WATCH: Meadow Star Dairy ‘exceeds expectations’

PENNOCK, Minn. -- Like kids eager to get on a merry-go-round for a fun ride -- and just as eager to get off with the promise of a treat when they get back home -- one by one 7,500 dairy cows quickly step onto the milking carousel at Meadow Star D...

After their twice-a-day milking, the cows at Meadow Star Dairy near Pennock eat and rest in a free-stall barn that is cleaned and replenished with food while they are being milked. A Dairy Days open house is June 30 with tours of the $60 million operation, which was completed last fall. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)

PENNOCK, Minn. - Like kids eager to get on a merry-go-round for a fun ride - and just as eager to get off with the promise of a treat when they get back home - one by one 7,500 dairy cows quickly step onto the milking carousel at Meadow Star Dairy.

A cow steps onto the carousel every 4.5 seconds as three workers quickly wash udders and attach automated milking machines. During a 4- to 5-minute-long ride on the slowly turning, elevated parlor the cows are milked, and when their 360-degree ride is over, they head back to the free-stall barn that has been cleaned and restocked with food while they were gone.

The carousel holds 106 cows and it takes 11 hours for all 7,500 of the cows to be milked once.

The cows at Meadow Star are milked twice a day, which means cows are stepping on and off the carousel a total of 22 hours every day.

At noon and midnight the parlor is closed and the milk lines are sanitized.


It’s a seamless routine that began Oct. 26 when the biggest dairy in Kandiyohi County began operating.

On June 30 the public will get a chance to see first-hand how the dairy operates during a Dairy Days celebration at Meadow Star, which is located about two miles south of Pennock or five miles west of Willmar.

The event is expected to draw about 3,000 people, said Lyle Grimm, project manager with Riverview Dairy, a limited liability partnership based in Morris that owns Meadow Star, as well as other dairy, beef and crop farms in Minnesota, Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

Construction at Meadow Star began in March of 2015.

Cows started arriving in October and by January the dairy was up to full steam with 8,500 cows, including 7,500 that are milked and another 1,000 that are in the maternity ward.

“Everything’s up and running very smoothly. We haven’t had any hiccups along the way,” Grimm said.

“By far this is the best start-up we’ve ever had,” said Brad Fehr, a partner at Riverview Dairy. “It’s exceeded our expectations. It’s a testament to the guys we have and their willingness to dig in and get it figured out and work together.”

Arturo Bel Angel, who manages Meadow Star, said the flow of the cows through the parlor is smooth and so far there have not been any accidents with employees.


“We talk about safety every day,” Bel Angel said.

Kindness counts

If you stand still a few seconds near a pen of Meadow Star’s cows, you’re likely to be licked and slobbered up as the curious animals stretch out their necks and long tongues. They like to be scratched on the head.

The calm demeanor of the cows lends credibility to the yellow “Be Kind” signs that are posted throughout the farm.

It’s an animal welfare program the company implemented about five years ago, Grimm said.

“We don’t allow any mistreatment of animals,” he said. “We have zero tolerance. If there’s any mistreatment, the employee is instantly fired.”

A third-party animal auditing company called Validus also comes in once a year to Riverview facilities to provide another set of eyes to look for ways to improve animal health, Grimm said.

While some livestock facilities prohibit cameras and videos, Grimm said they are welcome at Meadow Star.


“Our goal is to make sure we’re doing nothing wrong and videos can be taken of anything,” he said. “We don’t have anything to hide.”

With large fans that provide cross-ventilation, hoses than spray cattle with a mist when it’s hot outside, regular hoof trims and veterinarians on site at all times, Grimm said the comfort of the cow is the primary goal at the farm.

“A dairy cow gives you instant feedback to how you’re taking care of her by the milk she gives every day,” he said.

“So it’s in our best interest, and in everyone’s best interest, that we do a really good job and that she’s comfortable and well taken care of so she’ll produce lots of milk,” Grimm said.


  • What: Dairy Days celebration with guided bus tours of the site, opportunities to see cows being milked from the observation deck, activities for kids and a free meal of cheeseburgers chips and ice cream.
  • Where: Meadow Star Dairy at 12212 First Ave. W in Pennock.
  • When: 4-7 p.m. June 30.
  • Cost: Free.
  • Info: Parking will be available at the dairy.
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