Farmer Focus

Dallmann East River Dairy

Brillion, WI

Dallmann East River Dairy sits on the border of Calumet and Manitowoc counties in Brillion, WI. Nick Dallmann, his sister Lindsay Hansen, and their parents Dan and Shirley are all involved on the farm. Nick’s grandparents started the farm in 1964 with 80 acres of land and 15 cows. The Dallmanns now farm about 3,300 acres of cropland and have nearly 5,000 animals on site, milking 2,700 cows every day.

The dairy’s commitment to sustainability has grown over time. “Sustainability is one of those things that you can see coming down the pipeline—you can see certain environmental things, like erosion, starting to happen and you can predict some of the new regulations,” Nick Dallmann said. “We’ve found that just doing our part to be good stewards helps us stay ahead of all that.”

Staying ahead and scaling up

Over the years, the Dallmanns have added more cover crops and adopted no-till practices. In 2012, they took a “big step” and installed a digester on the dairy and have made pipeline-grade renewable natural gas since 2020. But one of the biggest changes came in 2016 when Nick reimagined the way they collect bunker runoff.

“We were collecting our bunker runoff water and had several wet periods in a row, and a lot of farmers struggle with that, and we finally said, ‘Why should we be collecting all this water and putting it with our manure and creating this big headache for us?’ So, we decided to put in a whole separate pit.”

“It’s better for our bottom line and also better for the environment, and there are so many practices that can do both those things.”

Rather than diluting their manure and creating more manure volume, the dairy collects 100 percent of the bunker leachate, or liquid from the silage bunker, and any additional runoff in its own holding area. The dairy installed two center pivots that draw from the holding area for irrigation in dry periods. “I know that’s one of the things people have taken notice of and like about what we’re doing here,” Nick Dallmann said. “And the steps we took to address that challenge have actually created a cost savings for us.”  The farm is also adding a Rain 360 unit this year to apply manure and runoff water to corn in season while it is growing.

Dallmann has seen firsthand how adopting the sustainability practices on his farm can ultimately help create efficiencies and cost savings. The bunker runoff collection is just one example of many. “With our cover crops, becoming 100 percent no-till for corn has had similar results,” he said “We’re making fewer passes across the fields and saving diesel fuel. It’s better for our bottom line and also better for the environment, and there are so many practices that can do both those things.”

Benefits for both now and the future

Sustainability practices are often touted as protection or insurance for the future, but there are also short-term benefits to more sustainable operations. “Our crop practices have dramatically improved our soil structure, so it holds more moisture in the ground during dry periods and we see less erosion in wet periods. We’re able to get more out of the fields, which gives us a much greater supply of heifer feed.”

And, of course, the long-term impacts of sustainable farming practices is a legacy worth leaving behind. Nick Dallmann says that setting the farm up so that his kids could be successful down the road – should they choose to — is still a driving force in his efforts.

“We’ve tried to be on the frontline, constantly changing and staying up with things, and I hope that our farm tells the story that we didn’t create problems, we were solving problems—making food the way it should be made and taking care of our animals and our land.”

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