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Dairy Facts 2016

Hilmar Jerseys of Hilmar, Calif., Named 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year

Jan 26, 2015
(L to R) Mark Ahlem, Frank Dinis and Chuck Ahlem

Marti Pupillo
(202) 220-3535

(Boca Raton, Fla. – January 26, 2015) Hilmar Jerseys, a 6,000-cow dairy operation located in Hilmar, Calif., was named the 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year during an awards ceremony today at the International Dairy Foods Association's Dairy Forum in Boca Raton, Fla.  The award, co-sponsored by IDFA and Dairy Today magazine, recognizes U.S. dairy producers that apply creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater on-farm productivity and improved milk marketing.

“IDFA and Dairy Today selected Hilmar Jerseys 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.”

Hilmar Jerseys was nominated by McKenzie Klein, producer relations manager for Hilmar Cheese Company. She attended the awards ceremony along with Hilmar Jerseys co-owners, Chuck and Mark Ahlem, and Frank Dinis, herd manager.

Animal well-being and respect has always been important at Hilmar Jerseys, which was formed by Chuck Ahlem in 1982. The operation now comprises five dairy facilities that cover 4,000 acres and market a total of 143.8 million pounds of milk each year.

Training Program Brings Dramatic Improvements

Chuck Ahlem and his son Mark didn’t intend to become animal welfare leaders, but their employee training program on animal care and stockmanship produced dramatic improvements on the 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.

Noting these positive changes, the Ahlems shared the results with Hilmar Cheese Company, 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.

Hilmar Jerseys is featured in the January issue of Dairy Today magazine.

Photos are available upon request. Contact Marti Pupillo, IDFA director of communications, at

Previous winners of the Innovative Dairy Farmer title are Mason Dixon Farms, Gettysburg, Pa. (1999); Clauss Dairy Farms, Hilmar, Calif. (2000); Baldwin Dairy/Emerald Dairy, Emerald, Wis. (2001); Si-Ellen Farms, Jerome, Idaho (2002); Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy, Kewaunee, Wis. (2003); C Bar M Dairy, Jerome, Idaho (2004); North Florida Holsteins, Bell, Fla. (2005); KF Dairy, El Centro, Calif. (2006); Joseph Gallo Farms, Atwater, Calif. (2007); KBC Farms, Purdy, Mo., (2008); High Plains Dairy, Friona, Texas (2009); Haubenschild Dairy Farm, Inc., Princeton, Minn. (2010); Brubaker Farms, Mount Joy, Pa. (2011); Sweetwater Valley Farm, Philadelphia, Tenn. (2012); McCarty Family Farms, Rexford, Kan. (2013); and Milk Source LLC, Kaukauna, Wis., (2014).

A call for nominations for the 2016 Innovative Dairy Farmer award will be released this summer.

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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C, represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies within a $125-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's nearly 200 dairy processing members run nearly 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at

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