DMI’s innovation = secret projects with strategic partners

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘Proprietary’ describes much of what the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy initiates as a checkoff-funded industry collaboration under the umbrella of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).

Some of that work is so proprietary, even the 81 voting DMI board members don’t see details as they vote to approve partnerships, new product developments, promotion grants to launch new products, as well as the ‘sustainability’ initiatives and alliances that come from this collaboration and filter down as requirements for all dairy farms through their respective processor and cooperative milk buyers via the FARM program.

Board members are quick to point out that USDA and DMI attorneys are privy to proprietary details that are kept confidential. They point out that food industry partners and processors must show they are investing more than they are receiving, and that their “innovation” has potential to be a ‘catalyst’ for others to follow.

DMI describes program accomplishments in the IRS 990 form, specifying that, “DMI partners with foodservice industry leaders to help create dairy-based innovation to drive dairy sales and build trust in dairy products.”

The description details the way partnerships are boosting dairy use, especially cheese, by restaurant chains.

At the same time, DMI describes its strategy to revitalize fluid milk by ‘reinventing the consumer milk experience.’ (Reinventing milk was examined in a separate article in the August 23 edition of Farmshine.)

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (under the official tax-exempt name of “Dairy Center for Strategic Innovation and Collaboration, doing business as Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy”) fuels these partnerships with mandatory checkoff funds and is the place where these partnerships are born from the board of DMI staff and processor / co-op chairs and CEOs. (See related article).

Here, we examine the mainly cheesey partnerships DMI has pursued since 2009-10. That is the year in which the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed under DMI.

In 2017, (DMI) had four domestic, U.S.-focused partners: Dominos, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and McDonalds. Based upon the success of our U.S. partnerships with Yum! Brands, which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, we expanded our partnership focus and added two pilot international partnerships in 2017 — KFC, focused on Latin America and Pizza Hut, focused on Southeast Asia.

“The goal of the international partnerships is to increase U.S. Dairy Exports to these markets,” the DMI 990 form states. “DMI partners with these large catalytic companies because they are industry leaders who have the potential to deliver incremental and sustainable dairy sales. Moreover, these partners are closely watched by others in foodservice. Their innovation, whether product-based or technology based, created a catalytic effect, where others follow their actions. These partners were chosen because they commit to invest in innovation and marketing in support of dairy-based products: and they are willing to partner on other dairy industry priorities.”

According to the report, DMI supports a range of programs and initiatives with these influential and global foodservice industry leaders. The programs focus on providing dairy expertise and investment in the areas of consumer insights, new product development, new store and new technology testing, consumer communications and corporate social responsibility. Further, DMI provides on-site scientists and/or culinary experts who lead product development of dairy-based food and beverage products.

The main agencies of DMI handling these proprietary partnerships are the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), which are both listed under the control of DMI on the form and are both under the leadership of former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

DMI also “provides expertise and consultants in the areas of marketing, consumer insights and research, nutrition, sustainability, animal care, food safety, regulatory environment and dairy communications.”

As a signal of success, DMI states that dairy is represented in 70% of their collective menu items among these partners and that these partners spent $11.1 billion between 2012 and 2017, collectively, on advertising their menus, including items that are “dairy-based” like pizza, tacos, ice cream and coffee drinks. But there is no data on how much of the total $11.1 billion was spent on actually advertising the dairy-based menu items.

DMI states that since these partnerships began in 2009, the combined milk equivalent tonnage of these partners, collectively, “has grown by 2.2 billion milk pounds, averaging 4% growth per year (since 2009).”

This is close to the overall global trend of 3% growth in cheese consumption annually.

In the 990 discussion, specific menu items are noted as examples, as well as how ice cream and cheese are reformulated by in-house experts provided by DMI.

Working with Domino’s, DMI helped “create the ‘Smart Slice’ School Pizza, which was in more than 10,500 schools by 2017 and meets the USDA dietary guidelines for being fat-free or lower in fat than regular cheese pizza.”

Also in 2017, Dominos began promoting awareness of the Undeniably Dairy campaign by including “farmer messaging” on 7 million pizza boxes weekly nationwide. DMI states that this “helped Dominos grow milk equivalent tonnage by 8.5% in 2017.”

DMI also partnered with Pizza Hut on the “cheese in more places” products, including the Ultimate Cheesy Crust Pizza with 16 pockets stuffed with nearly one pound of cheese.

As for Taco Bell, DMI states that this partnership has helped the restaurant chain evolve in how they use dairy, from incorporating it as a garnish to being more of a key ingredient …growing their milk equivalent tonnage by 7% in 2017.

However, partners like Taco Bell have also initiated “stealth health” menu-boarding since 2017, to encourage customers to consider condiments other than cheese and sour cream, such as salsa and pico de gala. And partner McDonald’s removed the ‘cheeseburger’ option from the Happy Meal menu last year. A customer can ask for a slice of cheese on the burger, but that option does not appear on the menu board. It’s called “stealth health.”

As for the international partnerships, DMI states that U.S. cheese sales at Pizza Hut Asia Pacific increased 29% in 2017. In fact, DMI leaders communicate that consumers in China, for example, look to the U.S. with confidence in food safety. They say their market research shows that the larger and more technologically progressive our farms are here, the happier moms are to buy U.S. dairy there. In fact, dairy checkoff leaders note in communications that small farms with older facilities conger-up images of concern for consumers in China who have not forgotten their 2014 melamine scare, which the Chinese government ultimately blamed on milk handlers for the network of small farms in China.

While cheese sales increased through these partnerships from 2009 through 2017, according to DMI, fluid milk sales declined even faster in those years than the 30-year trendline

Global supply chain structures also became more prominent as multi-national dairy ingredient suppliers connect with DMI partner-brands.

On the fluid milk side, DMI’s stated goal is to “reinvent the milk experience for consumers.” At the same time, the overall goals are focused on dairy innovation via business plans and structures that are more global in nature, focus on foodservice chains that represent domestic and overseas markets and utilize further processed, reformulated, and blended dairy ingredients while also creating menu items that use these proprietary ingredients to fit USDA’s low-fat dietary guidelines as the restaurant trade moves into ‘stealth health’ mode.

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Community supports family as surreal arrest adds to barn fire’s burden

The fire marshal has not determined the cause of the fire, which appears to have started in this second story of the 1800’s bank barn.  Photo courtesy Renee Troutman

Author’s Note: Since this story appeared in Farmshine Sept. 13, the petition to drop charges against Tim Getz has grown to over 36,000 signatures and counting.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine Sept. 13, 2019

MYERSTOWN, Pa. —  For Marlin and Gloria Getz and their sons Todd and Tim, of Myerstown, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, the events of the barn fire Wednesday evening, Sept. 4 are a blur that took a turn no one could have expected. Amid the heartbreak of loss, the cleanup, decision-making, and now legal concerns, it is the support of their community that is holding them up.

While part of the basement and the tiestalls are still standing, the rest of the two-story bank barn, and all of the feed, are a complete loss.

Of the cattle, 22 head perished in the fire, including 12 cows, 8 yearling heifers and 2 calves, with an additional cow euthanized from injuries the following day. The Getz family is milking their 45 remaining cows in nearby Schaefferstown where John Zimmerman, offered his now vacant barn while the family decides their future.

And then there is the legal concern facing Tim Getz, who was clobbered, handcuffed and arrested as he worked with his father, brother and others to rescue cows in their smoke-filled barn as the hay mow above them was burning.

A Pennsylvania State Police Trooper arrived just ahead of the firefighters, demanding they all leave the barn. He did not comprehend the dedication and knowledge of a family trying to save their cattle when they ignored him and he grabbed Tim from behind, resulting in a flailing throw of the arm interpreted by the officer as assault and leading to felony charges of assault on a police officer.

By the next morning, Carrie Boyer of Lebanon had started a petition online, now filled with 9,443 signatures and growing. 32 pages showing the first 8000 signatures were presented to Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold on Tuesday, requesting the charges be dropped. It will be days before they learn the outcome, and a preliminary hearing has been set for October 3.

Neighbor Anna Furlow, 15, also wanted to help. She saw the fire trucks go by that night on the road that adjoins her family’s property and the farm. She started a Go Fund Me site, with a goal to raise $10,000 in donations for the family. So far $3,125 has been raised, and the link for donations can be found here.

“I have known the family my whole life, and they have always been really kind to me and my family, so I wanted to do something kind for them,” the teenager said. “They are just really good people, and now they have the financial concerns and decisions about the future.”

Anna and her mother Kristy report that many people from the community are helping out and bringing plenty of food.

“We are holding up,” says Todd Getz in a Farmshine interview Tuesday. His brother Tim is home after a friend of the family raised the $15,000 to bail him out of jail. “It’s kind of hectic, and it is heartbreaking, but we have a lot of people helping us through.”

Todd reflected on the night of the fire. “We were milking in the barn, and at a few minutes before 8 p.m., I was going to go mix feed. I saw fire at the eaves and yelled to my brother that the barn was on fire. He noticed it the same time and called it in,” Todd recounts. 

“Everything became chaotic. I ran up back to see if there was something I could do to stop it and then came down and started letting cows out. I was at the near end of the barn and heard mom yelling that a police officer said we had to get out. The next thing I knew, the officer came in and told me to get out, but I kept working at untying cows until I got to the end of the row at the split and went out with him.”

Todd says he then re-entered the barn at the far end “because I knew my dad and brother were in there. The officer stood at the doorway yelling for us to get out, and so the cows we were trying to get out could not get out the doorway because he was standing there.”

Todd recalls his father yelling back to the officer that they weren’t leaving until they got the cows out. At this point, there was smoke but no fire where they were working.

“The officer walked past my dad and went to Tim, who ignored him and kept untying cows. The electric was out, it was getting dark, there was smoke. I don’t think Tim knew it was the policeman grabbing the back of his arm when he flailed his arm backward to break free. The next thing we knew, the officer took Tim down and put him in cuffs,” Todd reports, adding that there were three other people besides Tim at that end of the barn trying to get cows out and the firefighters were already working at the other end of the barn at that point.

In fact, for a few moments, Todd wasn’t sure who was being handcuffed. “I couldn’t see clearly to the front of the barn where they were. I thought they were arresting my dad.

“I want to be clear that we are not criticizing the trooper, it’s just that I don’t think he understood the situation. I think that is what it really comes down to. He didn’t understand. In fact, the area where he arrested Tim, that part of the barn, is still standing. The fire didn’t reach it.”

With his brother under arrest and the fire raging above them, family, firefighters, the herd veterinarian and others were still stepping in and out of the barn. “You could pick your way in, and the cows were still coming,” Todd recalls.

He says the firefighters were invaluable. One went back in the barn and cut every cow loose they hadn’t gotten to. “We have a pen of calves at Zimmerman’s right now that wouldn’t be there if not for the firefighters getting them away from that end of the barn.”

The family is grateful to their longtime veterinarian Dr. Gary Brummel of Lebanon.

“When I got there, most of the cattle were out,” says Brummel, who has been the herd vet for the Getz family’s Autumn-Mist Holsteins for over 20 years. “Within an hour, the fire chief had me come look at cows under the barn. We were able to get 8 to 10 more animals out, and there were still 4 trapped with the splits. I euthanized them. Others with burns and abrasions, I treated.”

It was an hour of looking at animals and euthanizing any trapped with severe injuries that were still in the part of the barn where Tim, an hour earlier, had been working to free cows before being arrested.

“When I finally went to Marlin and Gloria to let them know I was there, that’s when I learned what had happened with Tim,” said Brummel. “They asked me to go talk to Tim and the officer. One of the firefighters was with me, he knew where the squad car had been, but when we got there, the car was gone.”

Brummel notes the firefighters and ambulance crew didn’t know what happened or where they went. They got on central dispatch to talk to the officer and learned Tim was being taken to the Jonestown barracks and placed under arrest.

He was also taken to the hospital and treated but no one in his family was ever notified.

It was 12 hours later, the next morning, before the family learned that Tim had been taken to the hospital for the injury to his head where the officer hit him with the flashlight before placing him in handcuffs.

While the primary duty of a police officer is human safety, and that may mean telling people to leave a barn that is on fire, family, friends, professionals, and now the local community and dairy community at-large argue whether the officer had the right to physically try to remove one person, leaving four other individuals still in the burning barn doing what he was doing.

The family understands the officer thought he was doing the right thing, but the situation that transpired reveals a deep void in understanding when it comes to the handling of livestock.

When asked what can be learned from this situation, Brummel had some sage advice, “Have an emergency plan. Make sure fire extinguishers are charged and that you have multiple ones. Have an exit plan. Know how you will handle it if the unthinkable happens.”

And now this situation shows additional steps. Farmers and veterinarians should consider meeting and talking with local first responders and law enforcement to have some education and integration in the handling of livestock.

Brummel notes that as communities, including first responders, become farther removed from a farming background, efforts to integrate with first responders and law enforcement may be more important than ever, perhaps even designating a local first responder with livestock knowledge.

While one press report indicates the officer, Jorge DeJesus, may have been on the force less than a year, the majority of people interviewed for this report believe the main factor in this situation is the lack of understanding about farming and livestock. And while they appreciate that the officer was doing what he thought was right to save human lives, the lack of understanding for the situation has now presented a grave legal concern for the family.

What it boils down to is Tim Getz had not committed a crime. The officer had no warrant. This reporter can find no law on the books stating that an owner can’t be in his barn freeing cows during a barn fire.

By all accounts, Tim is keeping his chin up. He spent part of that night at the hospital, then at central booking at the Jonestown State Police barracks.  He was told he would get a phone call when he was transferred to jail but was bailed out before that occurred.

A police report indicates a trooper interviewed Getz at Jonestown barracks at 9:50 p.m. In the interview, without counsel or a phone call, Getz related that he heard the trooper yelling, felt him reach the back of his arm, and he reached back and struck out, but was not sure where or who he struck with an arm up over the shoulder.

The family has hired a criminal defense attorney.

The fire marshal has not determined the cause of the fire, which started in the second story of the bank barn.

The Getz’s have insurance and are sorting out their future with so many mitigating circumstances amid an already difficult time in the dairy business.

“We can’t answer questions about what we’re going to do until we get answers to the questions we have. Our priorities right now are taking care of the animals we have and deciding where we go from here,” says Todd. “We love the cows and love milking and would like to keep doing that, but there is the matter of can we?”

The farm has been in the family four generations, and Todd says it is difficult knowing that his brother is facing charges mainly because people don’t understand that these dairy cows are not just their heritage and livelihood, “they are an extension of our family.”

“People have really rallied around us, and it is amazing and humbling, what that means to our family,” says Todd. “The number of people who were here that night to get cows loaded to go to another barn and coming here after cleaning up. It’s humbling and means the world to us right now.

Despite the heartache, Todd says, “We have seen how big everybody’s heart is in these past few days.”

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While part of the basement and tiestalls are still standing, the rest of the two-story bank barn, and all of the feed, are a complete loss. Of the cattle, 22 head perished in the fire, including 12 cows, 8 yearling heifers and 2 calves. Photos courtesy Renee Troutman

DMI by the numbers, proprietary path of partners is paved

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, August 30, 2019

CHICAGO, Ill. — As the path of dairy checkoff promotion continues to evolve — especially since 2008 when a series of memorandums of understanding were signed by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the National Dairy Council (NDC) with then USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack — the money flows increasingly toward DMI partnerships, agency services and executive staff through sub-agencies of DMI that facilitate the proprietary partnerships.

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, U.S. Dairy Export Council, GENYOUth, Newtrient LLC, are a few of the vehicles for “proprietary” industry partnerships, which DMI refers to as ‘leveraging industry resources.’

In particular the Innovation Center, working closely with USDEC, is the vehicle for pre-competitive “proprietary” dairy innovations.

In fact, this innovation really began through a relationship between Fonterra USA and DMI as early as the 2006-08 time frame. Their respective ‘test kitchens’ are just three miles apart on the outskirts of Chicago, where milk proteins and ingredients, concentrators, extenders and utilization characteristics have been the focus of proprietary work.

As DMI CEO Tom Gallagher stated at a dairy conference in Wisconsin in March, food scientists from DMI have “cracked the code” on cheese-melting characteristics for partners like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. He also talked about the new pizza cheese innovations with Dominos to meet USDA school lunch rules, calling them “wildly popular with students.”

From that March presentation at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin conference in Madison, the Wisconsin State Farmer quoted Gallagher summing up his job: “My job is real simple. I have to get the industry to do things with your product after it leaves the farm — that consumers want.”

Toward that end, Gallagher explained to the shift away from television ads and other “one-way” promotions to social media “conversations” and industry “partnerships.” It has shifted from promoting milk and dairy to providing product development specialists working for DMI’s partners — like McDonald’s, Dominos, Taco Bell and others — to get them to “do stuff” that puts more dairy in the fast-food pipeline (look for more on this in a future article).

A key driver of the shifting direction of checkoff promotion is the world renown Edelman company, with its headquarters in Chicago — 17 miles east of DMI’s offices and just two miles from the Chicago headquarters of Fairlife LLC, two miles from the Chicago offices of Coca-Cola and a mile and a half from PepsiCo’s Chicago offices.

According to Richard Edelman, in his May 2017 blog post at the company’s website, the Edelman company (known worldwide simply as Edelman) has been the public relations and communications firm for DMI for over 20 years. 

In this particular post, Richard Edelman writes about the launch of DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2008 and how he is looking forward to the leadership of the former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack coming on board that year (2017) as president and CEO of checkoff-funded USDEC and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (after signing MOU’s with DMI while Secretary in 2008-09).

This Edelman blog post covers the launch of the Undeniably Dairy campaign that month (May 2017), calling it the first time Edelman has had a project “bringing together a fully integrated campaign at this scale.”

With offices worldwide and mergers throughout the advertising and public relations industry, Edelman is the world’s largest such firm and is open about their re-alignment of clientele around “social responsibility” and  “global environmental sustainability.” In fact, they’ve dropped clients with businesses not deemed “environmentally sustainable.”

Edelman and its clients — such as PepsiCo, Danone, Unilever and others — are listed as prime sponsors buying-in to the EAT Forums that are pushing the EAT Lancet report about the ideal global diet of cutting per-capita animal protein consumption – meat, dairy and eggs – by more than 75% over the next 10 years to “reduce the environmental impact of feeding 10 billion people.”

The firm was instrumental in setting up GENYOUth in 2008 and recommending CEO Alexis Glick as its coordinator. Not only are DMI and PepsiCo clients of Edelman, so is the National Football League. The NFL has a longstanding relationship with PepsiCo that predates the GENYOUth / Fuel Up to Play 60 alliance with dairy checkoff.

And, while PepsiCo is an Edelman client, Coca Cola is a headline client of Edelman’s spinoff Zeno Group, a global integrated communications agency founded 20 years ago by Richard Edelman’s father Daniel J. Edelman after Richard had taken over the reins of Edelman.

Edelman, fairlife (Coca Cola) and NFL Properties are the Top 3 Contractors paid by DMI in 2017, as shown on the IRS 990.

So what do the numbers tell us about the above-mentioned relationships?

According to the IRS 990 forms filed by DMI for tax-year 2017, the Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. company, mind-bending mastermind of “social marketing”, was paid $15.3 million in 2016 and $17.8 million in 2017 for “agency services.” That was 11.5% of DMI’s total budget of $155 million in 2017.

DMI paid NFL Properties LLC, New York, N.Y., $5.12 million in 2016 and $5.63 million in 2017 for “Promotion.” Is this the pay-to-play cost of the GENYOUth alliance and MOU? After all, the NFL is positioned as a partner with dairy farmers in the “dairy-farmer-initiated” GENYOUth. The NFL was in on the MOU signing with DMI and Tom Vilsack while he was Secretary of Agriculture.

But, while the NFL’s annual contributions to dairy checkoff’s GENYOUth are listed on GENYOUth IRS 990s as ranging from $370,000 in 2014 to $945,000 in 2017, DMI lists checkoff payments to NFL Properties of between $5 and $6 million for 2016 and 2017 on the DMI IRS 990.

It’s all about the kids, right? There’s more here than kids and breakfast carts.

Meanwhile, fluid milk sales continued to decline, even more rapidly over the 2008-18 decade as low-fat and fat-free school promotion and provision was dairy checkoff’s best play while the plant-based alternatives continue blitzing consumers with – you guessed it — television ads and “one-way” promotions that DMI says “don’t work.”

The alt-beverage industry has worked with Edelman client PepsiCo on its low-fat product portfolio through a variety of incubator projects involving plant-based alternatives for dairy products.

The alt-beverage industry is working closely with Edelman client Danone, which has set a goal to transition much of its yogurt market into plant-based alternatives over the next 5 to 10 years, opening the world’s largest plant-based yogurt facility in upstate Pennsylvania earlier this year.

The alt-beverage industry has even convinced the nation’s largest dairy-farmer-owned cooperative, DFA, to invest in alternative beverage production assets and to innovate with a DMI-checkoff-funded product innovation — a new blend of low-fat, lactose-free dairy milk combined with 50% almond or oat beverage that rolled out in Minnesota in August 2019, with sights set on the Northeast by 2020.

DMI is spending checkoff dollars in search of the next fairlife on which to hang dairy promotion’s hat.

Incidentally, Fairlife LLC received $8 million in DMI checkoff funds in 2017 for “promotion,” according to the most recent publicly-available IRS 990 documents.

So, what else can be learned from DMI’s IRS 990 returns in 2017?

For starters, they had $2 million fewer dollars to work with compared with 2016. Total revenue controlled by DMI was $155 million, along with the unified marketing plan that filters down through regional agencies spending the other half of the dairy farmer checkoff revenues that total right around $320 million. Some state dairy promotion order boards, like in New York, automatically give 25% of their budget (2.5 cents of the state’s dime) to DMI as a matter of course. For other boards, the pass-through may be more, or less.

Looking at program areas, the most recent IRS 990 for 2017 shows that $110 million of the $155 million in checkoff funds under direct management of DMI was described to the IRS as “program funding revenue,” $39.5 million as “core funding revenue” and $5.6 million as “contract services revenue.”

Of the total $155 million in revenue for 2017, DMI categorized $82.2 million as “domestic marketing”, $17.1 million as “export”, while $7.85 million was research, and nearly $7 million for contract services and other expenses.

Since we know that Edelman received $17.6 million from DMI for “agency services” in 2017, it’s clear that some of that is in a category other than “contract services.”

Compensation of board officers, directors and trustees totaled just shy of $3 million.

Other salaries and wages totaled $17.6 million, with pensions and contributions $3.1 million, other employee benefits $2.3 million, and payroll taxes $1.37 million.

Legal, accounting and other totaled around $550,000, office expenses $1.5 million, information technology $2.7 million, rents or occupancy $1.65 million.

In total compensation from DMI and related agencies under DMI control, the highest paid staff in 2017 was executive vice president Dr. Greg Miller (Doctor Dairy), who heads up NDC’s Dairy Research, at $1,546,760.

Listed as a “former highest-compensated employee”, Daniel Chavka, one of several DMI chief financial officers, was paid $769,475. Chief financial officer Carolyn Gibbs was second-highest, paid staff at $1,191,557 through July, and another CFO Quinton Bailey earned $246,542 in 2017.

DMI CEO Tom Gallagher was paid $899,810, followed by executive vice president Jean Ragalie-Carr at $857,406. She is a registered dietician serving as National Dairy Council president.

Fifth-highest paid officer is former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in his first year as a DMI executive vice president, serving as president and CEO of DMI’s USDEC. From DMI and related agencies under DMI control, Vilsack was paid $800,557 in 2017.

DMI president Barb O’Brien was compensated $649,419 in 2017.

Additionally, two other DMI executive vice presidents Mark Leitner and Elizabeth Engelmann were compensated $638,041 and $478,809, respectively, in 2017.

The total for items related to salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits for 2017 was listed at $27.37 million – 17.7% of total revenue in 2017.

The agency services of Edelman, at $17.8 million, was 11.5% of total 2017 DMI revenue.

The $8 million paid to Fairlife LLC was 5% of total revenue.

DMI travel was listed at $3.55 million, while the line item for conferences, conventions and meetings was $1.46 million in 2017.

The DMI board chair (listed as Paul Rovey in 2017) was paid $25,000. Other board officers and members of the executive board saw compensation ranging from $1800 to $8600, while many board directors were listed as receiving zero compensation.

To be continued

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DMI’s mission has undeniably strayed

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, August 23, 2019

CHICAGO, Ill. – Since Dairy Management Inc (DMI) was formed, it has grown to include (and control) many agencies and partnerships that put much of the work into the zone of “proprietary,” even to the 81 voting DMI board members.

In the portion of the most recent 2017 IRS 990 form, where DMI is asked to describe its program accomplishments, the responses specify that, “DMI partners with foodservice industry leaders to help create dairy-based innovation to drive dairy sales and build trust in dairy products.”

The response describes 2017 activity in detail. 

While the work done to boost cheese use by restaurant chains resulted in increases of milk equivalent tonnage that are quite impressive, according to DMI (look for more on that in a future article), it is the fluid milk sector reinvention that we will examine here.

In its 990 description of fluid milk partnerships, DMI states: “The dairy checkoff program, working with committed milk processors, embarked on a comprehensive revitalization strategy to reinvent the milk experience for consumers.”

What does that mean? 

DMI explains: “The focus includes milk as a standalone beverage as well as an ingredient in other beverage segments such as coffee, tea, smoothies, energy drinks and more.”

As part of this “comprehensive revitalization” effort, the DMI board approved partnerships since 2010 with eight companies they deem as leaders and innovators in the milk and beverage arena, including: Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), which just recently launched the Live Real Farms Dairy + Almond and Dairy + Oat ‘milk’ comprised of half low-fat lactose-free dairy milk and half almond or oat beverage; Darigold/Northwest Dairy Association, which among other new fluid milk products markets a fat-free creamer it calls ‘fat-free half-and-half’ (a contradiction in terms).

Also among the eight are these current partners as of 2017: The Kroger Company, which sources 80% of its milk to Select Milk Producers / Fair Oaks;  Shamrock Farms, which partnered with DMI on the Rockin Refuel brand found in chains like Subway nationwide; and Coca-Cola/Fairlife.

Specifically, the 990 form reports that, “The Checkoff program supported Lactaid innovation, marketing and health professional outreach, which spurred innovation and growth in the lactose-free segment overall.”

The 990 description states that the dairy checkoff supported innovation in extended shelf-life brands as well.

But its signature is fairlife, according to the 2017 form 990, which states: “DMI assisted and invested in the national 2015 launch of fairlife milk. The goal was to create a national fluid milk brand leveraging the resources and scale of Coca-Cola. Fairlife has been a tremendous success and continues to grow, achieving dollar sales of $250 million,” according to DMI.

“This is a feat that fewer than 1% of new products achieve,” DMI states further, adding that, “About 50% of consumers repeat their purchase of fairlife, a good predictor of its success moving forward. Based upon fairlife’s initial success, fairlife’s owners have announced (in 2017) the addition of two new production lines to meet consumer demand.”

Those production lines, according to DMI, were planned for installation in 2018. Production lines are also planned for Canada as the product was piloted there in 2018.

According to DMI, a new fairlife plant in Arizona is set to begin production in late 2019.

Other partnership products, such as Shamrock’s Rockin Refuel and the coffee and tea latte drinks with Shamrock and with Kroger were mentioned in the fluid milk portion of DMI’s 990 description of accomplishments.

In summary, states DMI, “Our partnerships are already stimulating change in the industry and fundamentally changing the way the fluid milk industry does business by driving investment in modern infrastructure and by creating new products.”

In fact, according to the DMI 990 form, the agency states that the lactose-free milk segment grew by 15% in 2016 and 11.5% in 2017.

Meanwhile, diet and health professionals are increasingly recognizing the benefits of regular whole milk and the A2 milk on digestive sensitivity. This is something that is not promoted by any mandatory dairy checkoff organization and whether it is conventional whole milk or A2 milk, there is no need to further process the milk to obtain the benefits on digestive sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

For example, New York City registered dietician, certified diabetes educator and author Laura Cipullo writes: “When someone eats full-fat dairy versus low-fat dairy, the fat will actually delay the absorption of the milk’s sugar (lactose). As a result, blood sugar rises more slowly over a longer period of time. Consequently, insulin follows this same pattern. Less circulating insulin means less risk for development of insulin resistance and diabetes.”

This was further supported at the recent hearing in Harrisburg, Pa. that focused on getting whole milk back in schools.

During the hearing and rally, registered dietician and nutrition professor Dr. Althea Zanecoskey stated that whole milk provides ‘satiety’, helping those consuming it stay fuller, longer. She said studies show how children consuming whole milk, compared with low-fat (1%) milk, had lower body fatness and less risk of obesity. They also had higher vitamin D status. It took three cups of low-fat milk to get the vitamin D status seen in children after consuming just one cup of whole milk. Vitamin D is a nutrient of concern, according to medical professionals finding it lacking in children and youth.

Whole milk, in and of itself, checks all the boxes.

According to Cipullo, the milkfat found in whole milk “calms digestive sensitivity.”

In fact, according to various expert comments at the USDA Dietary Guidelines docket in the Federal Register, the beneficial milkfat consumed in Whole Milk, reduces the amount of lactose per 8-oz serving, and even more important, as stated above, the milkfat in Whole Milk slows the absorption of the lactose.

Cipullo explains: “Full-fat dairy is lower in lactose, making it easier for individuals with lactose intolerance to digest compared to low-fat or no-fat dairy,” she writes. “Meanwhile one specific fatty acid contained in dairy is known to aid in gastrointestinal health, and according to a 2013 review from Polish researchers, may actually hold promise in the treatment of IBS and promoting healthy gut bacteria.”

While the innovators partner with dairy checkoff to “reinvent the milk experience”, there is evidence now that a simple solution — that would benefit all dairy farmers paying into the mandatory dairy checkoff from all markets — would be to promote and support real, simple, un-fooled-around-with whole milk.

USDA’s oversight and the flawed Dietary Guidelines are the only obstacles standing in the way, despite a growing list of research-based information showing that whole milk holds beneficial keys to health, not harm, when it comes to long-term cardiovascular disease risk, obesity, body mass index, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, digestive health and sensitivity, vitamin D status, nutrient density, nutrient absorption, satiety (feeling fuller, longer), memory and cognitive focus, as well as mood and mental sharpness. Not to mention the more than a dozen essential nutrients that ride along when people choose whole milk because it tastes good instead of opting for empty calories from other non-dairy beverages.

DMI shows its goals for innovation, further processing, blending, and marketing of ‘dairy-based’ or ‘dairy-included’ beverages as a market-building path for the future.

But at the same time, stronger promotion of the original, purely perfect Real Whole Milk would resonate with consumers, because most do not know anything about milk, and when they learn the truth, it opens their eyes to whole milk as a choice.

Whole milk could be ‘reinvented’ just as it is, with better packaging and the freedom to actually promote it. But due to USDA’s control of the message and direction of dairy checkoff, and the proprietary nature of the many partnerships that the checkoff funds, it may be time to reinvent the mandatory dairy checkoff.

Does milk need reinventing?  Simply-unfooled-around-with whole milk checks all the boxes for health and flavor. Meanwhile, DMI states in a 2017 IRS form 990 that it has a “comprehensive revitalization strategy to reinvent the milk experience for consumers.” Since whole milk was pulled from schools in 2009, more young people are growing up believing they are lactose intolerant. Meanwhile, the innovations brought to market with DMI partners over this time period are dairy-based low-fat lactose-free and blended beverages. However, a growing body of research shows science-based reasons why the fat-free and low-fat milk consumption promoted to youth by the dairy checkoff through FUTP60 and GENYouth, in partnership with USDA, may actually be creating much of the new and milder forms of digestive sensitivity that could be avoided by simply consuming regular whole milk. Graphic by Sherry Bunting

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Value added? Or subtracted? DMI, DFA partner on new blend

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 26, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The news of DFA’s new Dairy Plus Blends – a half lactose-free low-fat milk / half plant-based beverage concoction broke mid-July. DFA’s Live Real Farms brand website showed Lund and Byerly’s stores as the place to buy the Dairy + Almond and Dairy + Oat, but a visit to two stores on the list at the Minneapolis city limits did not have the beverages in the dairy case – yet.

Looking at the packaging, a first impression is: Wow, why doesn’t 100% milk packaging look this good. If only the agencies managing mandatory milk promotion funds and dairy-farmer-owned co-ops put as much thought into packaging and marketing 100% Real Whole Milk as they do for a diluted “innovation,” imagine what could be accomplished!

A further examination of the new Dairy Plus Blends packaging brought this thought: Why use words such as “Purely Perfect” and “Original” for a blend, when such words would seem best reserved for marketing the actual original, purely perfect 100% Real Whole Milk that the DFA member-owner dairy farmers produce and that actually results in the dairy-checkoff promotion funds.

We asked DFA for some background. In fact, we sent 11 questions to DFA and to DMI communications staffs because we were aware that DFA’s Live Real Farms brand is part of a checkoff-supported partnership between DMI and DFA to innovate products in the fluid milk space under the auspices of DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

We first wanted to know, why the blend? Why not just create an almond FLAVORED 100% real milk beverage? Because, after all, the new Dairy Plus Blends have half the calories, but they also have half the natural nutrients and only slightly more than half the protein of real 100% dairy milk.

It seemed like value was being subtracted, not added.

We all know that almond beverage has barely any almond in it, being mostly filtered water and some additives, so it seemed like the product is an offering of diluted milk. Since we couldn’t find any on the shelf yet at Lund and Byerly’s in Minneapolis, we aren’t sure if consumers will be asked to pay more – for less.

Of course, the packaging does have more. It touches all the right chords.

DFA was kind enough to answer some of our questions, although we have heard nothing back yet from DMI.

“In an effort to meet the demands of modern consumers, Live Real Farms has launched a new beverage, Dairy Plus Blends, which combines all the nutritional benefits of real cow’s milk with the flavor and texture of alternative beverage options like almond or oat,” stated Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president of growth and innovation at Live Real Farms, a DFA-owned brand.

The reply came by email to the questions we submitted.

“All the nutritional benefits of real cow’s milk”? (The label says 5 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving, not 8, and the other naturally occurring nutrients in real cow’s milk are also reduced.)

Kyllo continues in the reply:

“Nearly 50% of consumers who buy plant-based beverages also have dairy milk in the fridge, so they’re buying both products,” she writes. “This product is not about pivoting away from dairy, instead we saw an opportunity to fulfill a need as people like almond or oat drinks for certain things and dairy for others. This product combines the two into a new, different-tasting drink that’s still ultimately rooted in real, wholesome dairy.”

We wanted to know DMI’s part in developing this concept, seeing that dairy farmers mandatorily pay a checkoff promotion fee on every 100 pounds of milk they sell.

DFA’s response stated that, “The overall product concept for Dairy Plus Blends was developed along with DMI and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Consumer focus groups were conducted with Millennial and Gen X primary shoppers. Overall feedback was positive regarding the product concept, taste and packaging.”

We wanted to know more about how the product will roll out.

“Dairy Plus Blends are now being test marketed at more than 300 retail stores in Minnesota,” the DFA response stated. “If successful in test, the brand plans to roll out more broadly across the United States, beginning in the Central and Northeastern regions of the U.S.”

DFA has already been bottling plant-based alternatives in copacking arrangements in the Midwest. And, the Cumberland Dairy plant in New Jersey, formerly owned by the Catalana family, and purchased in 2017 by DFA, bottles plant-based beverages also as the Catalanas still operate the plant and retained ownership of their plant-based beverage investments.

We also wanted to know how the real dairy milk that makes up 50% of the new Dairy Plus Blends is classified for Federal Order pricing, but that question was not answered.

And, we wanted to know if DFA in its “partnership to innovate” with DMI has any plans to innovate the marketing and packaging of 100% Real Whole Dairy Milk in such a pleasing and attractive way as they have with the Dairy Plus Blends? That question was not answered either.

We also wondered if this “blend” will pull dairy milk drinkers as they hear all this talk about becoming “flexitarian” – cutting back on foods that come from cows and adding more foods that come from plants to, you know, save the earth and all.

Along these lines, DFA’s response attributed to Kyllo at Live Real Farms was: “We’re confident milk will continue to have a place on family tables for years to come, but we also understand and appreciate that consumers have choices in what they drink today. We think Dairy Plus Blends offer a refreshing taste experience and provides a unique way to get dairy in front of consumers who might explore other beverage options.”

We wonder if this is an invitation by a dairy-farmer-owned cooperative, funded in part by dairy-farmer-checkoff to lure consumers into experimenting with something new instead of dairy milk or will it appeal to people who have no intention of drinking 100% real dairy milk? It’s hard to tell, but it’s worth watching.

Some advocates of this kind of experimentation say that the fluid milk market needs more lactose-free choices. There are already lactose-free milk choices, there is also A2 for other types of digestive sensitivity, and there’s one thing everyone seems to be forgetting. Whole milk is more easily digested by people with these sensitivities. There’s actual real proof of this now, not just personal experience, but that’s a story for another day.

In this time of continued fluid milk sales losses, farm milk prices below breakeven for five years and dairy farms exiting the business, why does the dairy-checkoff not re-brand and re-market and innovate the packaging and promotion of Real 100% Whole Milk that is virtually 97% fat-free and loaded with natural goodness? Why not actually partner to innovate the brand-promotion MILK? What a novel idea!

Oops, that’s right. I think USDA lawyers would have a problem with that.

One thing that is impressive coming out of Live Real Farms is the Wholesome Smoothie line of Whole Milk yogurt smoothies last year. DFA says it plans to develop “a robust product line with the launch of additional, innovative products over the next three to five years.”

We’ll be paying attention to all of them.

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Dairy mis-leaders call for unity, bring on misery

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine Op-Ed, July 19, 2019

Dairy producers find joy in the big and little things in life on the farm, working with family, raising children on the farm, building or continuing a family business, seeing the sun rise and set as they work, producing wholesome milk they take pride in, helping a cow have her calf, watching that calf grow and develop, planting tiny seeds, watching a crop grow.

We know personal stress on farms is at an all-time high, amid price and weather pressures. There is some optimism returning as last month’s milk checks were a bit better, and the futures markets fueled some optimism before hitting the see-saw again. Also, the first round of dairy margin coverage (DMC) checks have been received or are in the mail. (Signups for 2019 DMC end Sept. 20).

But despite the return of some optimism, stress continues to build on our dairy farms because the hole that has been dug is so deep, the ground to make up so vast, and the future sustainability of family farm businesses more challenged by the industry’s control of how they operate.

My thoughts here are based on personal meetings, phone conferences, emails and other communications with young farm families operating small herds and multi-family operations with very large herds. 

In my various work and volunteer efforts as a freelancer — I visit a lot of dairy farms. 

Even though milk prices are gradually rising, net mailbox prices are flat and costs are going up, eating into the price gains. Forages are tight, weather is an added burden, farmers are utilizing new strategies, adopting progressive practices, improving their business management – and yet, their farms and families are fraying over the question of whether to stay the course or sell the cows and leave it behind. 

Many are taking on other work and adding to their already long days with efforts to bring in income to support the farm.

Communities are feeling the long fingers, and farmers and related agribusinesses are supporting each other as best they are able. The levels of farm community unity have probably never been higher in this regard: People are coming together to promote milk through voluntary efforts, to support their neighbors, and to reach out to each other as friends and colleagues.

The industry leaders say the dairy industry must be unified. They say it is wrong to challenge the path of the industry because doing so is “depressing and divisive” and “brings more stress onto the farmers.”

Don’t challenge the system, they say, because this creates negativity and stress when farmers need to stay positive and united. This, I’ve been told by leaders.

Questions and challenges are not meant to divide or stress our farmers. The stress is already there. It may not always be spoken, but it is there, and it is visible. 

This stress cannot be painted over with pretty colors.

Stress on dairy farms today is rooted in the way this industry and various milk pricing and nutrition policies have economically failed our farmers (and our consumers), especially since 2008.

To talk about the industry’s path — to discuss and debate marketing decisions made with producer dollars — does not mean one is being divisive. This is America where ideas and challenges can still be discussed and debated, and where leaders can be questioned and held accountable.

How much more divided can an industry become than to see marriages, families, businesses, dreams fractured from the undue stress of not only a tough deal on the milk pricing but perhaps even more concerning, the increased levels of control that this same system puts upon our farmers, and how they manage their farms, as a condition to keep their milk contracts?

This loss of independence and loss of their ability to control the ‘controllables’ is of utmost concern. If we ignore these trends — in an attempt to be passively non-divisive — does that make the issue or problem go away? Certainly not.

Rapid streamlining of the dairy industry is underway, at least in part because this is the path charted in 2008 by the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the U.S. Dairy Export Council working via memorandums of understanding with USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack who is today a DMI leader as USDEC president and CEO and instrumental in the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. 

Both USDEC and the Innovation Center are primarily supported by the mandatory checkoff paid by dairy farmers; but they also partner with food supply chain companies that work on proprietary products, ideas and concepts for the expressed purpose of growing the dairy sector globally.

The industry leaders tasked with spending the farmer’s 15 cents per hundredweight say raising exports to 20% (last year was 16%) is the key for a growing dairy industry.

Most notably, Vilsack reported in May that, “2018 was a record year for U.S. dairy exporters with export volume up 10% from the prior year. Simply put, exports support the growth aspirations of the U.S. dairy sector.”

Nowhere in his statement, or the entire blog post at USDEC, did Vilsack mention the dairy farmers who pay his salary. He mentions the dairy exporters and the dairy sector, but not the dairy producers.

Are exporters and sectors paying his salary of $750,000? No, not really. A small portion of USDEC is funded by ‘industry’ memberships, and importers pay a smaller checkoff, but the bulk of the agency and its CEO Tom Vilsack are funded directly from government-mandated dairy producer checkoff funds.

Where are the statements about a promotion agenda that seeks to return a fair price and livable income to those producers paying the agenda-makers salaries?

At various meetings last year where milk markets were discussed, dairy traders stated that exports do not raise farm-level milk prices. Interestingly, 2018 exports were higher than 2017 while 2018 prices paid to dairy farmers were much lower than 2017.

The direction of the dairy checkoff is toward growth of the dairy sector globally, at all costs, and yet the U.S. dairy farmers are paying the bill for this, with USDA having very close control of it.

This goal has been positioned to farmers as an all-out race to gain global market share before other countries do it, without a methodical approach or review on the impact to domestic markets and producers along the way.

This global agenda is also steering the sustainability frameworks and alliances DMI’s Innovation Center is forming that will control more aspects of management at the farm level in the future.

In recent proof of conversations between farmers and checkoff staff and board members, questions about Innovation Center projects, alliances and partnerships were passed off as though the board receives its information on these projects on a “need to know” basis. A board member stated in these exchanges that they are not concerned with seeing every detail of a proprietary project because DMI’s attorneys and USDA’s attorneys know the details, and the board trusts the staff.

(I have served on boards elected by citizens. Trust in staff is critical, but so is transparency of projects paid for by a checkoff — the same as a school tax.)

For some, a call for unity means don’t ask questions. For others, it means get informed and start mobilizing a grassroots unifying effort.

In a copy of non-executive February DMI board minutes received by Farmshine, a strategy is detailed by the Farmer Relations and Consumer Confidence Committee. According to the minutes, a key discussion at the February 19-21 board meeting was stated as “farmer engagement around checkoff value is more important than ever before.”

A key bullet point was for national and local checkoff board members to “focus on the movable middle.”

Another bullet point of the discussion in the minutes is that DMI is “learning from the checkoff Facebook page and regional media coverage (Farmshine) reinforcing that you do NOT continue to engage with those detractors that cannot/will not be moved.”

While Farmshine was still seeking answers to questions and had not yet published the DMI chair’s letter of response (published Feb. 21), DMI had already taken a position in its Feb. 20 board discussion to “not engage” with detractors, mentioning Farmshine parenthetically by name in this category.

According to the minutes, the rest of the DMI board discussion on this topic centered on the need to “reach out to those farmers who see/hear from the unmovable detractors” (that would mean Farmshine readers as per the above). According to the minutes, “ways to reach the movable middle” were discussed.

So, while organizations chart a course for unity and reaching out to a movable middle, dairy farm families are focused on finding ways to move forward on their farms and to unify and inform their communities.

Even though our legislators are taking notice of the growing crisis — and some sincerely care and are trying to do something — these stopgaps and investments are a drop in a very large bucket. Those drops are appreciated, but there are big things to tackle that require courage when it comes to the needed changes in nutrition rules, checkoff rules, promotion rules, labeling rules (and also lack of standard of identity enforcement), complex milk pricing rules (while processors and co-ops are readying a proposal for their make allowance increases as soon as prices improve a bit), not to mention rules that impact the cost of doing business every day on the farm.

As dairy farm families keep moving forward, finding ways to do more with less, working longer hours with less help, taking on off-farm employment and finding other revenue streams to pay their bills — They are consequently burning the candle at both ends and incurring more stress.

The stress on farms of all sizes can be overwhelming and is felt by even the best operators.

We do need unity, yes, but the question farmers are asking themselves is: Who will be part of dairy’s unified and globalized future? They deserve to know the direction the organizations they fund are taking their product, their market, and the industry they have supplied with wholesome milk for generations.

We can do better than this in America where agriculture truly is our backbone. Without strong farm families, all else fails eventually, including our liberty and security as a nation. 

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Genetics firm gets ‘Dynamite’ boost

PA-based upstart has world’s only son of Co-Vale Dempsey Dina 4270-ET EX96

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 12, 2019

LEBANON, Pa. — Genetics is the multifaceted red-hot topic with nuances that vary across the spectrum of dairies, from small to large, breeder to commercial — and everything in between. It’s objective and subjective. Art and science. Logic and passion. Fact and opinion. All rolled up into one subject that can keep you talking for hours, if not days.

What cuts across all, is managing progress — finding ways to move a herd forward in an environment of rapid change in the face of economic constraints.

For Kendra Nagle, with the help of her righthand man Brandon DeLong, and her father Ken Reist, Top Notch Genetics LLC is that labor of love.

Collaborating with her father Ken Reist and righthand man in bull research and selection Brandon DeLong, Kendra Nagle is bullish on dairy herd progress. They launched Top Notch Genetics, LLC in March 2018. Photo by Rhoda Reist

“Our goal is to keep the dairy farmer moving forward in their genetic progress,” says Kendra, about the genetics company based from her home in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and launched March 1, 2018 — two years after starting Got Embryos.

Friday’s ‘Dynamite’ release has ignited some bullishness, and there’s more to come.

“The most exciting thing yet is Dynamite from Bob Landis. He’s by Kenosha out of the famous Dina,” Kendra reports. “We are super excited to get him out there and get people using him and hope to see babies in the next nine to 12 months. We’re excited to see how they look.”

Bob Landis of Landis Marketing and Landis-MRK Holsteins already knows how Dina’s daughters look, he’s working with many of them already.

“We’re convinced Dynamite will make pretty show babies,” says an obviously excited Kendra.

Top Notch owns bulls, leases bulls and partners on bulls. Their catalog is growing, and they offer some services that put eyes on cattle — not just the numbers and pedigrees — with linear scoring for matings based on what is, not what should be. They even help farms better utilize what’s already in their own inventory.

Co-Vale Dempsey Dina 4270-ET EX96 pictured after being named grand champion of the 2017 Canadian Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Dina has fans around the world, but her biggest fans may be the ones in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Dynamite is her only son, worldwide, and he is available through Top Notch Genetics. Photo submitted

And they are handling bulls from all over. The bulls are housed and collected at two locations in California, and Brandon, who lives in Lebanon and hails from a dairy farm in Michigan, travels to the Midwest every other week, north once a month and throughout the Mid-Atlantic on the days in between.

“Brandon finds the bulls, he does the research, talks to the farmers, sets up the leases. He is an encyclopedia of cattle, especially in the show world — knowing sires, daughters, families. He knows it inside and out,” Kendra relates.

Recently, two representatives in Lancaster County have been added — James Mast, Morgantown, and Joe Wivell, Columbia — just in time for Dynamite.

Jordan Zimmerman of Misty Z Holsteins, East Earl, Pa. was the first to light that fuse, and others in Lancaster County are also getting in. It’s not every day that the son of an internationally-renown cow with some local heritage is offered, available and approachable for everyone. 

In addition to Dina’s ‘cool local story,’ her fans are worldwide with international interest coming in for the only son in the world by three-time All American Co-Vale Dempsey Dina 4270-ET EX96. 

Brandon DeLong (right) of Top Notch Genetics congratulates Jordan (left) and Dale Zimmerman as the first to purchase straws of Dynamite to light the Dina fuse at Misty Z Holsteins, East Earl, Pa. Photo submitted

Dina made her mark on the international stage in 2017, when she was reserve grand champion of the International Holstein Show at World Dairy Expo and grand champion Holstein of the Canadian Royal Agricultural Fair. That year she was also unanimous All-Canadian and All-American 4-year-old.

She came back last fall as first place 5-year-old, best udder and best production cow of a very large and competitive International Holstein Show at the 2018 World Dairy Expo.

And in January of this year, Dina was upgraded to EX-96, after unanimous consideration from multiple Holstein USA classifiers.

Since 2017, Dina has been co-owned and exhibited by Milksource of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, where she lives today and was visited by the Pennsylvania delegation during the National Holstein convention in the Dairyland State in June. Ransom Rail, Perry, New York is also a co-owner.

But her story has a twist for the locals who have followed her for all of her five years. Whether in the showring or attending cattle auctions and Holstein events, Lancaster Countians had a front-row seat for Dina’s development as the 4-H show calf of Bob’s granddaughter Olivia Gold.

Born in Preble, New York and bred by the Cates family of Co-Vale Holsteins, the Ex-96 black beauty’s story started here when Bob and his granddaughter purchased Dina as a calf at a GTPI Type Sale in 2013.

When she calved in 2014, Bob reports that he and Olivia sold half-interest to the Dueppengiessers of Ransom Rail. Nominated fall yearling in milk that year, she went on to be undefeated at World Dairy Expo in Madison and at the Royal in 2015. By July of 2017, Bob had sold his half to Milksource at the Radiance of Ransom Rail.

Dynamite will be pictured this fall, and Kendra says he’s tall, strong and deep with “a great foot and leg score and great udder traits.” What also makes him special is as a cross with no Doorman in his pedigree.

“We were thrilled when Bob called and asked if we would be interested in carrying him,” Kendra recalls. “He’s the only Dina son in the world right now being collected and available for everyone.”

For Kendra, it’s all about relationships and access. She built an international network through Got Embryos, and that’s how she met Brandon. “We launched the genetics business, started the catalog, kept collecting and growing and hitting the pavement,” she says. “We’ve been through four proofs since we started, and are streamlining, getting better genetics and seeing opportunities open up.”

The bullishness continues. Kendra reports another Lancaster County bull from Bob Landis will debut this week.

“Denali has a cool story too,” she says. He carries Bob’s prefix, but Gary Martin is his owner with Bob and Top Notch buying-in for collection.

Bob had Denali’s dam at the Martin farm for calving, and when she had a bull calf, Bob said ‘keep him’ as toward payment. Gary is a smart 17-year-old. 

“He liked the pedigree and saw some interesting things behind the little bull calf, so before making any decisions he got Denali genomic-tested, and he came back +4.06 for Type,” Kendra recounts. “He called Bob and said, ‘so, I’ve got this thing to tell you.’ Bob was surprised and called us right away to see if we would be interested in carrying this Crush son. His dam is a Byway out of Gold Chip Dina and out of Gold Deb EX-95.”

In addition to Dynamite and Denali from Landis-MRK, Top Notch is working with bulls from Luck-E and others in the Midwest, and Waddell, Penn England, Tom Mercuro, Ladys Manor, and Cool Lawn, just for example in the East. The bulls they are collecting span from Pennsylvania, New York, New England and Virginia to Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Washington and even Canada.

Kendra Nagle connects with Matt Engel of Luck-E Holsteins, Hampshire, Illinois about bull prospects at World Dairy Expo. Engel has Luck-E’s Keona-Red (and Polled) son of Kandie in the Top Notch lineup.  Photo submitted

On the sales side, internationally, they’ve worked with herds in Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Peru and the Middle East and are working on Europe and Canada.

 “We don’t sleep, especially when proofs come out,” Kendra confesses.

She’s driven by wanting to help dairy farmers get the genetics that best fit their herds, even as she, herself, has been searching for her ‘fit’ since 2011, when the cows on her parents’ farm were sold.

Kendra is understandably proud of the conception rates they are seeing above the average by 4 to 15%. “We listen to farmers, do our research, work out of my home, and try to keep prices affordable so farmers can use higher net merit and GTPI bulls,” she explains.

And there are no strings attached: “All of our bulls are free agents. Farmers can use a 2900 GTPI bull to make a heifer or bull and do what they want with them.”

She’s learned some lessons in these three years. “The biggest is that genetics move really fast,” she says. “Those numbers move and they change. So it’s important for us to learn and listen for what our farmers are wanting, and to match that — to be comprehensive, competitive and smart when picking genetics, to look at genomics, scores, net merit, but also cow families and to make sure the other things are there, like daughter pregnancy rate and calving ease, and to have a good offering across the board.”

Kendra loves being around dairy cows and working with the farmers. Her passion is contagious.

“I think I’ve found my fit,” she says.

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