Jim and Jack Winkel named 2017 recipients of the MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year Award

Missaukee County brothers are recognized for their accomplishments and passion for the dairy industry.

The 2017 recipients of the Dairy Farmer of the Year Award, presented by the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Animal Science, are Jim and Jack Winkel of McBain, Michigan. The MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year Award is the highest honor bestowed to Michigan dairy producers. The award recognizes the recipient’s ongoing efforts of managing an outstanding dairy operation and the role they play in strengthening their surrounding communities and the industry as a whole.

“Receiving this award is a humbling experience when I look around and see how many great dairy leaders we have in our state,” Jim said. “It’s an honor to receive this award and we are very grateful.”

Jim, Jack and their family operate Winkel Dairy LLC, established in 1899 by their grandfather, Tom Winkel, who passed it on to their father, Harvey Winkel. A Michigan Centennial Farm, the first dairy cows were milked in 1955. Today, Winkel Dairy LLC consists of 2,500 acres of alfalfa, corn and grass, with 1,065 Holstein cows and 1,065 youngstock. Current DHI rolling herd averages are 30,883 pounds of milk, 1,158 pounds of fat and 902 pounds of protein, with a dollar value of $4,694 per cow.

Jack has been involved in the dairy operation for 38 years and with his wife, Ruth, have two children: Jessie and Jeff. Jim has been involved for 33 years with his wife Kim. They have two sons: Nate and Nick. Winkel Dairy LLC has 26 full and part-time employees, including family members, many of whom have worked on the farm for 10-15 years. 

At Winkel Dairy LLC, the brothers hold different responsibilities for daily operations: Jack manages the cropping enterprise and farm equipment, whereas Jim manages the dairy herd and labor. They produce and harvest grain and forages for the dairy herd. Winkel Dairy LLC is Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verified in Livestock and Cropping systems. Several environmentally-friendly practices such as cover cropping, buffer strips near waterways and no-till farming are used on the farm.

“One of the most important aspects of managing a dairy operation is to keep a positive attitude,” Jim said. “This radiates to those around you on your operation and allows them to use their gifts and talents to the best of their ability.”

The 2017 Dairy Farmer of the Year Award is one of many awards bestowed on the Winkels. They were National Dairy Quality Award Platinum winners in 2003 and 2004 and recipients of the Dairy Farmers of America Gold Award for milk quality for the past 15 years. They also provide product donations locally and have hosted school and family tours showcasing various aspects of their dairy operation. 

Both Jack and Jim have given back to their community in numerous ways. Jack held a position on the school board for Northern Michigan Christian School and served as a deacon for the Vogel Center Christian Reformed Church. He also participated in numerous international mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Honduras, Haiti and Brazil.

Jim has also served as a deacon at Vogel Center Christian Reformed Church and was on the Northern Michigan Christian School board from 2006 to 2011, serving three years as president. He currently holds a position on the McBain Grain Company board of directors. For 33 years, Jim has selflessly served the community as an Emergency Medical Technician. And as a member of Dairy Farmers of America, Jim has served as a delegate to the annual meeting for five terms. 

“It is with great pleasure that the MSU Department of Animal Science recognizes Jim and Jack Winkel as the 2017 Dairy Farmer of the Year,” said Janice Swanson, Chair of the Department of Animal Science.

The Winkels will be recognized as Dairy Farmer of the Year recipients at the Michigan Dairy Industry Awards Banquet on Feb. 3 at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference in Frankenmuth. 

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