Dwight and Anita Rokey were not raised on dairy farms, but they knew early on that they had a passion for this type of life.
As first-generation dairy farmers who grew up on diversified hog, crop and beef farms, Dwight and Anita started from scratch when they established Rokeyroad Holsteins in 1999. Today, the couple operates a dairy in Sabetha, Kan., that’s recognized for herd genetics, but Dwight says it took some time to get there.
“We went to Wisconsin on family vacation once and visited a tie-stall barn when I was 10,” Dwight says. “I thought that was really cool and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do when I grow up.’”
At the time of the couple’s engagement, Anita was a herd woman on a dairy. Dwight began working on the same dairy shortly after they were married, and within a few years, the couple decided to start their own operation.
Because they knew they were interested in genetics, the Rokeys started the dairy with registered animals and slowly built their herd to where it is now.
“I don’t claim to be the best, but we’ve progressed from where we started,” Dwight says. Rokeyroad Holsteins is home to about 250 registered animals, including a milking herd of 135 cows. The farm’s most recent expansion from 100 cows to 135 took place last spring, when the Rokeys constructed a new, bedded pack barn.
With a focus on cow comfort as “the bottom line,” the barn is outfitted with an innovative evaporative cooling and fan system. Dwight says he is letting the cows tell him how they like it, and so far the response has been positive, with production on the rise since the barn’s completion in April.
The operation is also home to the only tie-stall barn in Kansas that is equipped with an evaporative cooling system and tunnel ventilation, which can cool the barn by more than 20 degrees.
The genetic progress Rokeyroad Holsteins has made over the past 15 years, along with the farm’s facilities and focus on cow comfort, has earned the dairy recognition. In 2013, the Rokeys bred the World Dairy Expo all-American Red and White milking yearling. The yearling was one of the six highest-scoring cows nominated for the award and shown at the World Dairy Expo, and a panel of judges selected the Rokeys’ cow based on its appearance and dairy character.
Most recently, the Kansas Department of Agriculture nominated Rokeyroad Holsteins for the 2014 World Dairy Expo virtual farm tour, which exposes dairy farmers to the best practices of others in their industry.
“We were pretty excited,” Dwight says. “I felt a little nervous because I knew there were more advanced herds out there, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity.”
Rokey says established producers can always learn from hearing about other farmers’ operations, but he thought his virtual tour on October 1 was especially helpful for those who haven’t had an opportunity to start dairying. He says aspiring dairy farmers can benefit from his and Anita’s story.