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Dutch dairymen visit northwest Iowa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

(Photo)
Dan Fordyce is showing the visitors from Holland how is system keeps records with his automated system. Photo by Nancy Nelson
Imagine trying to expand your farm or dairy operation in a country that holds 17 million people within the size of a quarter of the state of Wisconsin. That is a dilemma that dairymen in Holland are faced with along with strict environmental controls. In time there are around 10,000 dairymen in Holland who will have to find a new place to operate if they want to expand their operation.

A Holland based company called the Atlantic Group is helping those dairymen locate new places. The company regularly takes groups on tours of other countries where they might relocate to for a new operation. Recently the Atlantic Group brought a group of around 20 people to Iowa and more specifically to northwest Iowa. This is the fourth group that the company has brought to Iowa.

In the immediate area the dairymen were shown around Cherokee county. To welcome the dairymen, were two groups of American dairymen formed to show the potential new immigrants our communities, schools, and available sites for purchase. The Marcus Dairy Team and the Aurelia Dairy Team in conjunction with the Cherokee Area Economic Development Center (CAEDEC) and Don Avis of the Iowa State University Extension Office all coordinated efforts to show the dairymen what they wanted to see.

They dairymen are not only looking at the lay of the land, soil types, availability of resources such as water and electricity, and trucking. They are also looking for good schools, communities, medical facilities, and the availability of everyday shopping. With the wide open spaces of Iowa the group has found it to be somewhat of a culture shock because in Holland you merely need to drive 15 miles in any direction to find a city with a population of 50,000 or more. They are also not accustomed to gravel roads because Holland doesn‚t have any.

Holland sits about 60 feet below sea level and as a result farmers have to drain their soils to use them. With that in mind they are finding that it is much less expensive to operate in the United States. For example, a 500 head herd of dairy cattle would cost around 5 million dollars to operate in the United States; in Holland it would cost around 50 million.

Peter Blauw, a representative of the Atlantic Group said that those in the group who recently visited the area range from those looking for the first time to others who are certain they are going to move somewhere. At least two of the group has already sold their farms in Holland. The rest of the group took time out their work schedules and made arrangements for their dairies to continue operating while they were here.

Dutch dairymen tend to be innovators and besides the added investment of capital into their chosen area they would also bring their knowledge, technology, and methods. These dairymen, Blauw says, tend to operate larger mid sized herds and invest more in technology so they can operate with more cows. They are also progressive when it comes to herd management and genetics.

When the Dutch families decide on a location, they are also making a big leap by bringing their family; some of who have has many as five children in a family. Although this would be great for school enrollment in the area, these families also have to feel confident and comfortable with the area they choose. Blauw says that if any of the group is interested in the area they will return on their own to look at the area more closely and work with the local groups involved to proceed.

The consensus among the group seemed to be that they liked the area and the availability of space. Everywhere they went they were greeted with good old friendly Iowa people even when people didn't know they were the visiting group, one comment was, "People here are nice everywhere." The members of the group had a lot of good questions and were pleased that they were shown everything they wanted and needed to see.



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