Dallman East River Dairy

Brillion, Wisconsin
September 6, 2023
Nick Dallman of Dallman East River Dairy.

Nick Dallman of Dallman East River Dairy near Brillion, Wisconsin, has been raising dairy cattle since even before he and his sister, Lindsay Hansen, took over the farm from their parents, Dan and Shirley Dallman. An original owner-member of Foremost Farms, the operation is very much a family affair. Dan, who is still involved with work around the farm, took over the business from Nick’s grandparents – and they bought the initial 80 acres and 15 cows in 1964. The family has since grown the operation to encompass 3,300 acres of crop land to grow forage for their 5,000 head of cattle. Of that number, the dairy milks 2,700 Holsteins in a double 25 parallel parlor.

These days, there’s also a large manure digester that provides pipeline-grade renewable natural gas. It’s just one part of how Nick has been working to implement more sustainable and economically beneficial practices in his business and on his land.

“Over the past 5 to 10 years, we’ve done more and more no-till and added cover crops to the land,” said Nick. “This year, we’re approaching 100 percent no-till on all acres.” It’s a learning curve, but a worthwhile one, he says, noting that things like fuel savings and additional crop yield over the years quickly offset any upfront costs.

The decision to adopt conservation practices on the farm was easy for Nick, especially after significant rainfall events in 2012 caused a costly mess in his fields.

“We had an 8-inch rain here, and we were hardly doing any cover crops,” said Nick. “It was horrendous, the amount of soil we lost. That was really eye-opening. You can’t see the soil coming off a field – see brown water – and not think that you’re part of the problem.”

Nick is always looking for new, more efficient and more sustainable practices to implement in his operation. Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, taking advantage of area demo farms to get and give farmer-to-farmer advice and feedback and participating in programs like Dairy Feed in Focus all help drive toward that goal.

“I got involved with Feed in Focus because of my relationship with The Nature Conservancy,” said Nick. “The program gives me the opportunity to try new and different things on more acres.”

Dallman East River Dairy is also one of the first farms in its area to use the new Rain 360 automated irrigation system. The GPS-guided machine “spoon feeds” recycled water and nutrients directly to plants in a field, preventing excess runoff and nutrient loading. It also limits passes over that field, reducing soil erosion and other impacts. The process saves money, reduces negative effects on the land and is suitable for the soil and the crops.

The new machine continues a process Nick has been investing in for several years, using 100 percent of the bunker leachate, or liquid from the silage bunker, in their irrigation system. This removes the need to dilute and create more manure volume. Two center pivots and a pipeline also use the resource in dry periods, creating a closed system.

“Honestly, because of our size, a lot of people judge us for being a large farm, thinking that we’re bad,” said Nick. “I want people to understand that it doesn’t matter what size you are–there’s good farmers that are big or small. There are a lot of farmers, especially in this area, who are using these good, new practices. We’re trying more and more to better utilize our manure and better take care of the land. We all use the surface water and lakes for recreation, hunting and fishing, so we all want to make sure we’re taking care of that.”

Article submitted by guest contributor Emily Mills of The Nature Conservancy