Wheat fieldThird-generation dairy farmer Harvey Hoff knows a thing or two about the importance of farm-to-farm relationships. He and his wife, Janal, own about 250 cows and milk 110 on their farm in Richardton. Hoff grows barley and oats for feed on the couple’s 1,000 acres of land, but when it’s time to buy straw for bedding, he looks no further than his neighbors.

Good Neighbors

“I purchase a lot of my straw for bedding from a neighboring wheat farmer,” Hoff says. “We’re purchasing about 400 big round bales a year for bedding purposes. We’ve got a good agreement.”

This interdependent relationship between animal and grain producers has become the lifeblood of agricultural vitality. Farm-to-farm trade provides an additional revenue source, cuts costs, ensures quality and promotes environmental sustainability.

“Another advantage is availability. I don’t have a lot of storage, so I’m able to work one on one with them and go get the straw when I need it. It’s pretty hard to do that with somebody a couple hundred miles away,” Hoff says.

ND ag commodities [INFOGRAPHIC]Wheat producers have also benefited from the relationship with animal producers. Wheat bran is often integrated into the dairy cattle diet, and wheat straw is a preferred bedding material for livestock.

“One of the advantages of wheat over some of the other (grain) crops is that its straw is very good for bedding of any livestock,” says Jim Peterson, marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission. “Its absorption nature, ease of use, per-pound cost and the fact that it’s biodegradable make it a favorable choice.”

As for some wheat producers, Peterson says straw can become a residue burden, especially during strong production years, so having an outlet for excessive straw is beneficial, as well as financially profitable.

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“It’s a profit center for some producers, especially on a low-price year for the grain itself. It can certainly add to the net dollar returns per acre,” he says. “From a transportation cost, since straw is not as dense as other bedding options, staying local is certainly the route to go.”

DAIRY COWSProfitable Partnerships

Animal agriculture serves as an alternate source of revenue for producers growing other crops, especially soybeans.

“It’s important for the state’s soybean producers to have dairy farmers as a customer for meal component of the soybean,” Tyler Speich, chairman of the North Dakota Soybean Council, says.

Soybean meal is left after the oil extraction process and is an abundant source of protein. Producers also rely on the dairy industry as an outlet for many of their other nutrient-dense byproducts.

Terry Entzminger, owner and partner of Entzminger Dairy, located southwest of Jamestown, raises about 850 dairy cows and 800 replacement heifers. The Entzmingers grow all of their own forages and grains for the dairy under their cropping enterprise, but since animal agriculture has transitioned into co-product based diets, byproducts make up a large percentage in his cattle’s diet.

“On our farm we feed several North Dakota byproducts including potato waste from the Jamestown Cavendish plant, dried distillers from Dakota Spirit AgEnergy in Spiritwood, canola meal from ADM in Enderlin as well as sunflower screenings from multiple sources,” Entzminger says. “Animal agriculture plays an important role in and relies heavily on the cropping industry for our needs, and the grain industry also benefits greatly from having us as a major customer. Not only are we utilizing the cropping industry’s product, we also add to their bottom line through local demand and utilization.”

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