Velvet-View Farmstead plain Greek and traditional yogurt has been available for sale since 2010.
Velvet-View Farmstead plain Greek and traditional yogurt has been available for sale since 2010. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    BIG PRAIRIE, Ohio – Not only are two farms coming together, but the farms’ product line is converging to produce dairy products for consumers and animals alike.
    Sunrose Holsteins, owned by Bruce and Tricia Gingerich, of Millersburg, Ind., are teaming up with Velvet-View Farmstead, owned by Aaron and Brandi Schlauch, of Big Prairie, Ohio, to form one dairy farm located on the Schlauch family farm.
    The combined herd of around 60 Holsteins, Red and White Holsteins and Jerseys is milked in an 8-stall step-up flat barn parlor and housed in a freestall barn and loose housing.
    Currently, 25% of the milk produced is being used to make food-grade plain Greek and traditional yogurt as well as kefir for animal consumption. All processing occurs on the farm. The farm’s goal is to process all of the milk produced into various dairy products.
    The yogurt is being sold under the Velvet-View Farmstead brand while the kefir is sold as Champions Choice Natural Kefir. The Gingeriches also own and show purebred Saint Bernard dogs as part of their Blissful Saint Bernards kennel. In addition, the Gingeriches own Long Life Replacements, a commercial dairy cow sourcing business.
    “We were looking at how to stay alive in today’s dairy economy,” Bruce said. “We had been looking at processing our own milk. During about the time of [World Dairy Expo] last fall, good friends of ours approached me with the idea of combining our herds and working together.”
    The Gingeriches shipped milk for the last time from their Indiana farm Dec. 28, 2018.
    “As far as transitioning the herd, for the most part it went well,” Bruce said. “We had a few hiccups, but all in all it went about as smooth as it could have. When you have two families with similar interests, it makes it a lot easier knowing everyone is looking out for the same thing.”
    Once the Sunrose Holsteins’ cows were moved to Ohio, Tricia stayed in Indiana to look after the Saint Bernards as well as replacement heifers. The Schlauch family managed the milking, chores and processing while Bruce drove 230 miles one way twice a week to help manage both operations.
    The Gingeriches will build a home at the edge of the Schlauch farm and hope to be settled with all their animals and themselves by June.
    “The first thing I am looking forward to is getting settled into where our animals, my wife and myself are in the same location for more than a couple days,” Bruce said. “Other than that, I want to continue to see what we can do to grow our own markets. If we want to stay in the dairy industry and not be huge, we need to deal directly with consumers.”
    Velvet-View Farmstead yogurt was first created in 2010 and is sold to seven local colleges and served in their cafeterias. The yogurt is also available at grocery stores in the area.
    Brandi manages processing of the yogurt and kefir, and makes, on average, four batches per week. The yogurt is packaged in 32-ounce containers.
    Champions Choice Natural Kefir is available through independent distributors in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan and through various veterinarian offices. The kefir is available in a 32-ounce jug, 64-ounce jug and a 30-pound pail.
    “Moving forward, we hope to be able to provide every dairy product for every consumer,” Bruce said. “We will see moving forward how we will name and brand things.”
    While Champions Choice Natural Kefir became an official joint venture between the two farms in January, the Gingeriches have been experimenting with the product since early 2018.
    The Gingeriches learned about feeding kefir to dogs and the potential health benefits from the University of Florida when they were treating a dog with kidney failure. After conducting research of their own, the Gingeriches began making small batches in their home.
    “We spent one year playing around with ideas and formulas until we finally got to where we wanted to be,” Bruce said. “Kefir is high in probiotics and high in yeast.”
    The Gingeriches said they have noticed a significant health benefit in their own dogs. They has also been adding kefir to milk which is then fed to bottle calves.
    Bruce said he feeds two to three tablespoons of kefir morning and night to the dogs while calves are given four ounces in a bottle morning and night.
    He said since feeding kefir, he has not had a case of scours. They have also heard from others who use the product that the same is true.
    “So far, we are very excited about the potential there,” Bruce said about the market for Champions Choice Natural Kefir. “It is a nice marriage for us because we know and love the cows that produce the milk and we know and love the dogs we feed it to. On every side of it, we don’t need to be salesmen because we are telling people what we see, what we know and what we feel in the bottom of our hearts.”
    Because breeding high type dairy cows has always been important for the Gingeriches, as dairy cattle showing is a passion of theirs, Bruce said the mating decisions will not change with becoming a combined herd. He said they may consider the A2A2 gene if they find the consumer demand is there for A2A2 milk.
    “My life goal is to develop the perfect cow,” Bruce said. “I think we’ve made these cows efficient enough that you can process milk out of any cow these days.”