most consumers that cows calve 365 days a year at the dairy, and eight to 10 new calves are born daily.

Beyond the cows, Moes said the people who work at their operation are some of their greatest assets. They employ 35 to 40 people. Some of them have been with the operation since the beginning, and have become like family.

“We have families that have continued to grow with us here. Without our families that work with us here, we wouldn’t grow,” he said.

MoDak also used the open house to show the public its new replacement heifer unit still under construction about a mile to the east of the main dairy.

“For the last 13 years we’ve been farming our heifers out to a lot of different growers around and in our area here from 20 miles away to different farms, and then we bring them back. It’s getting to the point where it really is cost-effective to build a new heifer facility that we can put the heifers in. It’s a cross-vent barn where the babies can go in when they’re weaned, and they’ll be in there until they calve,” Moes says.

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