By DAVID GREEN
The three former Vreba-Hoff dairies located between Morenci and Hudson are expected to be back in operation by spring of 2014.
The farms were purchased in late August by Milk Source, LLC, based in Kaukauna, Wis., from Rabo AgriFinance, the bank that owned the property following foreclosure three years ago.
The $90 million investment is expected to create up to 100 full-time jobs if all three dairies are operating at full capacity.
“We are still in preliminary planning stages for the renovation of the Michigan farms and will begin the major work within a matter of months,” said Bill Harke, public affairs director for Milk Source.
Milk Source operates four dairies in Wisconsin, the largest with more than 8,000 head of cattle.
Harke said this isn’t the first time the company has purchased an existing dairy.
“We plan to bring the Michigan farms up to our high standards,” he said, including a manure treatment system different than what was used by Vreba-Hoff .
Vreba-Hoff was cited numerous times by the state’s environmental agency for operational problems that led to illegal discharges of manure into drains and streams. At one point fines tallied more than $400,000 as farm owners were unable to handle the quantity of manure produced.
Jim Ostrom, one of three Milk Source partners, stated in a press release that environmental standards would be upheld.
“We will insure the sustainability of these farms through environmental integrity, financial responsibility and modern technology, such as sand recycling for the animal bedding and a solid manure separation system,” Ostrom said.
John Vosters and Todd Willer are the other two partners in the firm.
The purchase was more than a year in the making and includes 2,250 acres of farmland. Harke said the company will grow its own feed as well as buy grain from other producers.
Harke said Milk Source plans to populate the dairies in stages until the full capacity of 3,400 cows is reached at each facility.
The former Mericam Dairy, the smallest of the three purchased, housed fewer than 1,000 cows when it was operating.
Ostrom said he was impressed by the local agricultural community and described local growers and suppliers as among the best he’s encountered.
“In addition, we found ourselves in contact with numerous state of Michigan and local officials and were very impressed with their knowledge, professionalism and decision-making,” Ostrom said.
“Along each step of the way, we found that the government was rational, sensible and fair. This went a long way in convincing us to look at Michigan as a place to make a substantial investment.”