Dean Strauss examines a corn field at Majestic Crossing Dairy near Shebyogan Falls, Wis. The dairy farms 3,600 acres of corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans using a real-time kinematics global positioning system that helps save fuel, fertilizer, pesticide and seed by identifying efficiencies in seed distribution.
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Dean Strauss examines a corn field at Majestic Crossing Dairy near Shebyogan Falls, Wis. The dairy farms 3,600 acres of corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans using a real-time kinematics global positioning system that helps save fuel, fertilizer, pesticide and seed by identifying efficiencies in seed distribution. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    SHEBOYGAN FALLS, Wis. – Rather than following the crowd, Dean Strauss, co-owner of Majestic Crossing Dairy, has found success in doing things a little differently. When it comes to finding ways to be more sustainable, this dairy farmer is never afraid to ask, “what if?”
    “What if we tried something else or considered something new that’s out there are questions I’m always asking,” Strauss said. “We’re constantly looking for ways to save energy and labor and be more efficient with our time.”



    This type of mentality is what helped Majestic Crossing Dairy win a 2019 U.S. Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, alongside Cinnamon Ridge Farms of Donahue, Iowa, and Philip Verwey Farms of Hanford, Calif., during a ceremony May 8 in Rosemont, Illinois.
    The 2,000-cow Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., is home to a colorful mix of crossbreeds that the Strausses began breeding 15 years ago. Derived from three breeds – Holstein, Viking Red and French Montbeliarde – the ProCross animal is moderate in size, and therefore, eats less and creates less manure. When it comes to milk production, the farm sacrifices a bit of volume for better components to create higher-value milk. Producing milk that contains 4.1 percent butterfat and 3.4 percent protein, the unique breed is earning the dairy more money per hundredweight.
    “We’re producing a high-quality product that meets the demands of the consumer and the cheese producer,” Strauss said.  “Cheese is the main driver of Wisconsin’s milk market, and we specifically breed cows for this purpose. Our milk is ideal for making cheese.”
    Although they produce less milk than a Holstein, ProCross cows are recognized for greater feed efficiency.
    “The ProCross breed has a 50-cent advantage in dairy income over feed cost compared to Holsteins,” Strauss said. “We don’t need to add a lot of extra energy to the ration, which also keeps costs down.”



    Majestic Crossing Dairy is a culmination of four families (Strauss, Radloff, Wedepohl and Herzog) and two farms that became one entity in 2010. Strauss, a sixth-generation farmer, farms with his father, Ed, his brother, Darin, and his brother-in-law, Rick Knoflicek.  
    In 2017, they installed a robotic milking system at one site, and the 13 Lely robots have proved to be a sustainable milking option, saving approximately 40% in labor hours and 30% in water usage.  Milk production is up 3 pounds per cow since switching to robots, and the farm has also seen a positive change in cow health and an improvement in reproduction.
    “You have to ask yourself, who is going to milk my cows and at what cost?” Strauss said. “The answer is constantly moving and that’s a major dilemma, but robots solve that problem.  If nobody shows up, we know the cows are still going to get milked.”
    The farm’s milk is shipped to Sartori, which is just a seven-mile trip that results in optimal fuel efficiency. The dairy also produces a higher nutrient concentration manure product with less water that saves $30,000-$40,000 in manure hauling costs.  
    Majestic Crossing farms 3,600 acres of corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans using a real-time kinematics (RTK) global positioning system that helps save fuel, fertilizer, pesticide and seed. Acting as a beacon on tractors and other equipment, the guidance systems helps Strauss identify efficiencies in seed distribution, streamlines loading and improves time management. Using features like row shutoff and variable rate seeding, the technology makes it possible to get within one inch of accuracy when planting.
    “Saving 10 bags of seed at $250 per bag adds up to a couple thousand dollars,” Strauss said. “And when you save 10 minutes here and there, you can get another 30 acres planted.”
    Strauss looks for the opportunity to save every chance he gets. And not just the big bucks, but the dimes, nickels and pennies, too.
    “You have to look for that extra nickel,” Strauss said. “That’s what makes the difference. For the most part, the big things have already been done. Instead, ask where you can save on smaller stuff.”
    All of Majestic Crossing’s heifer and bull calves are raised in Kansas, and heifers come back to the farm about six to eight weeks before calving. Raising their youngstock in Kansas versus at home has helped the farm save substantial money. Furthermore, Strauss said the crossbreeds finish faster, making steer-raising more efficient.
    Strauss has learned from many people along the way how to do more with less, including farmers in California who became his mentors and friends.
    “There are a lot of great farms of all sizes all over the country,” Strauss said. “And we can learn from each other. We’re getting beaten down as an industry in terms of economics, weather, animal welfare, etc. We need to take advantage of any opportunity we have to do something smarter and more efficiently.”
    To become more sustainable, a farm could start with something as simple as changing lighting fixtures, said Strauss, who has installed energy-efficient long-day lighting in his facilities.
    “Decide you want to do something and stick with it,” Strauss said. “When we first started with the ProCross, people told us crossbreeding cows like that wouldn’t work, but they were wrong. I’m glad we had the gumption to ride it out. You might already be doing some things that are sustainable and not even know it. Also, don’t be afraid to put your own twist on another person’s idea.”  
    Strauss’ well-rounded approach to sustainability ensures all practices and technologies implemented at Majestic Crossing Dairy are socially acceptable, environmentally friendly and economically smart. Strauss shoots for a 20 percent return on every dollar, although that has been more of a challenge recently. Wholly committed to running a sustainable farm, Strauss is devoted to using precious resources wisely and employing innovative practices that do right by his animals and his land. Executing bold ideas and technologies that are gentle on the environment yet kind to his bottom line has helped Strauss find success in places where others might not have thought to look.