• Home
  • In the magazine


Groves family dairy reaches new heights in production, forages and genetics

Two breeds. One goal. That’s the motto of Groves-View Dairy in Billings, Mo., where elite Holstein and brown Swiss cattle mingle and milk together in a highly productive combination.

The motto could be, “Two brothers. One goal.” As the fourth generation to run the family’s 118-year-old farm, Todd Groves and his younger sibling, Brad, are taking the dairy to new heights in milk production, forage quality and award-winning genetics.

“Todd and Brad are excellent forage raisers, they have top-notch registered Holsteins and brown Swiss, and they sell bulls locally and all over the country,” said Chuck Hubbert, MFA livestock key account manager in southwest Missouri. “They have quality show cattle, and they also have cows that really milk. I would put them in the top of the state.”

Make that top of the entire industry. Groves-View Dairy is currently tied for No. 1 in breed age average (BAA) with a score of 109.2 among dairies with more than 150 cows, as ranked by Holstein Association USA, the largest dairy breed organization in the world. The BAA provides a way to compare the score of an animal—and the herd average—to other registered Holsteins in the industry, while taking into account age and stage of lacta­tion. The BAA of the average Holstein herd is 100.

It’s only one achievement in a long history of success for the venerable dairy, which was established in 1913 by German immigrants Walter and Lula Luezinger. The farm subsequent­ly passed into the hands of their only child, Emma, and her husband, Jack Groves. Their sons, Lonnie and Darrel, were the third generation to operate the dairy.

Todd and Brad, Lonnie’s sons, took over most of the farming responsibilities in 2008 after their father was seriously hurt by a bull. While the injuries have limited his physical abilities, the elder Groves, now 78, is still involved in farm planning and record-keeping.

“Dad was in the hospital and in rehab for four and a half months,” Todd said. “He didn’t walk probably for a year and a half. In fact, they said he would never walk again, but he proved them wrong.”

At the time, Brad was farming with his dad, but Todd worked in the oil refinery business, which kept him on the road more than half of the year. After the accident, Todd came home to farm full time.

“I worked off the farm for about 20 years,” Todd said. “Well, the whole time, I was here helping when I could, but full time it’s been 13 years ago this June. It was a good job; I was just never home. And when I was, I was either putting up hay or planting corn, and gone again. There were a lot of years I was gone 280 days a year. I learned a lot. Met some incredible peo­ple. But I was needed here more.”

Todd’s wife, Sheila, can be credited with adding brown Swiss cattle to the farm’s Holstein heritage. The herd is now a mix of about three-fourths Holstein and one-fourth brown Swiss. 

“The Swissies came with my marriage in 1991,” Todd said. “Shei­la’s family had Holstein and Swiss, but they milked on two different farms. She brought some Swiss with her, and they just kind of got out of control. Seriously, they’ve been good to us. They bring extra fat and protein to the milk, and they compete really well with the Holsteins.”


The Groves-View Dairy of today is a merger of tradition and evolu­tion. Family history can be felt throughout the 700-acre farm—from the vintage blue Harvestore silo to the 1960s-era milking parlor where Todd, Brad and two full-time employees milk 175-180 cattle twice daily.

Progressive changes in the farm’s more recent history include the adoption of no-till practices, electronic production measurement technology and embryo transfers to improve herd genetics. About a decade ago, the brothers also enlisted the expertise of a herd nutritionist and switched their milk cows to a total mixed ration (TMR) feeding program.

Perhaps one of the most influential advancements, however, is an intensified focus on high-quality, high-yielding forages. Todd and Brad raise 150 acres of pure alfalfa, along with wheat and rye, all of which is harvested and stored as baleage. They cut and bale the forage with 55% to 60% moisture, and then wrap it in plastic to create an airtight environment for ensiling.

The system takes a quick turnaround, Brad said. They try to cut one day, bale the next and wrap immediately. None of the baleage is tedded, if they can help it, he added. Eliminating this step not only saves one more pass through the field but also limits mechanical damage to the forage.

Compared to dry hay, the decreased curing time from cutting to baling makes weather less of a factor, helps reduce harvest losses and preserves as much nutrition as possible. It also takes careful, timely management—and dedication.

“It doesn’t matter how many hours we have to work in the night or day, if it’s time and the weather’s right, we put our forage up,” Todd said. “I’ll admit, sometimes we do get carried away cutting and get too much down. A couple weeks ago, I started on the alfalfa at 3:30 a.m., and I walked in the house at 20 after 3:00 the next morning.”

“And we’ve done that twice in the last month, once putting up our rye, and the second time putting up our first alfalfa cutting,” Brad added.

During the growing season, the Groves family harvests the alfalfa on 28- to 30-day intervals and usually gets five to six cuttings per year. Todd said they consistently achieve more than 6 tons of dry matter per acre, which removes a relatively high amount of soil nutrients. Ensuring adequate soil fertility for the legume is another key to their successful forage production.

“You’ve got to feed that crop—and it takes lots of pot­ash and sulfur,” Todd said. “We don’t put any nitrate on at all, and we don’t have to apply any phosphate. Usually, it gets 220 to 240 units of potash per year in split applications, once after second cutting and last cutting. And I put 30 pounds of sulfur on the first application.”

“Our phosphate is done with cow manure,” he added. “Neighbors tell us that’s cheat­ing, and I tell them we’ve got to have some added benefit for milking cows. All the manure is put on during the corn years.”

Todd explained that once an alfalfa stand has “played out,” 

usually every four to five years, the field is rotated to corn, which is no-tilled into the forage stubble. The Groveses then raise corn, mostly for silage, back-to-back for three years, before re-seeding those fields into alfalfa again.

“In that first year you put corn into an alfalfa stand, the yield is mind-boggling,” Todd said. “It will outperform everything on the place.”


The agronomic attention pays off in feedstuffs with outstanding nutritive quality, which, in turn, translates to impressive milk production. The farm’s forage tests regularly break the 200 mark in relative feed value—an RFV over 185 is considered to be the highest ranking of “supreme.” And the dairy’s average milk output is 86 to 87 pounds per cow, per day—more than 10 gallons—well above the average of 75 pounds the Holstein Association reports.

“I like seeing how far we can go, what levels we can reach,” Todd said. “But it all comes at a cost. You’ve got to decide if it’s worth it or not.”

The value of those efforts was affirmed last summer when Groves-View topped the alfalfa haylage category of the hay show at the 2020 Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, Mo. The win­ning entry scored a relative forage quality of 276—one of the highest RFQs ever recorded at the competition. The farm was also awarded reserve champion for another entry with an RFQ of 264. Both entries were the same alfalfa variety, WL 375HVX, which features Roundup Ready technology and the HarvXtra low-lignin trait.

It was the first time the brothers had entered the hay contest, but they said it won’t be the last.

“When we got our forage test results back last spring, Chuck Hubbert saw them and said, ‘Why don’t you enter a hay con­test?’” Todd said. “I said, ‘Because we never have.’ So, he sent somebody up here from Extension to pull samples for the show. Those tests came back better than what we sent in. I knew it was good, but I didn’t realize it was that good. We’ll definitely enter again. Brad has pulled samples from this year’s baleage, and it’s pretty impressive, too.”

When it comes to managing their cattle, the Groveses are just as meticulous as they are with their forages. Lactating cows are provided a TMR in the feed alley prior to milking. The ration formulation fluctuates depending on the nutrition levels of the corn silage and baleage. Weaned calves are fed MFA Stand Out Dairy Calf Starter, then transition to MFA Trendsetter developer ration at 5 to 6 months of age. 

“It all begins when the cow is pregnant, making sure she has plenty of feed and a clean, dry bed,” Todd said. “When calves are born, they get colostrum within an hour, and then they get all their vaccines. We wean the hutch calves at roughly 3 months old, and then they transition over to feed.”


Such attention to cow care and quality genetics has helped Groves-View Dairy build a reputation for top-performing Holstein and brown Swiss cattle, highly regarded for both milk production and on the show circuit. Through the years, the family has received numerous awards in the industry and at livestock shows all over the nation. In 2020, one of the dairy’s home-bred cows was named “All-American” by the Brown Swiss Association in a program that recognizes outstanding animals exhibited at state and national shows during the year.

The Groves family is also known for selling embryos and bulls from the farm’s deeply pedigreed lines. But as dairy num­bers continue to dwindle, so does that business.

“It used to be 80 bulls a year. In 2015, we sold 128. Now we’re under 40,” Brad said. “But you look at how many dairies are gone, and it’s no wonder. In 2000, there were 128 dairies in Christian County, and there’s only seven of us left.”

For Groves-View, there’s a fifth-generation poised to continue the farm’s legacy if they desire. Brad and his wife, Gail, have a son, Taylor, 22, a mechanic by trade, and a daughter, Kiera, 20, who runs her own laser-engraving business. Both work on the dairy part-time.

Todd and Sheila have three children, Bailey, 19, an animal science major at Missouri State University; Grant, 20, who just graduated from Kaskaskia College in Centralia, Ill., with an animal science degree; and Brittany Whitehill, 27, who works for the Farm Service Agency. The three siblings are active in the show circuit and help out on the dairy when needed.

“This year, they’ve got big plans for attending the World Dairy Expo in Madison (Wisconsin) and the South­western National Brown Swiss show in Stillwater (Oklahoma),” Todd said. “And they’ll hit all the state shows, too.”

Whether any of the children will return to the farm full time is yet to be seen. “Who knows?” is the only answer Todd can give. What he and his brother do know is that, despite the indus­try’s challenges, the Groves family plans to stick with dairying as long as they can make it work.

“I wish there were more money in it, but now’s not the time to bail, even if we wanted to,” Brad said. “It’s not easy, but we really love what we do.”

Visit grovesviewdairy.com or follow on Facebook to learn more about the farm. For more information on MFA feed and alfalfa varieties, talk with the experts at your local MFA affiliate or visit online at mfa-inc.com.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 172

Research brings microbial-level nitrogen products to the field

With several products in their first years of commercialization and more on the way, ag research is edging its way toward an elusive goal—harnessing the relationships between microbes and plants to help fertilize crops.

The quest is as old as agriculture itself. Research coming to fruition today could mark a significant moment for the industry— especially if you think about it from a historical perspective.

Before we reached the modern age of agriculture, humans spent millennia selecting and improving grain for its domestic utility in feeding ourselves and livestock. Humanity had done pretty well for itself, too. We’d done the selection work. We’d figured out that manure was good fertilizer. We’d learned about green manures and crop rotation. But even with all that time-earned agricultural wisdom, pushing yield with fertility had hit a plateau.

Of course, that changed in the early 1900s when German sci­entists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch developed the industrial pro­cess for converting atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia—a pivotal moment and a foundation for the agricultural output we enjoy today. And while commercial nitrogen produced from this pro­cess will remain a foundation of fertility programs, the new focus can be traced back a few decades before Haber and Bosch made their discovery to another pair of Germans, Hermann Hellriegel and Hermann Wilfarth, whose research focused on how plants fix nitrogen for themselves.

In the 1880s, Hellriegel and Wilfarth explained how inoculum of suitable species and variety promoted root nodules on legumes. These nodules, through symbiotic activity among plants and soil organisms, fed the target plants nitrogen and helped them grow. It was a controversial suggestion at the time.

Such early research and discovery may seem quaint by modern standards. Still, it provided the foundation that is being built upon by today’s technology, from advanced screening for beneficial microbes to gene editing and genom­ic work to identify and proliferate the biological interactions needed for bacteria and plants to work together.

What’s coming to the agricultural marketplace has been derived from multiple methods and approaches but collec­tively uses activity from soil microbes and plants to attain nitrogen.

In a meta sense, you can sometimes measure the general advance of technology by merger, acquisition and licens­ing activity in the sector. Capital seeks innovation, and innovation seeks capital. In the past few years, announce­ments from multiple companies signal progress in the field. Aligning with that process is continued scrutiny on nitrogen production regarding the energy used to produce it and its environmental fate once applied. Addressing those issues without sacrificing yield will push development all the more.

MFA is in the early stages of evaluating these types of microbial products. This year’s research will focus on rate equivalents of nitrogen provided.

While the field is growing, some of the available products include:

Corteva Utrisha N (foliar application)

Corteva Agriscience recently announced an agreement with micro-biologically focused Symborg to bring microbe-based nitrogen fixation products to market in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

The agreement gives Corteva an exclusive license to distribute the endophytic bacterium, Methylobacterium symbioticum, which works with the plant to secure needed nitrogen from the atmosphere. You will see the product branded as Utrisha N.

PivotBio PROVEN (in-furrow)

Pivot Bio PROVEN is applied in-furrow during planting. The mi­crobes create a symbiotic relationship with the corn plant, produce nitrogen and deliver it directly to the roots of the corn plant.

Azotic Envita (in-furrow, foliar application, seed inoculant)

Envita is a naturally occurring, food-grade bacteria—Gluconaceto­bacter diazotrophicus—that was initially discovered in sugarcane. Envita forms a beneficial relationship with the host plant and pro­vides nitrogen to cells throughout the plant, both above and below ground, all season long.

Sound Agriculture Source (foliar application)

This chemistry activates hormones in the plant to produce a gel-like substance from the root that stimulates existing soil bacteria to fix nitrogen and make phosphorus more available.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 553

In this June-July Magazine

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 83

Spring freeze is reminder of nature's unpredictability and a farmer's resiliency

This was shaping up to be a banner year for blueberries at Brandywine Farm in Rolla, Mo. As spring unfolded, the bushes filled with blossoms while honeybees from rented hives buzzed around, taking care of their pollination duties.

After five years of renovation on the farm, Pat Marti was eagerly anticipating blueberry season. The U-pick operation had been closed to the public during the painstaking process of removing old, un­productive bushes and replanting new ones. Finally, the farm would be ready when the berries ripened in June.

Mother Nature had other plans. Winter returned with a vengeance the third week of April. Below-freezing tempera­tures settled across the farm for two nights in a row at the absolute worst time for berry development. The unseason­able weather took its toll. Within a couple of weeks, Pat could tell that many of the blooms had been damaged and dropped without forming fruit.

“We were really looking forward to being able to open this year,” Pat said. “I was heartbroken. I had been out to the patch and saw how good everything looked, and in two or three days, everything changed.”

It was another blow in an already devastating year for Pat and her family. Her husband, Larry, an orthopedic surgeon affectionately known as “Doc” to nearly everyone who knew him, died last August at age 82 after suffering two strokes. They were married for 61 years.

The Martis, stalwarts of the Rolla com­munity for more than 44 years, purchased Brandywine Farm in 2010 from previous owners, Dave and Mary Hinze. The Hinzes opened the farm in 1982, but after Dave’s death, Mary decided to retire from the venture.

“We just happened to see that the farm was for sale and hated the idea of it closing down,” Pat said. “It’s such a community tradition. I loved coming here with my kids and grandkids to pick blueberries long before we ever considered buying it. Larry had several cattle farms of his own, so we bought Brandywine for me. It’s always been considered my farm.”

While Pat—called “Nan” by family and friends alike—is ultimately in charge, the blueberry operation has always been a fami­ly affair. She and Larry have five children, 23 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Through the years, many of those family members have helped out on the farm, especially during the short-but-hectic blueberry season from mid-June to mid-July.

Even though Doc Marti worked long hours at Mercy Clinic in Rolla, he would usually be on hand for the busy pick-your-own Saturdays at Brandywine, his wife recalled fondly.

“He never met a stranger and always had a smile. He just genuinely loved people,” Pat said. “He liked to stand at the gate and talk to the customers. He even had a little dance for them as he waved them in.”

“But you didn’t want him picking berries,” she laughed. “You’re supposed to pick them one at a time. He’d pick a handful at a time, which meant he always had half a bucket of berries and a half bucket of other stuff. He was a better greeter than he was a picker.”

Neither one of them had any prior experience with blue­berries, so learning the intricacies of production has been a continual process. Pat said much of the family’s education on the subject comes from attending “Blueberry Schools” hosted regularly by the University of Missouri Extension in Springfield.

“I like working outside, and I like growing things, but blue­berries are a whole different story,” she said. “They’re the hard­est thing I’ve ever grown. I can do vegetables; I can do flowers. I was used to things that I could just put in the ground, add a little fertilizer, and they’d flourish. Blueberries are not that way.”

First of all, she said, blueberries need an acidic soil. The pH should remain between 4.8 and 5.2. They also need lots of wa­ter. Successful blueberry production requires the soil to remain moist but not saturated. Brandywine’s entire 10-acre blueberry patch is dripline irrigated.

Pat follows a labor-intensive fertilization schedule that in­volves applying necessary plant nutrients bush by bush.

“We fertilize three times a year—in the spring, after picking in the summer and then again in the fall,” she explained. “Every few years we’ll take soil samples to see what we need.”

The bushes must be pruned over the winter. And during berry season, there’s a constant battle to keep weeds, insects and birds at bay.

“I love it, but it’s a lot of work,” Pat said. “I’m 82 now, and I just can’t do as much as I used to.”

The customers, however, keep her going. Brandywine Farm has a loyal following, Pat said, many of them tracing back several generations to the era when the Hinzes owned the farm.

“People just love it,” she said. “They come and they sit and they visit. I make blueberry muffins and jam, and they all sell out fast. Families will come and walk through the patch, eating blueberries as they go. We don’t mind. We never weigh the customers when they leave. We only weigh what’s in their bucket.”

The blueberry business flourished for the Martis until about five years ago when they noticed some of the bushes were dying. After soil-testing and talking with Extension specialists, they determined the most likely culprits were the age of the plants and a common fungal disease. The family decided tem­porarily close the farm to the public, allowing time to remove the old bushes, let the soil recover, add fresh topsoil and plant new bushes—nearly 1,000 of them. They have plans to add 600 to 800 more bushes in the next year or two.

“You should be able to get up to 30 years out of a blueberry bush, and some of these had been planted 40 years ago,” Pat said. “It was a long, difficult and expensive process to put all the new bushes in. We bought 2- to 3-year-old bushes, which can run anywhere from $6 to $8 each. You don’t want to start picking from them until they’re about 5 years old. This was going to be the year that they would have been ready.”

As a blueberry farmer, Pat said nothing has been as disap­pointing as watching all that hard work succumb to this spring’s freeze. But like her, the bushes are resilient. The Marti family expects this season to yield a limited number of blueberries, which they will likely harvest and sell at the farmers market in Rolla rather than opening for public picking.

“My dad always taught me to do the best you can do and work hard to make things happen,” Pat said. “So, we’re not going to give up. I don’t give up. And Larry wouldn’t want me to. He’d love to see us being able to pick again. It’s worth all the challenges.”

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 72

About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

If you would like to begin or renew a print subscription, CLICK HERE and go to our shop. We are proud to offer the subscription for only $15 per year.

 ©2021 MFA Incorporated.

Connect with us.