Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president of Prairie Farms Dairy, sat down with Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA, to discuss Prairie Farms' history of growth and innovation in the dairy business in this episode of Dairy Innovator Dialogues.
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Prairie Farms Dairy is a cooperative of more than 800 farm families. Founded as a one plant operation, the co-op now owns and manages 44 plants throughout the Midwest.

Mullins, who has been with Prairie Farms for 39 years, said the only constant in dairy is change.

“Well, there’s always been change in industries and in life, but the speed of change today is so much faster. The consumers’ purchasing habits are changing. The way we produce product is changing. The way our farmers grow their crops are changing. Everything is growing at a faster pace.”

– Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president, Prairie Farms Dairy
Mullins said he’s seen a number of significant changes of late that improve production efficiencies.

“It’s the technologies that have come forward that allow you to produce a product at a more efficient cost, traceability, warehouse management systems where within 5 or 10 minutes you can find out where the product is, from in house, in distribution, and at what warehouses. Previously, it took four or five hours to do that.”

– Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president, Prairie Farms Dairy
Mullins said Prairie Farms is also innovating on the processing side.

“We’re producing product UHT in paper cartons and plastic bottles, with an extended shelf life of up to 75 days. That allows us to expand our geographical footprint and allows us to have a greater variety in the stores to offer to the consumers. The biggest benefit is when you have a slow selling item, now you have a longer shelf life that allows you to produce that product and distribute it in places that normally you wouldn’t have placed that distribution of that item.”

– Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president, Prairie Farms Dairy
Mullins said Prairie Farms has more than 674 active projects focused on sustainability, nutrient usage at the farm, feed ratios, planting efficiencies and better utilization of the farm.

“We are looking at the total sustainability footprint of everything that we’re involved in.”

– Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president, Prairie Farms Dairy
Moving forward, Mullins said the dairy industry will continue to be innovate, compete, and take advantage of new opportunities.

” I think the dairy industry has always been able to adapt to change quickly. Distribution cost is now over 60 percent of the cost of the product and manufacturing is 40 percent…Because of the imports we have from other nations, there is almost free freight going back. That’s one of the reasons that trade is so important to the dairy industry.”

– Ed Mullins, CEO and executive vice president, Prairie Farms Dairy
Dairy Innovator Dialogues is a video and multimedia series presented by IDFA that goes behind the scenes with today’s most innovative dairy leaders and companies. View more from this series at idfa.org/dairyinnovates.

In dairy risk management, one size does not fit all. Throughout recent history, a number of dairy-related risk management programs, some available through private crop insurance providers and others available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), have been designed to fill gaps in protection against market risk and uncertainty.

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