“It’s something take for granted every day,” Michelle Davidson of Holstein American says at the beginning of the video.
What is often taken for granted is the fact that an entire industry makes that purchase possible. It’s thanks to hundreds of thousands of dairy cattle and their caretakers who provide safe, quality products for consumers worldwide.
Holstein Association USA paid tribute to the iconic, black-and-white Holstein cow and the dedicated people who raise them in the premiere episode of Holstein America, which aired Feb. 8 and 10 on RFD-TV and can be viewed on the Holstein Association website or YouTube.
Sponsored by Merck Animal Health, the hour-long program shines a spotlight on the nation’s Holstein producers — from California’s lush central valley to the fall treetops of Vermont — including two Wisconsin dairy farms, Crave Brothers Farm and Sugar Creek Dairy.
Walking into any dairy section, reaching for a gallon of milk or pound of cheese is made possible by an entire industry.
“A miracle of efficiency, that makes the purchase of the world’s perfect food, one of the world’s easiest things to do,” Anderson said in the video. “Behind it all is the Holstein cow, the most iconic in all of agriculture.”
While many recognize the distinct black and white markings, they may not realize the contribution of Holsteins.
“Today the Holstein cow accounts for more than 90 percent of all milk production. Her productivity has doubled since the 1950s and more production per cow has resulted in less impact on the environment,” Anderson added. “But the story about Holsteins is really about the people who raise them.”
Wisconsin farmer Mark Crave, with Crave Brothers Farm LLC, in Waterloo, starts the lineup of farmers featured in the video.
“The Holstein cow is really a cash machine,” Crave said in the video. “Nothing in livestock ag can beat a Holstein cow when it comes to generating revenue that comes back right here on the farm.”
Crave Brothers Farmstead was started in 1978 by the older Crave brothers, when the youngest Crave brother was still in high school. The first generation farm started as a small dairy farm 60 miles from its current location in Waterloo. Mark Crave spent weekends and summers helping his brothers and loved it so much he went to UW-Madison to major in dairy science.
The Crave brothers milk 1,100 cows three times a day and another 800 at a second location, Crave explained in the video.
In 2001, the brothers built the farmstead cheese plant where they produce high quality cheese that can be found across the country.
“The Holstein has always excelled in the amount of milk she can produce, the amount of revenue she can generate,” Crave said. “So as the breed progresses, our cows benefit and progress with it and it comes back to benefit us here on the farm with the improvements we’re making genetically, we see in the barn every day.”
Crave goes on to talk about how farms contribute to local economies.
“A dairy farm in any community is a great asset to that community, economically,” Crave added.
“Dairy products, like a lot of things in our modern lives, they often get taken for granted,” Davidson continued in the video. “Consumers today have easy access to the safest, highest quality milk and dairy products in the world and it takes a lot of committed people to get it right.”
Another committed Wisconsin dairy farmer featured in the Holstein America video is Sugar Creek Dairy, in Elkhorn, owned by Marleen and Rick Adams.
With 600 registered cows, the opportunity to continue improving the performance of his farm with Registered Holsteins keeps Adams optimistic about the future.
As a kid, Adams grew up on a farm with 50 dairy cows, pigs and 100 steers on feed in the 70s and 80s. When he was old enough, he took over the dairy herd and managed it with his brother until about 1997, when he found another “like-minded dairyman” with 40 registered cows. Adams started grading up the herd through the Holstein program in 1999 – 2000.
“That’s how we got started,” Adams said in the video.
“If a consumer wanted to know how we do things, I would just say we get up early in the morning, our first shift starts a 3:30, and we milk the cows three times a day,” Adams said. “Out of 24 hour days, we milk 21 hours.”
In the beginning, what kept Adams going was the possibilities of the genetics, “of having something that you never had before and just improving what you had over the previous generation.”
According to Adams, the Holstein Association helped in many way, one being the consistency of information.
“The recording of information from generation to generation is the only way you can track improvement,” said Adams. “If you’re going to make progress it has to be documented. … What i love most about the holstein business is the challenge of trying to do the best that the cows can give.”
The stories of all featured farmers are available on the Holstein America landing page at www.holsteinusa.com.