Dairy One Cooperative Inc.
Dairy One Cooperative Inc. (Dairy One) continues helping farmers and farmers’ advisors improve operations by providing management information, lab testing and data analysis related to animal production, feed and forages, soil, water and manure. Since its founding in 1949, Dairy One has made a significant impact on the regions it serves.
“Our product is essentially information,” explains Jamie Zimmerman, general manager of Dairy One. “We collect production data and production materials generated on a farm and turn it into useful information that helps farmers make better decisions about managing cattle, crops, feed and much more.”
Dairy One formed out of the same grassroots movement as numerous cooperatives across the U.S. “We started the same way virtually all cooperatives did; farmers banning together to create needed services,” shares Jamie.
According to Jamie, the company’s heritage dates back to 1949, when NY Dairy Herd Improvement Cooperative (NYDHIC), a predecessor to Dairy One, was formed through the federation of county associations. “NYDHIC later grew to cover a larger region of the Northeast and became Northeast Dairy Herd Improvement Association [Northeast DHIA],” Jamie explains. “In the late 1990s Northeast DHIA was searching for a partner while at the same time Dairylea Cooperative [Dairylea], a milk marketing cooperative based in Syracuse, was developing its farm services businesses and had an interest in the types of things Northeast DHIA was providing.”
Jamie goes on to explain that Dairylea and Northeast DHIA formed Dairy One in 1997, combining resources to bring additional services to farmers. “I was originally a dairy farmer way back when, and I remember how important production information industry partners were to our farm’s success,” reveals Jamie. “After years working in other farm services positions with Dairylea, I helped start up Dairy One as a joint venture in 1997. Today, we operate under the umbrella of the Dairylea Farm Services Group, while maintaining a separate corporate structure.”
Since inception, Dairy One has quickly risen to the top of the herd management information industry and now serves more than 5,000 farmers in the Northeast alone. “Dairylea is headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., but we have separate locations; one in Ithaca, N.Y., and another smaller facility in Hagerstown, N.Y.,” details Jamie. “We employ about 300 people who work directly or indirectly with the farmers we serve. Many of our services are delivered directly through our employees to the farm, so our employees are an essential part of the business and connection to our customers.”
Dairy One offers data analysis for all aspects of operation, providing the essential information to assist farmers in making decisions that involve everyday activities, from feeding and managing animals to deciding what to plant. “Between 15 and 20 years ago, we were mainly focused on dairy cattle production information for dairy farmers,” recalls Jamie. “Now we can assist with all aspects of farming and have grown to provide services on the crop production and nutrient management side of the business.”
Jamie goes on to explain Dairy One’s process. “Farmers come to us to review their operation,” he explains. “We collect samples from milk to water, feed to soil and manure; basically, anything that comes from a farm. We do a complete in-house analysis with the exception of a few niche tests.”
Dairy One delivers milk analysis involving measurements of butter fats, proteins and milk urea nitrogen, along with feed nutritional assessments and soil testing. “Proper feed analysis helps farmers build a better diet for their production animals and our soil testing allows them to determine a fertility plan for their farm,” adds Jamie.
Water, one of the most essential nutrients for any farm, is also factored into Dairy One’s assessments. Dairy One identifies factors that can negatively impact water quality and supply. This information is then packaged by the cooperative and distributed to farmers or any party working in conjunction with the operation, from veterinarians to field consultants and sales people.
Dairy One is no longer limited to just dairy farms; Jamie reveals that the cooperative has extended its testing abilities outside of the traditional niche and into the equine industry and metropolitan zoos. “Before, we were specializing in dairy farmers alone, which we still do to a great extent, but we’ve diversified our services to encompass crops and agronomy and have added 13 affiliate forage labs around the world,” reveals Jamie.
Over recent years, Dairy One has developed and licensed testing technology to affiliate labs around the U.S., as well as into Canada, Mexico, China, Australia and the U.K. “We’ve taken the idea from the back of a napkin to a meaningful strategy for growth, going from a singular focus on dairy to a broader focus on the whole process farms go through,” remarks Jamie. “Expansion to our facilities in Ithaca is also in the works over the next six to 12 months.”
Assisting farmers and famers’ advisors in the use of information technology is rapidly changing for Dairy One, as the cooperative supports over 1,200 farms in the use of dairy management and/or agronomy management software. The Agricultural Resources Group within Dairy One is staffed with a tech savvy crew who provide software and hardware solutions to farmers to help manage and make sense of the immense amount of production data. According to Jamie, the group’s fastest growing area is the installation of computer networks and camera systems.
While Dairy One has set its sights on connecting with new markets, Jamie says the cooperative deals with the daily challenge of managing a diverse set of customers. “We deal with everything from Amish farms that are milking by hand to large scale diary operations milking 5,000 cows per day. Our breadth is pretty wide.”
Although dairy farms remain the majority of Dairy One’s business, Jamie says the outlook on the agronomy economy in the Northeast is very optimistic and there’s plenty of room for growth. “The outlook, for our part of the chain, is promising,” he adds.
After many years in the dairy industry and constantly evolving to better assist farmers for more efficient operation, Dairy One Cooperative Inc. looks forward to future expansion by putting information technology to work for the benefit of farmers across the region.