Nebraska has always been the beef state, but it is rapidly becoming the dairy state, at least in terms of dairy heifer development. Operations in Oshkosh, McCook, Wynot and a new Marshland Acres facility near Hershey, in Lincoln County show how quickly this industry can grow in the right place. And Nebraska is the right place. “We are from Wisconsin, but we see how much better dairy heifers grow in this climate,” said Marty Weiss, owner of Marshland Acres. “The climate is great, feedstuffs are high quality, water is good and plentiful and there is plenty of space.”
Marshland Acres is based out of Durand, Wisconsin before purchasing a medium sized feedlot near McCook, NE. They renovated the facility and made it into a high-quality dairy heifer development facility. Heifer raising facilities typically take in calves at about 4 months of age, raising them to breeding age, breeding them and then send them back to their home herds a few months before calving. The Marshland McCook operation generated such great results for the Weiss family and for the dairies they served that they quickly ran out of room and need to expand.
Through mutual acquaintances they met Kirk Olson and developed a partnership to raise heifers in the Olson Family feedlot. This new facility will allow them to grow to 30,000 head. They recently completed the move into the Lincoln County location with about 5,000 head of heifers and are actively looking for more.
Lincoln County has embraced the Marshland operation as added economic activity in the county. “We’re very pleased that Marshland Acres recognized the unique opportunities of the North Platte / Lincoln County area with their recent partnership with Olson Farms at their Hershey location.” Said Gary Person, North Platte Area Chamber President. “It serves as a great opportunity for the company to continue to grow and expand here. Their operation brings additional diversity to our agriculture business family targeting a producer feeder system for the milk industry. The agriculture economic impact on the North Platte region is very significant and the Marshland operation is adding additional investment and employment opportunities here that is very much welcome. They also are good corporate neighbors reaching out to our organization to become a member of our Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, supporting all the things we do to help grow our local economy. Those are the kind of neighbors you want in your community.”
A recent trend has been for dairies to raise their heifers off-site. This allows dairies with limited space or labor to focus on milking cows and let other professionals raise and breed the heifers. According to Marty Weiss getting these heifers off to a good start sets them up to more productive long term and that is something dairy farmers are willing to invest in. It also creates opportunity for folks like the Weiss’. Besides Marty and his wife Mary, their son and daughter-in-law, Bronson and Louise are also involved in the business.
“We are a family business and we have a great team of employees and consultants,” said Marty. “This allows us to focus on one thing, raising great heifers that are productive and profitable while allowing the dairy farmers to focus on milking. It’s a win-win.”
Sending heifers to Nebraska has given some out-of-state dairy farmers a look at what dairying in Nebraska would look like. Nebraska has land, water, space, feedstuffs and infrastructure for the entire industry to grow. “Heifer develop has given Nebraska a way to grow the industry while we continue to work on adding processing capacity,” said Kris Bousquet, Executive Director of Nebraska State Dairy Association. “The first processor to build in the state is going to find excellent dairy farms waiting to supply them with high quality milk and communities willing to support the farmers and the processors.”
Nebraska is a great place to dairy and the quick growth in heifer development is just one indicator of how quickly the industry could grow here.
For more information on opportunities in heifer development in Nebraska contact, Kris Bousquet, Nebraska State Dairy Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or his cell phone 531-207-4291.