The Sprunger family needed to generate more income on their longtime dairy, Raygor Farms, to welcome the fifth generation. So, they added a third milking per day to increase milk production.
This proved a good move to improve profits, just as it did when the family began to sell their milk to a local processor.
In 1998, their farm in Dalton started selling milk to Smith Dairy, a processor they chose because it provided the incentives that best fit their farm.
“They offer us better bonuses for our quality milk,” says Bob Sprunger, the fourth generation at Raygor Farms. “The overall picture: It’s better financially for us.”
Processors provide profitable opportunities for the state’s nearly 3,000 dairy farms. In 2012, 71 dairy product plants served Ohio, placing the state fifth in the nation for dairy manufacturing, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Meanwhile, Ohio produces more Swiss cheese than any other state.
The state also ranks fourth in low-fat cottage cheese production and fifth in ice cream production, according to the American Dairy Association Mideast. The Ohio dairy industry generated an economic impact of about $4.2 billion in 2007, according to the most recent data available from the association.
While a boost for farmers, dairy processors also remain a major employer in Ohio, says Brian DeFelice, vice president of sales and marketing at Smith Dairy.
“A lot of our communities depend on employment from dairy processors,” he says. “The majority of them are pretty long-term businesses that have been in business since the early 1900s.”
Smith Dairy, founded in 1909, employs about 350 people at its plant and headquarters in Orrville. The facility produces fluid milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream mix, half-and-half, creams, food drinks, juices and ice cream. The Smith Dairy name is most prevalent in Ohio and parts of surrounding states. However, its products are co-packed and found in national brands throughout the country, DeFelice says.
Ohio’s location, ability to move product and access to quality milk also attract new processors. In 2013 Daisy Brand announced it will build a $116 million sour cream production facility in Wooster and employ 89 people by 2015, according to JobsOhio.
“I think our biggest challenge is a share of stomach,” DeFelice says. “The per capita consumption of fluid milk and cottage cheese has been decreasing throughout the years. There has been a large infiltration of other drinks in the marketplace from teas to waters to milk substitutes.”
Smith Dairy is among the milk processors who contribute to the National Milk Mustache “Got milk?” campaign through MilkPEP. Meanwhile, industry representatives take any opportunities they can to share the story of the Ohio dairy industry. The quality of Ohio dairy farms makes the state a great place to do business, DeFelice says.
“We have great farmers to begin with that are shipping to our facility and a long-time history of that,” he says. “We have some of the best quality of milk that is available in the country from our farmers here in Ohio.”
At five generations strong, the Sprungers take great ride in excellent care of their cows and producing quality milk in order to secure a legacy for the next generation.
“We take care of our cattle,” says Barb Sprunger, Bob’s wife. “We have vet checks twice a month. We have a hoof trimmer come in. We work with nutritionists to make sure we have the right balanced rations. We have an agronomist for our crops.”
The Sprungers love the farm and the life it provides. Their kids believe the same, with a son, daughter and son-in-law now joining the operation.