Andy and Sarah Lenkaitis have always had a passion for farming. Both grew up on dairy farms – Andy in St. Charles, IL and Sarah in Brandon, WI. After college, the pair worked for companies within agriculture, but they felt something was missing. “We both missed being directly involved with farming,” says Andy Lenkaitis , part owner and manager of Lenkaitis Holsteins. “So, in 2014, we purchased our first animal together. Her name was Dream-Prairie Rebate-Red-ET.” Today, she has three daughters and four granddaughters in our herd. In November 2014, the couple began managing Andy’s family dairy farm, Lenkaitis Holsteins.
Lenkaitis Holsteins was started in 1983 by Andy’s parents, Albert Sr. and Mary Etta. Today, the farm is enjoyed by three generations of the Lenkaitis family and includes 160 Registered Holsteins. The farm grows alfalfa haylage, corn silage, grass hay, and small grain silage. These crops are all used as feed for the cows. “We currently milk 75 cows,” Andy says. “Our milk goes to Dean’s Foods in Rockford where it’s made into cottage cheese and sour cream.” In addition to selling milk, the farm also sells genetics to other Registered Holstein breeders, separated manure fiber to a local landscaper, and bull (male) calves to farmers who will raise them as beef steers.
Modern dairy farming has become technologically advanced, and Lenkaitis Holsteins recently updated their farm with new innovations including robotic milkers, an automated manure system and herd management software to monitor the cow’s health. In April 2017, the family began construction on the new barn, and the cows moved into it in January 2019. “On a traditional dairy farm, all of the cows are milked twice or three times a day by people . With robotic milkers, the cows decide when they want to milk,” explains Andy. Each cow has a collar with an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag that is unique to her. “Think of the collar like you’d think of a Fitbit on a human, it tracks each cow’s activities similarly to how our activities are tracked,” says Andy. The collar tracks the cow’s resting and motion activity, how much and when she has been milked, and how much feed she consumes. It then compiles all of the data into a program that can be easily viewed on a computer for us to review and ensure our cows are healthy. When the cow enters the robotic milking unit, the tag is read to determine if it is time for the cow to be milked again. If eligible to milk, the unit attaches to the cow’s udder. It dips her teats with an iodine-based cleaner, rinses them, milks her, and dips the teats again once she has finished milking. The machine also dispenses pellets while a cow is milking, which encourages the cows to visit the robot. “
Andy and Sarah are members of the Kane County Farm Bureau. They enjoy making connections with farmers outside the dairy industry and believe there is a lot that can be learned from working with one another. Most of all, the couple loves working with their family. “We are proud to have worked together to build a sustainable, successful dairy farm for the next generation of our family.”