National Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) honored Edward “Ed” Vink, Hanford, Calif., with the Joachim-Wilson Leadership Award. A lifelong dairy industry advocate, Vink’s career started in the 1950s when he farmed in partnership with his father in Kings County, Calif.
As a dairy farmer, Vink was impressed with milk recording work and admired his family farm’s DHI milk tester. Thus, Vink easily transitioned into his new career as a Kings County DHI milk tester in 1960.
Like most aspects of the U.S. dairy industry, DHI milk testing has made significant strides in quality and efficiency over the past half century. For example, in 1960, Kings County DHIA tested 25,000 cows per month, using the Babcock (butterfat) test on fresh milk samples. Vink, with his late wife’s (Janet) assistance, ran tests in the laboratory, which was housed in their garage. Janet also did the DHI bookkeeping.
Today, Kings County DHIA tests 170,000 cows per month – with results way beyond milk yield and butterfat content. Plus, data recording went from hand-written test sheets to handheld devices with data recorded on farms.
Despite all these changes, Kings County DHIA retains the company name it was given in 1917. (When founded, Kings County DHIA was part of Kings County Farm Bureau.) Plus, samples continue to be delivered directly to the laboratory; they’re never shipped.
Vink’s responsibilities evolved as DHI testing evolved. In his second DHI role, he served as laboratory manager. Later, he became general manager. If needed, Vink filled in as a milk tester. “I always kept rubber boots in the closet, just in case I was needed on farm,” he said. “I’m not above going out and doing on-farm testing.” If called out too often, Vink realized it was time to add another employee to the milk testing team.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with good employees my whole career,” said Vink.” To be successful, it’s important for employees to get along and work as a team.”
Vink added, “I always enjoyed working with dairymen and cows, and tracking cattle records and genetics. It was a job, but I enjoyed doing it; so, it didn’t seem like a job.” Today, Vink continues to work part time for Kings County DHI and is training his predecessor.
Away from work, Vink enjoys hunting pheasant, crow and quail, backpacking and trout fishing. He has three sons. Sean works at Cal Poly doing dairy research. Eric works for the Delta Protection Commission in the Sacramento area. His late son Alan worked for Foster Farms in food processing.
National Dairy Herd Information Association, a trade association for the dairy records industry, serves the best interests of its members and the dairy industry by maintaining the integrity of dairy records and advancing dairy information systems.