Chris Groon
Arlington, South Dakota
Brookings County
60 cows
How did you get into farming? My father had milked cows on this farm for many years. He quit milking in 1993 and began custom feeding dairy calves. About five years ago, I decided to get away from the custom feeding business and restart Dad’s dairy operation. I put in a different double-4 milking parlor and added automatic takeoffs.
What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? I am worried that we will go back to another oversupply situation. This would cause milk prices to plummet again.
What is the latest technology you have implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? I recently installed a set of stir fans in the freestall barn. The fans help keep the cows comfortable during our hot and humid summertime days.
What is a management practice you have changed in the past year that has benefitted you? I have gone to more grazing. Grazing helps me save money on feed costs, and my cows are much healthier. About one-third of my herd are Milking Shorthorns. I have found they are a very hardy and vigorous breed that seems to be especially well-suited for grazing. My Milking Shorthorns breed back easily and some of them give almost as much milk as a Holstein.
What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? I have culled my herd more aggressively. This has saved on feed costs and has given me an additional source of income.
How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? I don’t have any employees. My wife, Angie, helps out with chores, and we have a pretty good relationship.
Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I have a solid set of carpentry skills, so I can do a lot of my own building repairs. This included fixing up my dairy barn after it hadn’t been used for milking since 1993. Dad was a carpenter, so I learned a lot from him. Dad built our house by himself, and I built our new machine shed.
What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I enjoy being my own boss and having peace and quiet. There’s nothing more pleasant than bringing the cows in from the pasture on a warm summer morning.
What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Keep your interest costs low by keeping your borrowing down.
What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your dairy farm? My skidloader. I use it for everything. I can get by if my pay loader breaks down, but I would be totally lost without my skidloader.
What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? Getting the dairy restarted after it had sat unused for more than 20 years.
What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and the next five years? I am going to switch more of my operation over to a system of rotational grazing. Other than that, I plan to try to cut down on feed costs while maintaining good milk production levels.
How do you and your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? Angie and I like to drive to the lake, hang out and simply sit there and enjoy the scenery.