The ag side of dairy

Land O’Lakes’ members finding new ways to engage with co-op

Farmer Holding Feed

Greg Tauchen has been a Land O’Lakes, Inc. dairy member since the mid-1980s. So long, in fact, he has trouble remembering the exact year he joined. The owner of a 1,000-cow operation in Bonduel, Wisconsin, he has been actively engaged with Land O’Lakes, and currently sits on the board of directors. For a time, Greg’s engagement was exclusively on the dairy side of the business but more recently he’s found one more way to engage with the co-op—through his 2,400 acres of cropland and Winfield US products.

This new partnership allowed Greg to attend his first-ever Executive Grower National Answer Plot® Event held in July in West Salem, Wisconsin. The event offers growers a chance to learn more about management practices, Winfield US products and technology, and an opportunity to network and mingle. While these events have historically been focused on large-scale row crop customers and members on the ag side of the business, dairy members like Greg are becoming increasingly common attendees.

Relationships fuel brands

The first night of the event is an opportunity for farmers to learn more about WinField products and understand how they could work on their farms. The next day, attendees visit the Answer Plot®.

“I liked talking with some of the agronomists and picking their brains,” Greg says. “I was interested in some of the new growth proponents, Ascend® growth regulator and InterLock® adjuvant.”

Greg qualified for an invitation for the event because of the amount of CROPLAN® corn seed, fungicide and other products he purchased over the last year. But shifting to WinField products wasn’t an overnight decision for his operation. He says relationships can lead to farmers sticking with a brand.

“There’s business relationships, personalities and people involved,” he says. “You make personal relationships with people, and it can be hard.”

And, he says, part of any significant change in suppliers is seeing how they work on the farm.

“Knowing most dairy farmers, the first step is they have to feel comfortable with the salesman they’re dealing with on the farm. They have to build a trust with that person. Then you try some products, and, if you have some success, you buy some more,” he says.

Since gradually making the move to WinField over several years, he says, he has seen the results he was hoping for.

“We’ve had success. On average, WinField might be a little higher priced than other things. But it balances out. At the end of the day it works, and you learn to trust it more,” he says.

Building trust, building success

Tom Landwehr of the United Dairies Group in central and southern Minnesota is another Land O’Lakes dairy member that made the trip to the Answer Plot® event His invitation was the result of United Dairies’ participation in Forage Genetics’ new HarvXtra alfalfa pilot program.

Tom says he enjoyed seeing the full range of WinField products and tools in action at the Answer Plot®, including the R7® Tool field imaging tool.

“I never realized that WinField has as many things as they do,” he says.

Smarter decisions

Ultimately, the success of his change to WinField will be determined in the milking parlor. His 6,000-cow, four-farm dairy partnership is involved in a feeding trial with the alfalfa. This heavily researched alfalfa contains a trait derived from biotechnology that creates a better quality alfalfa.

“We’re going to see if the higher quality alfalfa helps our milk production,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Kevin Eye, vice president, agronomy and product development, with WinField says the Answer Plot® event, which drew almost 2,000 attendees from 32 states, shows dairy members how they can improve their milk production by selecting the best products for their operation.

“The difference between a black number and a red number at the end of the day is making smarter decisions,” he says. “The new seed products we have in the marketplace can really make the difference of having a profitable operation or not.”

Greg says that the Answer Plot® event has shown him new opportunities Land O’Lakes offers its dairy members beyond marketing milk.

“The whole goal is to pick up a few ideas on what you want to improve on your operation. It’s good to see that first-hand,” he says. “You always are trying to move forward and get better at your profession. Do I use every recommendation from WinField? No. But I try to use the ones that best fit our operation. And we’re having pretty good luck.”