Aaron Radermacher (left) visits with his parents, Audrey and Greg, in their freestall barn Oct. 4 near Brooten, Minnesota. The Radermachers milk 200 cows.
Aaron Radermacher (left) visits with his parents, Audrey and Greg, in their freestall barn Oct. 4 near Brooten, Minnesota. The Radermachers milk 200 cows. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
BROOTEN, Minn. – Knowing where to start can be the hardest part about doing something new. For Aaron and Jessica Radermacher, letting Minnesota Dairy Initiative take the lead on navigating their farm transition process was the move they needed to get the ball rolling.
“It’s been a great help,” Aaron said of working with MDI. “Instead of everything being on our shoulders to try and figure out how everything is going to work or where to start, it takes a lot of stress off us to have someone there who can schedule meetings and get the right people to help us out.”
Aaron and Jessica farm with Aaron’s parents, Greg and Audrey Radermacher. They milk 200 cows on their farm, Radermacher Dairy, LLC, near Brooten. They have been using MDI to set up the successful transition of the farm years down the road.
“This is a 30-year transition process for us,” Aaron said. “It’s not necessarily about a specific date, but about having Mom and Dad be able take on different responsibilities so they don’t have to worry about the everyday tasks. They will still be involved, but slowly backing out of it.”
Greg and Audrey started farming in 1977. When Aaron returned to the farm in 2001, they started looking at improvement plans for their dairy to be able to sustain more than one family. In 2011, they expanded their herd to 150 milk cows by putting up a new freestall barn and parlor, but it wasn’t until the end of 2019 when the Radermachers sat down with MDI to get the farm transition process going and look at what changes they could make now to improve the efficiencies of their dairy.
They worked with MDI Team Coordinator Kristen Salzl, who helped connect the Radermachers with the people who could make their goals a reality. Those people make up the team the Radermachers meet with routinely to discuss possibilities, research items and lay out plans.
“Really, (Salzl) is the one who puts everything in motion. She does the contacting and sets meetings up,” Aaron said. “At first, (Salzl) touched base with us every week in the beginning. Then we were meeting with our team about once a month to get the ball rolling.”
“They are just so great with the communication piece,” Jessica said of MDI. “It’s such a relief knowing we don’t have to be the ones constantly reaching out and figuring out what to do next.”
MDI started by researching someone who specialized in farm transition consulting and planning. They ended up connecting the Radermachers with Ascent Financial in Mankato, and they fit perfectly into what the Radermachers needed.
A Farm Business Management instructor has also been a key player on the Radermachers’ MDI team, as well as their nutritionist, veterinarian and agronomist. Each person offers specific perspectives and talents related to their fields that help the Radermachers in implementing changes that can help their dairy.
More recently, the Radermachers had University of Minnesota Extension educator Jim Salfer assist with improving various farm efficiencies.
“We are at that 200-cow herd and we are not being as efficient as we can be with our labor,” Aaron said. “That’s when (Salzl) brought in Jim Salfer to help break some of our records down and figure out where we can be more efficient to generate more cash.”
To become a more efficient operation, the Radermachers and their team discussed the opportunities if the herd was a different breed.
“We have been wrestling with the idea for several years about switching over to all Jerseys,” Aaron said. “So, we had a meeting with Jim, (Salzl) and our nutritionist to see what was going to be more profitable. And for us, it is going to be transitioning to Jerseys.”
Among all the changes and goal setting, family remains an important piece of the Radermachers’ current and future plans. Aaron’s brother and nephew are full-time employees, and Aaron and Jessica’s children, Faith, 15, Aiden, 13, Lilly, 11, Austin, 8, Maria, 5, and Asher, 2, assist with farm chores and activities. All of the goals they set when working with MDI are to help create a family farm that will be successful now and years down the road.
“I’m excited to keep working with MDI,” Aaron said. “They can really help family farms so much.”