Windcrest Holsteins' sustainable growth

Written by Peyson Shields
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Dave Yutzy is a fifth-generation dairy farmer who has expanded what was once his father’s dairy of 120 cows to a herd of more than 950 at Windcrest Holsteins in Timberville, Va.

“A month or two before graduation, an opportunity presented itself to come back home,” Yutzy says. The bible-degree graduate from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., headed home, just 20 minutes northeast of school, to run the operation with his father.

Yutzy and his father set up a partnership and got to work milking 135 cows. In 1989, Yutzy purchased the remainder of the herd from his father and bought the land and facility in 2002. As his herd expanded to more than 200 cows, it was clear that the original facility was no longer going to help their operation grow and become more profitable.

Adding to the facility seemed unfeasible, so Yutzy and his wife, Jewel, built a new dairy from scratch — with sustainability and efficiency in mind.

“In 2010, we built a ‘green field’ dairy,” Yutzy says. By April 2011, Windcrest moved into its current location.

“We considered many different ideas to make exactly what we wanted,” says Yutzy, who visited several dairies prior to building. The family settled on a sloping six-row barn with sand bedding, a flush system and a double-12 parallel parlor.

Yutzy and his sons, Aaron and Ben, both of whom have been involved in DFA’s Young Cooperators program, run the revamped 950-cow operation. Ben is the herdsman and oversees the milking operation and about 15 employees. Maintenance and equipment repair is all done by Aaron, who also oversees the dairy’s feeding operation. Jewel and Dave work together on hiring and book- and recordkeeping. The couple also has a daughter, Lauren, who is married and living in Indiana.

Yutzy built with expansion in mind — expanding to a double-15 parallel parlor not long after the built. With a long-term goal of doubling their entire herd, they are building a second freestall barn this year. 

Their parlor is equipped to make cow comfort the top priority. “Through the expansion, we have been able to increase our milk production by 12 pounds,” says Yutzy, whose herd is averaging 80 pounds per cow, per day. The sand bedding has increased cow comfort, and the flush system allows the sand to be washed out, processed onsite and recycled for use on the operation.

“The whole process is simplified,” says Yutzy, who has seen economical advantages in the new facility. “There have been efficiencies on the labor side of things. There’s been an increase in efficiency in cow movements and labor.”

He has also seen his herd’s pregnancy rate increase to 31 percent — something that Yutzy credits to good management and a pedometer system.

In the fall of 2015, Windcrest installed more than 1,500 solar panels — enough to generate more than 700,000 kilowatt hours of electricity — on the roof of the new facility. The installation will save them about $50,000 per year in electricity costs.

Installing solar panels didn’t come without skepticism, Yutzy says. The $1.3 million project was made possible through deprecation allowances, a 30-percent tax credit and a large grant through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The REAP grant was enough to cover 25 percent of the system — which is helping the Yutzys pay off their project in about five years.