CALDWELL — After entering the milking barn and walking down a wet, concrete hallway of Beranna Dairy, the black and white cows appear. Secured in a stall, they’re rotating on a carousel. One worker attaches tubes to the udders to collect the milk. The tubes detach automatically when the milk flow ceases.

Over the years, Bernie Teunissen has seen his family-owned and operated dairy in Caldwell make technological upgrades with more-efficient equipment, such as the cow carousel, and he has seen the dairy industry compete with the construction industry to hire workers.

Despite industry changes, what has remained consistent for Beranna Dairy is the Teunissen family, which has operated dairies for three generations.

The Teunissen family is Canyon County’s Farm Family of the Year, a recognition that means the Teunissen family will be the face of agriculture in Canyon County for the year.

The family was presented the honor Tuesday at the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The selection was made by the chamber’s Agribusiness Committee.

MODERNIZING TRADITIONAL DAIRY IMAGE

Bernie Teunissen describes the traditional image of the dairy industry as “a bottle of milk at the grocery store.” Of course, it’s more than that, especially with cheese.

Most Idaho dairy farmers sell to Sorrento Lactalis in Nampa, including the Teunissens.

One of the modern elements of Beranna Dairy is the carousel milking parlor. At one time, 75 cows are on the carousel being milked.

While on the carousel, the cow is first secured in its stall. Then one worker cleans the teats with an iodine pre-dip to kill bacteria. Another worker wipes off the iodine, then squeezes an udder to test the milk, checking to make sure it looks and smells healthy. Then a different worker attaches tubes to the udders to receive the flowing milk. Finally, a worker at the end of the rotation cleans and seals the udders with an iodine post-dip which bars infection.

The innovation, Teunissen said, is that the cow is brought to the employee rather than the employee going to the cow. The former is more efficient.

Derek Teunissen, one of Bernie and Anna Teunissen’s sons, is the unofficial “tech guy,” Bernie Teunissen said. Derek Teunissen is up-to-date on how computers track the dairy’s operations.

“Automated tools track and monitor at a level of control otherwise impossible,” Derek Teunissen said.

One area monitored to a ‘T,’ as Bernie Teunissen described it, is the cow’s food intake and feed. The feed is composed of corn silage, cottonwood seed, grain and hay, which are blended together from crops farmed on the family’s acreage across from the dairy.

Neighbors farm that land for the Teunissens by planting, irrigating and harvesting the crops.

“They’ve been very gracious helping us,” Bernie Teunissen said.

FARM FAMILY VALUES

Bernie Teunissen is a third-generation descendant of dairy-farming Dutch immigrants, according to the family’s prepared biography by United Dairymen of Idaho.

The Teunissens settled in Chino, California around 1960.

Bernie Teunissen and his wife, Anna, met through the dairy industry and were married in 1983. Bernie, Anna and their three children came to Idaho in June 2000 from Chino when urban sprawl there encroached on agricultural land. The Teunissens built their farm in rural Caldwell on former sugar beet farm land.

Bernie Teunissen came up with the name Beranna Dairy, combining his and his wife’s names.

When Bernie Teunissen mentioned the name might be awkward when his sons, Derek and B.J. take over, Derek quickly said he hopes to preserve the name when he and his brother continue operating the dairy.

Derek and B.J. Teunissen have taken over the day-to-day management of the dairy.

Derek and B.J. Teunissen will become the fourth generation of Teunissens to operate a dairy. Preserving that heritage of family farming has been important to each generation.

“All farmers value that,” Bernie Teunissen said. “It’s part of their inner being. They feel a little burden from past generations to continue it.”

When asked if he feels that pressure, Derek Teunissen, 27, smiled and said he feels a little of that, but he also sees it as an opportunity.

“I see it as an opportunity to continue this family’s legacy,” Derek Teunissen said. “And I hope to pass it on to my children.”

Alx George is the IPT education reporter. Contact her at 465-8178 or ageorge@idahopress.com. Follow @missalxgeorge.

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