Hilmar Jerseys Wins Dairy Innovation Award

Originally Published by Capital Press, January 28, 2015

Hilmar Award

Courtesy of International Dairy Foods Association Mike Reidy, NCI chairman, far right, presents the Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year Award to, from left, Mark Ahlem, Frank Dinis and Chuck Ahlem. The Ahlems are co-owners of Hilmar Jerseys and Dinis is the herd manager.

A California dairy focused on animal wellfare was awarded 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

Hilmar Jerseys, a 6,000-cow dairy operation in Hilmar, Calif., was named the 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year during an awards ceremony Monday at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum in Boca Raton, Fla.

The dairy’s co-owners, Chuck and Mark Ahlem, and herd manager Frank Dinis were recognized for applying creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater on-farm productivity and improved milk marketing, according to a press release from International Dairy Foods Association.

Hilmar Jerseys was selected because of its dedicated focus on animal care, which the owners call stockmanship, said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO.

“At a time when animal care is gaining headlines and sound bites, we thought it was important to honor and highlight a dairy farm that is doing all the right things and spreading the knowledge to the broader dairy community,” she stated in the press release.

Hilmar Jerseys, formed by Chuck Ahlem in 1982, now includes five dairies on 4,000 acres that market 143.8 million pounds of milk each year.

The company’s employee training program on animal care and stockmanship produced dramatic improvements on its five dairies. As employees learned to understand cow behavior and how to handle animals properly, they began to take more pride in their jobs and proactively identified areas of improvement for cow care and comfort. Also, employee injuries related to working with the cows dropped by 50 percent, the press release stated.

Noting these positive changes, the Ahlems shared the results with Hilmar Cheese Co., their milk processor. Impressed with the results, Hilmar Cheese partnered with the Ahlems and Elanco, a global animal health company, to promote the animal care and employee engagement concepts that Hilmar Jerseys was using. To date, more than 200 people representing 50 dairies have participated in this animal-welfare training.

Previous winners of the Innovative Dairy Farmer title include Clauss Dairy Farms, Hilmar, Calif. (2000); Si-Ellen Farms, Jerome, Idaho (2002); C Bar M Dairy, Jerome, Idaho (2004); KF Dairy, El Centro, Calif. (2006); and Joseph Gallo Farms, Atwater, Calif. (2007)