ROCHESTER, Minn. – Welcome to the Moo House – the social media and agritourism presence of the Borst Family Dairy located in rural Minnesota. Developed as a clever way to engage with folks who are curious about how milk gets from the farm to their refrigerator, Lindsey Borst, DVM, creates educational content for social media that details life on a dairy farm.
The Borst Family Dairy was started in 1946 with 20 cows by Elbert Borst and his son Elbert Jr. Today the third and fourth generations of Borst dairy farmers and their families milk 230 registered Holstein cows, breed all of their own replacement heifers and feed out all their bull calves. The family cash rents 1,100 acres to raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and a small amount of canning crops. Lindsey and her husband, Kevin, work in partnership with Kevin’s brother Kyle, his dad, Matt, and his uncle Larry.
The Borst herd averages 90 to 95 pounds of milk per cow daily. The milk is sold to the farmer-owned co-op Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), and the bulk of it is used to make cheese and butter. In 2019, AMPI launched the Dinner Bell Creamery brand to sell butter and cheese directly to consumers. You can find Dinner Bell Creamery products throughout the U.S. at various retail stores and chains such as Kwik Trip and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
Borst oversees all the veterinary procedures as part of the health and comfort management practices on the farm. She also works full time as a calf and heifer specialist at Ag Partners Co-op.
Dairy Farming Not Just a Job, It’s a Way of Life
While Borst did not grow up on dairy farm, farm animals were a big part of her childhood. She was active in both 4-H and FFA and raised sheep and dairy cattle on her family’s small hobby farm. Her mother, Gala Beckendorf, was a veterinarian and some of her earliest memories of dairy farms occurred when she tagged along in the truck on farm calls.
“I actually went through a large chunk of my childhood where I didn’t want to be a vet because I saw some of the not-so-fun aspects she had to deal with,” said Borst. “I ultimately decided to go to (the University of Minnesota) veterinary school after earning my animal science degree because I was really drawn to dairy science – I liked working with the cows, working with dairy producers and I was really drawn to the other dairy science students. Being a veterinarian would give me a lot of different options to work in the dairy industry and that’s why I pursued it.”
In 2013, Lindsey married Kevin Borst and jumped into the daily joys and challenges of being a dairy farmer.
“I bring a different perspective to the farm, not just as a vet but also as someone who didn’t grow up on a dairy farm,” said Borst. “I have an easier time seeing the perspective of people who haven’t been exposed to agriculture, and they just don’t know how their food is produced. This perspective has been helpful with the social media content we create – I can educate on farm management practices and explain how and why we do what we do. Dairy farming is not just a job, right? It’s a way of life and we’re all pretty thankful and appreciative that we get to have the opportunity to do this. I really look forward to going to the farm every day; that’s my happy place.”
Focused in on Cow Care & Comfort
Borst Family Dairy prides itself on providing exceptional care and management of the herd. In 2011, Borst Family Dairy started participating in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program created by the National Milk Producers Federation to better connect with and educate today’s consumers. One of the first improvements was to replace mattresses with sand bedding. This led to improved locomotion scores, reproductive efficiency, increased milk production and reduced the number of mastitis cases. Calving pen cameras were installed, and this intensive 24/7 monitoring helped reduce the stillbirth rate from 7% in 2014 to 1% in 2021.
A commitment to raising healthy and happy calves involved instituting paired social housing hutches. Prior to the change in 2014, less than 10% of calves were hitting their daily 2-pound daily gain goal. Today, about 95% are meeting this goal. Calf mortality rates decreased from 7.7% to 1.9%.
“There are a lot of benefits to the calf buddy system,” said Borst. “We have seen a faster rate of gain in the first 60 days on our farm. We know that the faster they grow in the first 60 days of life, the more milk they are going to produce over their lifetime. Calves that have always been with a buddy are less stressed during weaning, and they are generally calmer and easier to handle.”
Meticulous recordkeeping and consistent herd health protocols helped the Borst Family Dairy win the inaugural National FARM Excellence Award for animal care and antibiotic stewardship in 2021.
Every detail of care matters from culturing a cow’s milk to ensure milk quality to making sure every cow and calf have clean, fresh water on demand.
“Water is the most essential nutrient for animals,” said Borst. “I talk to my producers constantly about keeping clean water out for baby calves. It is amazing how important it is for the immune system. If you keep clean water in front of them, they are less likely to be sick. Especially in cold stress, the immune system has to work a little bit harder than usual and it needs more water intake to support it. It is critical that your waterers are cleaned out on a regular basis to help reduce pathogen exposure to cows and calves. If the waterer is dirty, the cattle just won’t drink as much and that affects their health and performance. On our farm, about 90 percent of our waterers are Ritchie automatic waterers and the biggest advantage with them is that they are easy to clean. We recently had to build a new shed and the new Ritchie waterers we installed were even easier to clean and keep clean than before because of the design improvements.”
Sharing Dairy with the World
Despite having a full plate, Borst manages to find time on a daily basis to share the real story of dairy and agriculture with a public that is hungry for an honest connection to their food and environment. With several thousand followers, she has been a pioneer in using social media to educate and entertain. She also is not afraid to try new ventures like promoting the family’s direct-to-consumer beef and produce sales, selling Moo House farm merchandise, conducting farm tours or partnering with local restaurants to host family ice cream nights on the farm.
Borst has some simple advice for those who might be considering sharing their story on social media.
“Don’t be scared,” said Borst. “There will always be those who will make negative comments but you can’t let that scare you away from doing it. Be confident, you know what you are talking about and tell your true story. We all know it’s getting harder to keep smaller dairies like ours going for the next generation. So we want to do everything in our power to keep it sustainable and keep it going.”
Do You Know a Ritchie Innovator? Tell Us About It
Ritchie Industries is always looking for innovative dairy farmers who use Ritchie waterers in their operation. Send us an email at email@example.com with contact information and you might be featured in an upcoming article.
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