Member of Distinction: Western Area — Vlot Brothers Dairy

Written by Marjie Knust
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“Our wives play big roles,” Dirk says. “My wife, Valerie, takes care of all the bills and billing. Case’s wife, Darcy, takes care of all the employees, as well as dealing with the trucking regulations. There is no way we could do this without them.”

Both the dairy and the calf ranch are currently at capacity, making further expansion difficult. With two sons interested in going into the business, Dirk began to look for other locations.
“Being with DFA gives me a lot of positive options,” he says. “If I wanted to go to Wisconsin, we could be involved with DFA there. To me, it is very important that if you make the decision to move to another state, you have an option for somebody to take your milk.”

For three years, Dirk traveled throughout the country to find locations for an additional dairy. After visiting sites in Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, Idaho and Washington, Dirk and his sons, DJ and Cole, visited Nevada.

“I knew that DFA had been looking for new dairymen to go to Nevada so they can have milk for their powder plant, which is in Fallon,” Dirk says. “It just worked out that there was a piece of property available in Smith Valley, which is nearby, and we got lucky enough to be able to tie that up, plus an additional couple other ranches right next door.”

Dirk broke ground on the new facility, Smith Valley Dairy, in late 2013, and hopes to be milking 3,200 head this summer. The parlor will look nearly identical to the parlors at Vlot Brothers, which has two double-40 parallels. Smith Valley will milk on one double-50, and the herd will be housed in open corrals as opposed to California’s freestall barns.

“We’ll run the dairies the same,” Dirk says. “It will add more responsibility, but I’ll have two herdsmen in Nevada to run that facility. I’m a big delegator, but I’ll still be there every week. That’s just the way I am.”

Milk from Smith Valley Dairy will ship to DFA’s new plant in Fallon, Nev., which began operating this spring. At full capacity, the plant will process 2 million pounds of milk a day into whole milk powder for customers throughout the world.

The fact that there was an opportunity to build a dairy only four hours from his home facility with a secure local market was appealing, Dirk says.

“It would be very hard to expand where we are,” he says. “We can see the future, and that is to go to another state where milk is needed.”

Dirk will move the 2,500-cow herd he and his wife own, which is named Cowifornia Dreamen Dairy and is housed at Vlot Brothers Dairy, to Nevada once that facility is complete. That will bring the herd down to 3,500 head, but the brothers plan to build it back up to 6,000.

Case is not a partner in Smith Valley Dairy, but the brothers will continue to run Vlot Brothers Dairy and Calf Ranch together. The diversity in the dairy operation, plus being able to grow much of is own feed, allows the family to weather economic downturns.

“We grow about 4,200 acres of farm ground, and everything is feed for our facilities,” Case says. “The three businesses — the dairy, the calf ranch and the trucking business — loop together very well. The calf ranch is able to absorb some financial burden when the dairy has a rough year and vice versa.”

Through steady growth and clear communication, the Vlots have literally turned a dream into a reality.