Vir-Clar Farms: A Look Back at the Last Five Years
Five years ago, Katie (Boyke) Grinstead jumped headfirst into her lifelong dream. She returned to her family’s dairy to build the calf operation and raise her kids on the farm.
Vir-Clar Farms, LLC
is owned and operated by Gary and Rose Boyke. Their daughter, Katie, and son, J.R., are also partners in the operation. Together, the family milks about 1,250 cows and runs 2,500 acres of owned and rented crop land. For a long time, the farm had sent its calves to a custom raiser. About five and a half years ago, after experiencing a rough patch with the calves, the Boyke family discussed bringing the calves back home. That’s when Grinstead made the move back to the farm.
Grinstead said it was a slow transition. She started with just three calves at home and no hutches. Gradually, the calf operation grew to a total of 350 hutches with anywhere between 150 and 320 calves in hutches at any given time. Grinstead said they decided to raise both heifer and bull calves because, with higher calf numbers, they can support enough employees that everyone can have off every-other weekend.
After seeing numerous calf operations in her previous position as Vita Plus calf specialist, Grinstead said she knew she wanted to use hutches for Vir-Clar’s baby calves. Not only did they allow for an easier transition as the calf operation was growing, but Grinstead said it’s her preferred way for raising calves as it seems a lot easier on the animals.
“I’d rather suffer a little bit out in the elements than have to treat calves,” she said.
In the beginning, Grinstead said she received a lot of compliments on the success of her calf program. However, she was quick to reply, “I’m lucky because everything’s brand new. Give it a few years and that will be the real test of whether the program is working.”
It turns out it is. After five years, Grinstead said she is very proud of her “super low” death loss of less than 1 percent of baby calves. She is also very proud of the development of her assistant calf raiser, Dawn Gorenschek. Until joining the Vir-Clar team, Gorenschek had never worked on a farm. Now she’s someone Grinstead knows she can count on to give the calves the best care possible even when she’s not around.
Also topping the list of Grinstead’s proud moments is the fact that Vir-Clar is often asked to host industry events. Because the Boyke family has been approached to give many tours, she decided to start an event that would bring the people to the farm all at once. Out of that idea the Vir-Clar Farms Fall Festival was born. In its second year, the Fall Festival hosted more than 800 guests on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Guests were asked to pay a minimal entrance fee to cover expenses. All profits were donated to two local charities. The event featured fun activities for the whole family, including a “corn crib” sand box (an area filled with a few inches of dry corn for the kids to play in), farm tours, dairy treats, a petting zoo, pumpkin decorating and even pony rides. Grinstead said families stayed at the farm for hours to take in the whole experience.
The next five years
Grinstead said it’s hard to predict what the next five years will look like. The farm may build an addition on a heifer barn or it could potentially expand to another site. Regardless, attentive calf care and a dedication to dairy promotion will remain constant on Grinstead’s list of priorities. Farming with her parents and brother and raising her kids around the animals is exactly where Grinstead wants to be. She’s proud to be a part of the tradition as Vir-Clar Farms work toward the vision of “producing a high quality product, a good way of life for their family and a good working atmosphere for their employees.”