Kevin Wellejus admitted he was shocked, but honored to receive the news: Holsum Dairies, the northeast Wisconsin dairy where he serves as manager, earned the 2016 Innovative Dairy Farm of the Year Award from the International Dairy Foods Association.
“This is a big award for us,” he said. “It really means a lot that the things we value – our management style, efficiencies and in general how we do things – is being recognized as important.”
Holsum Dairies has more than 10,000 dairy cows at two locations in Hilbert, which lies about 30 miles south of Green Bay in Calumet County. Holsum Elm Dairy and Holsum’s Irish Dairy produce 190 million pounds of milk annually and is owned by several families.
The farm’s biodigester, which converts cow manure into energy, was highlighted by the International Dairy Foods Association as one of the farm’s many innovations.
Another innovation at the dairy is that cows are housed in deep bedded freestalls that use recycled manure solids as a bedding source.
The calves raised at Holsum Calf Ranch are fed acidified waste milk from Elm Dairy and Irish Dairy – another way Wellejus said that the dairy looks to reuse as much as possible.
The dairy typically has between 90 and 100 full-time employees and Wellejus said making sure they are properly trained is important to the dairy’s owners.
“We really believe in training our employees right and make sure they have the skills they need to take great care of our cows,” he said.
Holsum also works closely with local food processors to reuse several different products, including brewers’ grain and canola, to supplement their cows’ diet. “If we didn’t do that, that stuff would go into the landfill,” Wellejus said.
Holsum Dairies is the fourth Wisconsin dairy to win the award since it was launched 18 years ago. Other Wisconsin dairies to receive the honor include Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Milk Source LLC in Freedom and Baldwin Dairy/Emerald Dairy in Emerald.
The International Dairy Foods Association represents producers, distributors, and milk marketers across the country.