Good neighbors

Looking to sell corn silage? Want to save some money on fertilizer? Want to boost your soil health?

Need a calf to put on a cow who lost hers?

Need some colostrum at midnight?

Want to be sure you have a market for hay?

Looking for someone to buy hail- or frost-damaged corn?

Key Points

A dairy farm makes a significant impact on the state economy.

Each cow generates about $14,000 of economic activity.

Milk cows in South Dakota use about 100,000 acres of corn.

The solution to all these problems around Lake Norden, S.D., is the same — go see Drumgoon Dairy.You’ll find that Rodney Elliott — who operates Drumgoon Dairy at Lake Norden with his wife, Dorothy — is always trying to make a “win-win deal” with his neighbors.“We try to be good neighbors,” says Rodney. “We try to help when we can.”

It’s a smart strategy. Like many of the dairy producers in South Dakota and North Dakota, the Elliotts need their neighbors. They buy most of the feed for their 1,800-cow dairy from neighbors.

They spread manure from the cows on neighbors’ land. They have more than 10,000 acres under contract and fertilize about 2,000 acres each year.

The Elliotts also hire neighbors to fill some of the 30 to 35 full- and part-time positions they have on the dairy. They rent and buy neighbors’ pastures and feedlots for their dry cows and heifers.

The Elliotts recently bought land next to their dairy for “security” from urban sprawl, Rodney says. But they hire neighbors to custom-farm it.

Whenever there’s a hailstorm or early frost, the Elliotts try to make sure to buy some of the crop — if it will work in their rations.

“If there’s a way we can make it work, we will do it,” Rodney says.“I believe we can always find the win-win,” he says. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

Big picture

South Dakota State University recently calculated that the nearly 95,000 dairy cows in the state consumed more than 73,000 acres of corn harvested for grain and nearly 26,000 acres of corn for silage in 2010.

The manufacture of butter, cheese, ice cream, dried dairy products and fluid milk bottling together pumped another $769 million into South Dakota’s economy.

On and off the farm, dairy employs about 1,800 people in the state.

Each dairy cow in South Dakota has a $14,000 direct and indirect impact on the economy and generates $125 in state and local tax revenue. Each additional 50 cows will support 1.44 additional jobs.


Win-Win: Rodney and Dorothy Elliott, who operate an 1,800-cow dairy, look for “win-win” situations with their neighbors.

This article published in the June, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.