Featured Farm Tours
FOR THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY REGISTERED for the convention
*** We still have available tickets for the following tours for purchase:
Mackinac Island Tour
Tall Ship Excursion **special note: the Blue Angels will be flying over during this event.
Float the Platte River
Lavender Farm Tour
Host Day Farm Tours
Sport Fishing Tour
These tickets are only available for those who are already registered for the convention. You can purchase these tickets at registration at the convention (Cash or Check ONLY).
8 Buses - 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
|9:15 a.m.||Board Bus at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa|
|9:30 a.m.||Depart resort and head to one of the following stops:
Buses will rotate between the following four stops, 2 buses at each stop
|2 buses to Ber-Sher Farms|
|2 buses to Hidden Hills Dairy|
|2 buses to Yonkman Dairy|
2 buses to Bosscher Dairy
|5:30 p.m.||Arrive back at Resort|
Hidden Hills Dairy: One Step At A Time
By Bev Berens
It's easy to be thankful and celebrate when things are going well. It's much harder when life, the dairy industry and family health matters come hard and fast.
Hidden Hills Dairy and the Brunink family have seen their share of life's hardships this year, but also have reasons to celebrate and be thankful.
Brian Brunink was honored as Michigan Holstein Association's Master Breeder for 2017, receiving his award during the state's annual meeting on February 10th in Mt. Pleasant. The farm was also selected as a farm tour stop for the National Holstein Convention. Both are reason to celebrate and be thankful for recognition by industry peers.
Last fall, Brian had a major stroke, one which left him physically starting over--- relearning things that were once done without a second thought. Walking. Talking. Eating. "It was easier to learn to walk when I was two," Brian said, after a long and deliberate walk to the podium as he received his Master Breeder Award. "I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be walking if it wasn't for my wife." As Brian slowly walked back to his seat, the entire room filled with applause as he received not only the coveted Master Breeder award, but a standing ovation.
One foot in front of the next, one step at a time. His attitude and determination for recovery have many parallels to hard times in the dairy industry. Hidden Hills Dairy is an LLC between Brian and his brother Phil. Brian's son, Tony, has also joined the farm. Brian and his wife Tarin have seven children, Tony, Kristi, Bridgett, Brittany, DeNay, Tossey and Rylee. Phil and his wife, Carol have four children, Chad, Jess, Betsy and Abbie. There are eighteen employees including ownership partners.
The Bruninks milk 1095 cows with a 27,662-pound RHA, 3.7% Fat and 3.1% Protein. The herd is about 50 percent registered and the remainder are ID'd. Brian has always enjoyed the challenge of breeding great cows or bulls and appreciates having had good cow families with which to work. He has bred or developed twenty-seven Excellent cows and three multiple E cows, along with 200 VG, 25 Dams of Merit and 43 Elite cows. Mara-Thone RC Martha (5E93) is a special favorite with a lifetime production of 418,143 pounds of milk.
Several bulls have come from Hidden Hills genetics including B-HiddenHills Mark-O-Polo, Marathon BW Marshall, B-HiddenHills Marmax and B-HiddenHills Plan. Marshall is one of the favorites he currently uses in the herd. In mating selections using Select Mating Service (SMS), Brian focuses on mid-sized cows with good production, strong udders and a correct set of feet and legs. He tries to flush high genomic cows to keep up with industry trends. In December 2016, fifteen B-HiddenHills cows were in the top 10,000 for CTPI, eight of which were on the Locator List.
"I don't make the great cows," Brian said. "I just give them a chance to be great." The Brunink family built a new dairy a few years ago, bringing together the entire milking herd from two locations. "We built a double-20 parallel parlor with a sand lane and vacuum system," Brian said. "It works pretty well, and we recycle about seventy percent of our sand." The new facility was built to capitalize on efficiency. They designed their own palpation rail and special needs pens because they couldn't find a design to their liking or to best fit their needs. All the cows are worked through the sort-gate. "We don't lock up a hundred cows just to breed three," Brian said.
The Brunink family was honored with the invitation to host a National Holstein Convention tour. "We will be getting things ready and we have a group of cows selected that we want to sort out to spotlight," Brian said. "We hope the visitors see that we have a good bunch of cows with good feet and legs and good udders, and that they are well taken care of." "We just try to do the right thing most of the time. It doesn't always work out but most of the time it does."
From Left: Tony Brunink, Bridgett Brunink, Brian Brunink, Tarin Brunink, Brittany Brunink, Sherry Meyer, Kristi Brunink.
Yonkman Dairy: Opens Farm to National Convention
By Bev Berens
Efficiency and cow comfort are primary herd goals at
Yonkmans and they both increased in 2016 when they
built a 40 stall carousel parlor.
The Yonkman family is looking forward to National Holstein Convention tour busses pulling into the yard in June. “I am nervous, but I’m excited,” said herdsperson, Molly Pluger.
Molly is the third-generation operator of Yonkman Dairy. She and her husband BJ, brother Lucas and parents Sam and Denise are all active operators of the 770 registered Holstein herd. Another brother Ryan, works as a milk analyst for the Chicago Board of Trade and assists the farm in marketing and contracting their milk. Molly and BJ have three children, who Molly hopes will someday take the baton, just as she and her brothers have done. Sam and Denise have another daughter---Erin---who is not involved in the farm.
In 2016, Yonkman Dairy installed a new De Laval 40 stall rotary parlor with a TSR robot for post dipping. “We built the parlor with robots to increase our parlor efficiency,” Molly said. “We went from milking eleven hours two times a day to milking three times a day with down time and hired no extra help. The cows are so comfortable on the rotary; they really enjoy being milked.”
Sam Yonkman developed a love for good cattle and an interest in genetics as a young man. His parents encouraged him to register and buy better cows into the herd. Since the farm began, slow and steady internal growth has moved the farm into a growing herd size and new challenges.
Efficiency and cow comfort are primary herd goals. Modern free stall barns were designed and built to provide the cattle with maximum cow comfort. The new parlor nailed the quest for efficient milk harvest but has yet to arrive at its 1400 head peak capacity. “We have to be as efficient as we can, it is just the way things are today,” Molly added. Manure handling is the only field operation where some custom help is needed. “We try to be self-sufficient in everything; we like it done right and in order to have efficiency within the barn, we have to put up really good crops and we do that,” Pluger added.
Molly has a few cow families she has been pleased to develop and contribute outstanding traits throughout the herd. One of those is 116 Apptitude EX-91. She produced 39,969M on her last 305-day lactation. She has produced all daughters that have consistently transmitted her superior genetics spreading over three generations of Excellent cows including 463 Frosty EX-91 and Frosty’s daughter, 1273 Shot EX-90 who has seen some show ring success.
“Another cow we particularly like is our three-year-old 2068-Watson VG-88,” Pluger said. “She is ranked among the top 10,000 CTPI cows in the USA and won her class at the District VII show as a two-year-old.”
“We value our high component, good milking and well put together cows,” Molly said. Those achievements have been made through many years of sound selection with the support of the North Star Select Sires team. The herd averages 91 pounds of milk per cow with 3.9 percent butter fat and 3.1 percent protein. Currently, their favorite bulls include Being a Defender and Jedi.
“We are honored to be asked to show off our herd and the work and investment we’ve put into it,” Molly said. “I think people will see that we are focusing on cows and genetics and in the long run, it pays. You only have one spot in the barn for a cow and you want that spot filled with a functional animal, and it’s a bonus that they are good looking besides. I think the guests will see that we take really good care of our cows.”
Molly is also eager to show off her hometown of McBain to dairy farmers from across the U.S. “We have a group of great farmers in the area. We are always trying to do a better job; we learn all the time. They are farms that are always moving forward, and nobody is at a dead end.”
From Left: Lucas Yonkman, Molly Pluger, BJ Pluger, Sammy Pluger, Lia Pluger, Miley Pluger, Denise and Sam Yonkman.
Ber-Sher Dairy: Dreams Come True
When the National Holstein Convention Tours pull into Ber-Sher Dairy it will be a Dream Come True
By Bev Berens
“I told my dad when I was a little girl that my dream was to have Greyhound busses pull in the yard someday,” said Kendra Brinks-Rivera.
“My dream is happening. I am beyond words.”
Ber-Sher Dairy in McBain is one of the farm tour stops during the National Holstein Convention scheduled for June 29-July 3, 2018, and she is thrilled to be welcoming them to Ber-Sher Dairy in June. “I was so excited when the committee called to ask if we would host a tour stop,” she added.
Kendra is the daughter of Ron and Barb Brinks and is the farm’s herdsman. Her husband, Ruben, is employed on the farm along with her brother, Nick. The farm was started in 1922 by her great-grandfather, also a breeder for Select Sires. Her grandfather dropped out of high school to help on the farm and bought the first registered cow when he was twenty years old. From that cow, hundreds of registered Holsteins have worn the Ber-Sher prefix.
The herd consists of 220 cows and is 100% registered. The family milks in a double 8-herringbone with the help of three-part time employees. They raise all their own haylage and corn silage.
Each generation has had the opportunity to work with and develop at least one exceptional cow family. Ber-Sher Mogul Relay Rix-ET is Kendra’s focus cow right now. “She’s been flushed and has given me quite a few VG’s so far, but they aren’t quite old enough yet to score Excellent,” she said. “Her mom is Ber-Sher Jeeves Roman Relay-ET who produced multiple Excellent daughters and had several contracts. We are trying to build multiple good cow families.”
She likes to use about four to five bulls at a time and is currently using Undenied, Diamond Back and Mogul for type. “Some people have backed off Mogul, but he is just phenomenal on our farm,” she said.
The farm is focused on type and milk--- particularly components--- in the breeding program. “I want to milk the best-looking cows we can milk,” Kendra said. “I want 200 of the prettiest cows around.”
Ber-Sher Dairy cows don’t just stand around and look nice. They work hard to pay their keep, producing milk with 4% butterfat, 3.2% protein at an average of 85 pounds per day.
When the tour busses arrive, Kendra will have her cameras rolling to document the day. She wants people to see that a small farm in a small town can still be viable. She knows the cows by name, their history, and a story behind each one, something she believes is lost in the mega production of the super-sized farms; it is an aspect of farming she never wants to lose or give up.
“Someday, I would love to show up at World Dairy Expo with a cow that blows everyone out of the water,” citing Sheeknoll Durham Arrow, 2016 World Dairy Expo Grand Champion Holstein as her inspiration. “We are just a small-town farm; it would be quite the dream.”
at Ber-Sher Dairy and they are excited to host a tour for the 2018 National Holstein Convention.
Back row from left to right is Preslie Mejia, Manuel Mejia, Amberly Mejia, Ron Brinks, Riley Brinks, Nick Brinks, Reuben Rivera, Kenda Rivera.
Front Row left to right is Braelynn Mejia, Barb Brinks, Bernard Brinks, Shirley Brinks, Finley Rivera, and Hadley Rivera.
Bosscher Dairy: Excited to Host
Bosscher Dairy Excited to Open their Doors for the National Holstein Convention
By Bev Berens
Bosscher Dairy in McBain is excited to welcome the
National Holstein Convention tour to their McBain farm.
Pictured from left are Mike Bosscher, farm owner, and
Joe Kulhawick, herdsman and partner. (Bev Berens photo)
When the convention comes to town on June 29th -July 3rd, Bosscher Dairy will open their doors for guests, and will also be the farm where lunch is served.
The farm is owned by Mike Bosscher who runs the cropping and custom harvest side of the farm. Joe Kulhawick is the herd manager and owns a portion of the herd, having worked at Bosscher Dairy nearly thirty years. With 270 cows on test and roughly 240 milking at any given time, they use a double 12-herringbone parlor with automatic take-offs, milking twice per day. Bosscher Dairy is another example of a smaller-scaled dairy which flies under the radar, maintaining a consistent herd size for 10 years.
Bosscher Dairy earned top spot on Northstar’s Performance Summary report for Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin last year, one reason in addition to having numerous registered cattle, that Kulhawick believes they were selected to host a tour stop. They are also in the top forty-six herds on the SCC Council list of low somatic herds. They will find out where they fell overall for the year within the next month.
Joe has served on the District 7 Holstein board for thirty years, and been board president off and on through his tenure. “Knowing that the National Convention was coming north a few years ago, my wife Ruth and I hosted first state annual Michigan Holstein Association picnic at the farm,” Joe said. “We wanted to get people used to coming north. In doing so, they thought it would be a good place for a convention tour stop. We’ve had people on the farm before and I do have a fair amount of registered cattle.”
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing that the National Holstein Convention tour will be in McBain. I am honored about even being asked to be a tour stop. It’s something that doesn’t ever happen to most people and we are pretty excited about it.”
The dairy plans to showcase 10-20 of it’s best cattle, both cows and heifers during the event. They are discussing the possibility of allowing a few other herds to bring in a small number of spotlight cattle as most visitors won’t be traveling south to see cattle in southern Michigan herds.
“Traverse City is definitely one of the most beautiful places you can come to visit,” Joe added. “Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the top-rated vacation spots in the country. We are proud to be able to show off our beautiful northern part of this state.”
They are eager to open doors to the farm which earned the top DHI herd for low SCC last year.
We can't wait for you to visit our farms!