Motivated by Kids, Cows and a Family Legacy

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“Well, Molly always liked cows.”

Sam Yonkman grinned and let out a short laugh at the simplicity of his answer. It was a warm, windy day in McBain, Michigan and Sam stood on a hill with windmills dotting the landscape and an expansive view of Yonkman Dairy just beneath. The question he was answering was “How did things begin and how did you get to this place?”

We can agree it’s pretty rare for someone to wake up on a Monday morning and decide they want to trade stocks on Wall Street, teach middle school science or manage a dairy herd. There’s always a motivationan experience or storyfueling our career decisions. Molly Pluger’s motivation is family, legacy and something most can relate to, a deep love for cows.

Then and now

In 1944, Molly’s grandfather purchased 19 milking cows and a team of horses to establish Yonkman Dairy. Sam, Molly’s father, resumed ownership at a young age. To support his family, he took steps to grow the herd and the land base. It was his developing interest in genetics and appreciation for good cows that led him to Select Sires.

Select Sires has been a trusted partner at Yonkman Dairy for two generations of ownership. In that time, the industry has experienced plenty of change, but the crew at Yonkman Dairy has remained persistent in their long-term goals. Sam and Denise Yonkman, daughter Molly and son-in-law BJ Pluger, and sons Ryan and Lucas work together as the management team for Yonkman Dairy.

As general herd manager, Molly is directly involved in the genetic and reproductive planning. In recent years, Yonkman Dairy has more than doubled their herd size from 700 to 1,500 lactating cows and Select Sires’ consultative services like ProfitMAX® and Select Mating Service® (SMS®) were key to successfully growing their herd of profitable cows.

“Raising my kids here on the farm touches my heart. It brings back memories of when I was a little girl growing up on this farm. I want my children to have that same experience,” says Molly.

While Molly’s long-term vision is to provide an opportunity for the next generation, the Yonkman and Pluger team recognizes that this begins on the cow level and investing in genetics is paramount to their success.

Cow-side goals

As the Account Team Leader, Jess Jakubik collaborates closely with CentralStar Cooperative team members Deanna Pleiman, Julie Ainsworth, Lynnae Dick and Moss McCauley. A large part of Jess’ responsibility is managing the dairy’s goals and connecting those goals with the tools and services that can enhance profitability.

“The Yonkman Dairy is driven by success. They want this dairy to be here for the next generation,” says Jess. Quality is critical when it comes to Yonkman’s goals for the cow herd. She describes the herd’s context of quality as functionally sound, high-producing cows that remain in the herd for many lactations.

Molly says, “We focus on the right cows. We only have 1,500 spots and those spots must be filled with the most profitable cows.”

Select Sires created a custom index for the herd based on their quality-driven goals. High priority traits include Combined Fat and Protein (CFP), Udder Composite (UDC), Rear Legs Side View and Feet and Leg Composite (FLC), as well as health, fitness and fertility traits like Productive Life (PL), Somatic Cell Score (SCS) and Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR). Focus on these areas has created high-producing, consistent and efficient cattle with 42 percent of the herd third lactation or greater.

To manage their inventory of replacement heifers, Julie Ainsworth uses the Optimal Genetic Pathways calculator. This innovative tool, available exclusively through Select Sires, identifies opportunities for additional revenue. Yonkman Dairy is breeding their low-end genetic animals to beef sires and selling young calves into the beef x dairy market supply chain.

Team approach

“The people at Select Sires are a team,” says Julie. As a customer of Select Sires, farmers have access to experts at both their local member cooperative and nationwide-experts that can help them achieve their unique herd goals.

It begins with an appreciation for cows and Select Sires has the best cow-people in the business. Hear more about the Yonkman Dairy story and Select Sires’ role in their success in the video below.

Motivated by Kids Cows and a Family Legacy Video

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