Forage expert demonstrates “working with you” motto
On what seems like one of the only warm mornings in May, All American Co-op Forage and Goat specialist Callie Courtney pulled up to the Daley’s dairy in Pine Island and unloaded an armful of baked goods from her booth at the Plainview Farmers Market from the night before.
Dairyman Fabian Daley met us and immediately the conversation turned to first crop. Because of a particularly volatile spring, farmers such as the Daleys were forced to consider decisions outside of their business plan.
When the conversation took place, wheat fields in Kansas were underwater, Wisconsin was scrambling to make up for winter kill, and Illinois, not unlike many other Midwestern states, had barely scratched the surface of their first crop forages—a chore that is normally finished at this point in the season. And Minnesota? Minnesota was drying out from a Memorial Day storm that ensured another soggy spring delay.
“Can you imagine the mold and the toxin loads on those plants by the time some of the water drains down?” Courtney asked. Courtney, who earned her education from Iowa State University, is the feed team’s specialist in forages at All American Co-op.
The agronomy side of the farming industry isn’t the only facet that was effected by the spring weather. As dairymen and beef producers started to run out of feed this spring, they were forced to rely on forage rations earlier than anticipated, resulting in an overall shortage in availability. Beyond cutting into the stored forage they already had, they were also forced to be patient while waiting to harvest a dry first crop.
“There are parts of our hay fields that looked better ten days ago than they do now,” Daley said. “I stopped recording [the rainfall] after about eight
inches in the last 16 days.”
The Daley dairy operation is one of the larger herds that All American works with, however when Courtney walked in, baked goods in tow, she seemed to know each employee by name. Fabian Daley pointed to an aerial photo hanging on the wall of a humble lunch room and began to explain the history of their dairy— building by building and year by year.
Although they never milked where they lived, Tom, Paul, Doug, and Fabian Daley grew up farming at two different family dairy facilities near Byron. The Daley’s father moved to Byron in the early 1960s and eventually bought two facilities with established milking systems in place. In total, the two operations
milked about 300 cows.
The mid-to-late 1990s brought about changes in the dairy industry as well as the Daley dairy enterprise. “It was to the point where we either needed to expand
and work together—form a partnership—or, all go our separate ways. So in 1997, that is when this facility was built.”
After months of deliberation, the four brothers formed a Limited Liability Partnership and the current, consolidated dairy facility was built on bare Pine Island farm ground.
When the initial operation was built, the brothers started with one barn, a milking parlor, a hay shed, and a hospital barn. They used these facilities to milk 500 cows. In 2001, a preexisting business plan put an expansion to the Daley dairy into motion. The family added a second barn, a calf shed, commodity and feed storage, and the other half of the existing hospital barn. The 2001 expansion built the capacity of the dairy to 1,000 animals,
which is where it stands today.
The physical structure of the dairy isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years—personnel has also changed. Tom Daley, the oldest of the Daley brothers, retired and sold his share of the dairy to his family. The dairy currently employs nearly 20 people. Office Manager and Calf Specialist Carrie Sauter and Agronomy and Maintenance Manager Brian Pyfferoen have become invaluable additions to the farm from outside of the Daley family. When asked about plans for another expansion in the future, Daley replied, “As of right now— no. We are status quo on quality and what we are currently doing.”
The Daley dairy operation has utilized All American Co-op agronomy and feed services with the goal in mind of growing, storing, and feeding quality forage. He said their business has also prioritized bunker management through forage experts like Courtney.
“Keeping the feed stable and preserved to minimize losses is the goal,” Courtney said. Daley has utilized different types of inoculant through All American Co-op to preserve
“[All American Co-op] will come out and check densities, sample for yeasts, molds, and toxins, and try to keep on top of that a few times a year,” Courtney said. “We also take TMR samples to see what the cows are eating and try to correlate that back to overall cow health and production.”
When the Daleys first started the facility, they went from upright storage silos to flat storage. “I have learned a lot over the years about how to properly store feed. We didn’t really know what we were doing—a lot of what we learned was self-taught, but we have had to have a lot of help from outside people too. You have to utilize that knowledge because [these specialists] see so many dairies,” Daley said.
Courtney, who sees hundreds of dairies a year, has a perspective outside of each farm’s daily grind. Each dairy she sees is a different size, with diverse strategies, individual habits and backgrounds, and varying goals.
The dairy works with All American Coop on the forage side of the business, but has also been supported through other All American Co-op feed experts for the past decade. Daley said the initial relationship between his farm and All American Co-op started when they decided they needed to enhance their heifer rearing program and get the calves growing faster. Since then, the Daleys have utilized services through the cooperative such as pelleting and feed concentrates. The Daleys also work with the All American agronomists
to develop cost-efficient, self-maintained, sustainable forage plans.
“We are not a [farm] that utilizes all of the All American’s services, but you guys still treat us like one of your customers that have all of your business,” Daley said. “We don’t give you a whole lot of business, but you are still out here, willing to help out. [All American Co-op] is here to answer any questions, take feed samples or forage analysis any time we need them. They are very strong on customer service base and what the customer is asking.”
As part of her annual first crop routine, Courtney joined the Daleys the Saturday after speaking with them on farm in order to bring lunch to the workers and provide assistance while harvesting and chopping first crop.
“You want your customers to feel appreciated and you also want them to be informed,” Courtney said. “You have to have a balance there.”