SMALL TOWNS: Robinway Dairy in Kiel

Just outside Kiel, you’ll come across the fourth-generation farm Jay Binversie took over from his dad
One farmer in Kiel, WI explains how his business is profitable and sustainable
Updated: Jun. 8, 2023 at 6:15 PM CDT
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KIEL, Wis. (WBAY) - Over the next four weeks, our Small Towns series is heading to the farm. To mark June Dairy Month, we are visiting a farm each week, each with a unique story.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to Robinway Dairy in Manitowoc County.

Just outside Kiel, you’ll come across the fourth-generation farm Jay Binversie took over from his dad in 1993 after earning a dairy science degree.

“Came home from Madison and got married and bought a farm,” says Jay with a laugh.

A farm Jay had worked toward owning many years prior.

“My dad was actually allergic to cows, he really seriously was, and so he started selling harvesters in the 70′s and 80′s. So then my mom pretty much was running the farm. Her name was Janet. And so I would always be following them around. They had 2-3 employees here, and I’d follow them around and help.

“And we decided to take a trip to California, and it was a lot of hard work that we did back in the early 70′s and 80′s, we went to California. I remember we saw the Maddox Farms, and they had four parlors and the cows were coming at different angles. That was something I was envisioning I want to do. I told my dad I want to be a farmer, so then he said, ‘OK. We started, I’d buy cows from him when I was in high school and we rent land and slowly built up a little equity as I was in high school already, and I had a vision of what I wanted to do,” recalls Jay.

When Jay and his wife Pam took over 30 years ago, the farm milked 200 cows. Today, that number is 1,750.

Jay says improvements in feed management and animal care have been key.

“And the free stalls have changed over the years. Years ago the stalls were too crampy, it wasn’t good for cows. Now they’re spacious like they’re lying on a beach, that’s the best way to describe it, and they’re comfortable,” explains Jay.

Another huge area of emphasis at Robinway, which many farms around the state are now focused on, is sustainable farming practices.

“Clean, green energy-type farm where we recycle everything now. We recycle our manure, we turn manure into water. We take our sand, recycle our sand. Our sand is getting dried and we’re constantly reusing our sand, so we’re being super friendly to the environment now,” says Jay.

Jay also discovered, in an industry that is always changing and at times can be volatile, diversification is critical.

“When the milk price isn’t good, you can’t make money on milk, right? So, you got to come up with other ways to diversify yourself. So you’re constantly looking for different ideas. So one of the things we’ve done is, we’ve gone to using a lot of sex semen on our farm which gets us more female calves and gives you better, high- quality calves. Well then we don’t need all those extra animals, so then we put angus crossbreds into our cows and we kind of developed a market for that. We started a business called Robinway Steak, and we sell quarters and halves to people, develop relationships with different people,” says Jay.

Robinway Dairy in Kiel, WI
Robinway Dairy in Kiel, WI(WBAY)

Robinway also sells the by-product from its manure as fertilizer for gardens, and it started a heifer business, custom raising heifers in Colorado and then shipping them back to their respective farms when they’re ready to milk.

Jay credits the farming community for much of his farm’s success.

“We have a group of farmers that I consider all my friends and enjoy talking to them because we all share ideas. It’s amazing. It’s probably the only industry that I know that people share their ideas,” says Jay.

With three daughters, Jay is hoping at least one will one day become Robinway’s fifth-generation owner.

In the meantime, he’s enjoying each and every day on the farm.

“It’s been a good life. I enjoy it. Every day I love it. Every day,” says Jay with a smile.

More cows at the Robinson Dairy in Manitowoc County, WI
More cows at the Robinson Dairy in Manitowoc County, WI(WBAY)