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Gar-Lin Dairy Farms named 2010 Producer of the Year

Eyota dairy receives award from MMPA during Midwest Dairy Expo see copy of article here!

Gar-Lin Dairy Farms named Producer of the Year

Eyota dairy receives award from MMPA during Midwest Dairy Expo

By Krista M. Sheehan

Monday, December 13, 2010 2:56 AM

Calves at Gar-Lin Dairy Farms are fed pasteurized waste milk and stay on the farm until 4.5 months of age. At this time, they are raised by a heifer grower until two months before calving. (photo by Krista M. Sheehan)

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. – During the evening banquet at the Midwest Dairy Expo on Nov. 30, Minnesota Milk Producers Association awarded Gar-Lin Dairy Farms Inc. from Eyota, Minn., the 2010 Producer of the Year award.

“It’s a big honor to be recognized by your peers. We were all excited about that,” Gary Allen said.

Gar-Lin Dairy Farms Inc. is a partnership between Gary and Linda Allen, their daughter and son, Dana Allen and Dean Allen, Gene and Phyllis Speltz and their son-in-law, Carey Tweten. In addition to this seven-person leadership team, Gar-Lin Dairy Farms has 34 full-time and 14 part-time employees.

“We formed the partnership four years ago. It’s been a challenging, but fun adventure,” Dana said.

Before the partnership, the Speltzes had a 300-cow dairy near Rollingstone, Minn.

“We were looking to expand and make farming feasible for the next generation,” Gene said. “We were approached about this opportunity and we decided to move.”

The farm now consists of 1,650 milking cows that are milked three times a day in a 50-stall rotary parlor built in 2006. The seven-person leadership team likes to focus on cow comfort, herd performance and employee satisfaction. The herd has an RHA of 30,370 pounds of milk, 1,229 pounds of fat and 915 pounds of protein, and a cull rate under 28 percent. Milk is direct loaded onto three semis each day.

“The cows milk well here, and when the cows are doing well it helps us have a positive outlook (on the dairy industry),” Gary said.

Cows are housed in freestall barns that are bedded using recycled sand. Their most recently constructed barn is cross ventilated. This special needs barn is attached to the old parlor, which they turned into a single-12 herringbone hospital parlor.

Calves born on the farm are fed pasteurized milk from the hospital parlor and remain on the farm for 4.5 months. At that time they are sent to a heifer grower and returned two months before calving.

The 3,100 acres Gar-Lin Dairy Farms runs is used to raise corn, alfalfa, rye grass and sorghum, which is fed to the livestock. They also raise sweet peas and sweet corn.

On the farm, each person of the leadership team has his or her own responsibility. Gary, the CEO, works on the budget, milk marketing, finances and is a part of the agronomy area. Linda’s role is in data entry and accounting, working with the finances, landscaping and running errands. Dana does the nutrition work and manages the dairy, including employees in the parlor, herd health and everything related to reproduction. Dean manages the sand separator and works on the crops during harvest time. Gene manages the feeders and feedstuffs, construction projects and helps with harvest. Phyllis is in charge of administration, human resources and payroll. Carey manages the heifer enterprise, foot health, composting mortalities, and helps with the crops.

All seven are also involved in agricultural organizations, including Southeast Minnesota Ag Alliance and Farm Bureau.

“We try to move one voice forward for the dairy and ag industries. The more people in an organization the more everyone is moving in the same direction,” Gary said.

They also take leadership roles in these organizations. Carey is a director for Southeast Minnesota Ag Alliance and Gene is an Agri Advisory board member. Dana serves as a director for the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, a member of the USDA-Forage Research Center Advisory Board and is part of the City of Eyota Planning and Zoning Commission. Many of the seven are also involved in dairy peer groups.

“We are involved because we want to stay connected with other producers, and we want to network with them. We are able to gather ideas from other producers and use some of them on our farm,” Linda said.

Community involvement is also important to the seven Gar-Lin Dairy Farm leaders. Each July they host farm tours and hay rides for their city’s festival, Eyota Days. Phyllis and Dana also help with the Ag in the Classroom program, which teaches school-aged children about agriculture.

Over the last two years, the leaders of Gar-Lin Dairy Farms said an accomplishment on their farm has been their improved herd performance, and they would like to continue this accomplishment in the years ahead.

“As a member of the next generation, I couldn’t be more proud that my parents put together such a vision for us for the future that will sustain us,” said Dana after accepting the Producer of the Year award.

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