Ask any of the dairy workers in Colorado about Kraft Family Dairies and that’s the response you’ll get.
Since beginning their operation in 1985, Mary and Chris Kraft have made cow handling and safety a priority in every line of their production. Whether it be lowering stress levels when moving to and from the parlor, closely monitoring health through RFID enabled collars, or changing out water, beds and food regularly, the Kraft’s understand that a happy cow leads to a better quality product.
“Suave, suave,” Chris jokes. “We always talk about being smooth, being not hard on the cows. I talk to my cows with love. As I say in Spanish, ‘un amor.’”
It’s that “amor” that earned Kraft Family Dairies the 2018 BQA Dairy Award winner. They combine their compassion and precision with a focus on preventative management and beef quality assurance (BQA) guidelines throughout all stages of the on-farm production cycle.
But what really makes the Kraft’s stand out is their two-farm system that ships out close to 500,000 pounds of milk each day.
On their Quail Ridge site, the family milks 4,500 head three times daily. This is where healthy cows are kept and monitored for quality assurance and comfort.
Not too far down the road, the family also owns Badger Creek Farm, a lot that provides intensive and individualized care for hospital, maternity and special needs cows. It’s there that the family milks 1,100 cows three times daily. Thanks to this system, at any given time, less than 2% of cattle on the operation are in the hospital.
As Mary would call it, it’s a “TLC operation.”
“The Kraft Family’s commitment to cattle care and implementation of BQA principles is among the nation’s elite,” said Libby Bilger with the Colorado BQA Coordinator.
One of the most unique features of the farm focuses on well-being. The family uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) collars on each of their cows. The collar can not only monitor milk production and reproductive status, but also changes in health and behavior. That helps the Kraft’s quickly determine if an animal is sick in the beginning stages of illness.
They also use hand-held computers that connect with the collars to provide data to the herdsmen. From there, they’re able to make on-the-spot decisions about treatments, breeding and cow needs. Plus, that data is sent back to a computer and stored to record treatments, health notes, milk weights and schedule future events.
The Kraft’s believe, “you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.”
“There is nothing more important at Kraft Family Dairies, LLC then the health of their animals and overall herd health,” Dr. Gregory Goodell with the Dairy Authority, LLC said. “As with any business one may have the best equipment in the world, but without the passion and knowledge to manage such an operation, the facility would be wasted.”
That passion shines through in how they manage the barns for their animals. Their beds are in close proximity to the milking parlor, so cows only have to travel a short, low-stress distance for milking. The cows also have access to fresh feed and water 24 hours a day. Their beds are regularly cleaned and stocked in an effort to provide comfort and cleanliness.
“Everybody sleeps better when you make your bed at home, so our cows sleep better and produce better as do our calves when they all have a fresh bed,” said Stratton Kraft, Mary and Chris’ son who also helps on the farm.
The Kraft’s also keep an “open-door” policy on their farm for consumers to learn more about where their food comes from and to allow them to experience dairy production first hand. They host about 50 tours each year for schools, chefs, international guests and many others.
On those tours, the Kraft’s showcase how the BQA standards guide what they do in order to improve consumer confidence in beef. They understand that consumers want to know more about how their food is raised, animal welfare and how food production affects the environment.
By adopting the BQA guidelines, the Kraft’s can confidently open their doors to the public to show the best practices in the business.
“I want consumers to know that I eat this beef, too,” Mary said. “I want to have a really wholesome wonderful product for my family, and I think my job as a farmer, my job as a mom, is to make sure that you and your family have the same quality food.”
National Beef Quality Assurance is a nationally coordinated, state-implemented program that provides information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase – and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry.
The FARM Program is proud to partner with BQA to work on behalf and to provide educational resources to cattlemen and dairymen.