September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Iowa farmers donate hay to Texas dairy producer

By by Ruth Klossner- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

When farmers in one part of the country are hurting, those in other areas feel the pain.
A group of Iowa farmers-familiar with the continued drought in Texas-not only felt that pain, but found a way to help.
Dairy farmer Mark Kruse of Lansing, Iowa and fellow organic farmers Gary Welsh and Andy Leppert of Lansing and Merlin Gesing of Waukon combined resources to donate more than 18 tons of organic hay to a fellow organic farmer more than 900 miles away in hard-hit Texas.
That hay left Iowa January 7, bound for northeastern Texas.
As members of the board of Organic Valley Cooperative, Kruse and Welsh were well aware of the problems facing their counterparts in Texas.
"From meetings at our office, I knew that the farmers in Texas have had a tough go the last three or four years," Kruse explained. "Then, this year, they had all that hot and dry weather. Their pastures burned up and they were using up their hay."
It was Welsh who got the ball-or should I say, bale-rolling.
After hearing that other Iowa farmers had sent hay south, Welsh asked some of his neighbors in northeastern Iowa if they would help.
"When Gary called, I said 'yes' right away," Kruse stated.
It didn't take long to get commitments for a semi-load of hay, but figuring out the logistics took longer-how to transport the hay south, and who to give it to.
The men turned to their cooperative for help. Organic Valley's CROPP (Cooperative Region of Organic Producer Pools) organic feed program matched the donation with co-op producers Kent and Ramy Jisha of Yantis, Texas.
The Jishas have been dairying in Hopkins County, an hour east of Dallas, for 15 years. The area is good for growing grass, but doesn't have great soil for crops. Even in normal years, summer's intense heat and humidity is hard on the cows so the Jishas calve their 80 Jersey and Jersey-cross cows seasonally. They breed so the cows calve in the fall and winter.
During those normal years, the Jishas run their cattle on pasture until about November, then feed the hay they've grown and baled.
Grazing pastures consist primarily of perennial Bermuda grass and annual Sudan grass, both staples in the southern states. Even though Bermuda grass sends roots eight feet deep to counteract drought, pastures dried out this past summer, falling far short of the November target date. To make matters worse, the Jishas weren't able to grow their own hay this year. The fact that there are only a handful of organic dairies in the whole state further compounded the problem.
Word that 42 round bales of hay would arrive on Jishas' Bar J Farms was welcome news to Kent and Ramy. They're grateful for the help and hope someday to return a favor to others in need.
While it may be a long trek from Texas to Iowa, Kent Jisha has experienced life in the Midwest. A veterinarian before he began dairy farming, Jisha spent a few years in veterinary practice in Wisconsin in the late 1980s.
He explained on Organic Valley's "Who's Your Farmer" web page, "I went to Wisconsin to get cow experience. Here [in Texas] you look more at groups of cows rather than individual cows. In Wisconsin, every cow has a name, and if one cow in a guy's herd didn't eat right that morning, the farmer knew it."
Ramy is also a veterinarian and operates a small animal practice in nearby Sulphur Springs, where Kent grew up on his family's farm.
The couple has two young sons who enjoy helping out by checking on the dry cows, monitoring the pastures, and moving cows from field to field.
Iowa producer Kruse is happy to be able to help fellow dairy farmers, even if they're many miles away.
"It felt good to help out," he said. "Our hay crop here was okay this year, but not tremendous. The growing season was wet early on, then it got dry, just like in southern Minnesota."
Kruse's operation has been organic since 1987, and has been certified so since 1994. He has 350 tillable acres with 150 acres of pasture right along the Mississippi River. He milks about 75 Holsteins but has started to crossbreed with Ayrshires as he feels red and whites graze better.
[[In-content Ad]]


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.