For dairies that need more feed than their land can provide, relationships with local crop growers are paramount. That is certainly the case for Silverstreak Dairy, with four farm sites in Minnesota and South Dakota. Matt Kaschmitter, a managing partner for the dairy, shared his experience in building connections between livestock producers and crop farmers at the Midwest Forage Association’s virtual annual symposium.
“On our operation, and on a lot of operations that work with livestock, there is a short amount of time to deal with a lot of crop work, because on a lot of these sites, it takes a lot of production to make this thing work,” he said.
The necessary investment in time and equipment it would take to grow enough feed for their dairies is what led Kaschmitter to pursue a lot of contract grown feeds agreements instead. Still, it takes time to find the right partners and build those relationships with growers that can best provide for the dairy.
“When I look for relationships with crop farmers, I ask, ‘How can they help us get to the goal we want? What can they do that we can’t do?’” he explained. “I also put a lot of time and effort into looking at what’s in it for them, and how can I make this appealing for them.”
He noted that growing crops to be sold for grain versus growing feed for a dairy requires a different mentality from the cropping side. “Growing a forage for somebody is a little different thought process; the focus is quite a bit different. We are talking whole plant health versus just a hellacious ear of corn,” he said.
He also places value on long-term relationships. “I’ve been placing more value on working out longer term agreements, and establishing that base with growers,” he shared. Working with growers in multiple states, he feels this longevity is a benefit on both the dairy and cropping side.
Kaschmitter highlighted the importance of clear communication throughout the whole relationship. He encouraged having multiple conversations throughout the growing season to discuss what is going well and what is not. He also noted the value of bringing in agronomists or seed company representatives to when another opinion is needed.
He emphasized the important role crop growers play on their dairy. “Our business cannot survive without people like you [crop farmers] around us. Time is too short, the equipment isn’t there, and it isn’t feasible for us to do all of this,” he said.
“We are good at what we do, and you’re good at what you do. That’s part of what has made us very successful, utilizing other people’s talents to accomplish one goal to provide good quality feed to the dairy so the cows can do what they need to do,” he added.