Farm: Roden Echo Valley
Location: West Bend
Farm Bureau: Ozaukee County
Rick Roden owns and operates Roden Echo Valley Farm, LLC. along with his parents, Bob and Cindy Roden, and uncle, Joe Roden. At Roden Echo Valley, sustainability means being successful with their people, cows, technology and conservation efforts on the farm.
Located 40 minutes north of Milwaukee, the Rodens are able to attract some labor from the greater Milwaukee area. Rodens have found great success hosting an intern program through Ohio State University. Each year, they provide housing for agriculture students that know English.
“Not only can we teach them how to do their job, but we can help them understand why they are doing it this way,” shared Rick.
The Roden Echo Valley herd is home to Holsteins and Holstein x Swedish Red x Mt. Billiard crosses. This cross helps the Rodens achieve their goal of having a lower maintenance herd. This cross has hearty health traits, low input costs and high components.
“It’s not how much milk we produce per cow, it’s what’s in the checkbook at the end of the year that makes you profitable,” said Rick.
Each cow at Roden Echo Valley wears an activity collar. They track activity and rumination to detect heat and monitor the health of the cow. The collars allow for immediate action when a cow is sick, which saves money and returns the cow to full health more quickly.
The Rodens installed a rotary parlor in 2022 to increase efficiency. They also use a Future Cow™ brush to clean and prep teats and a Boumatic™ teat spray robot to post-milking. The 40-stall rotary requires three employees to run efficiently.
In addition to herd management technology, the Rodens use precision technology to enhance efficiency in their fields. They use GPS to plant precisely and variable rate technology to target specific pests while spraying their crops.
The Rodens have been experimenting with different conservation practices for over ten years and have found success using cover crops in their fields. The family is a founding member of the Clean Farm Families watershed group.
“Farmers learn every day and have to adapt to change all the time,” said Rick. “Going to [watershed] meetings and events to learn the latest and greatest has helped us to learn what is best for the land and best for the environment.”
One of the biggest conservation-related challenges at Roden Echo Valley is manure management. Even with no-till and cover crop practices in place, manure from the cows still has to be incorporated and used to its maximum benefit as a valuable fertilizer. Rick has experimented with incorporating manure two or three times a year at lower rates instead of applying it all at once. He has used different equipment such as low-disturbance toolbars and dribble bars that disturb the soil less and minimize runoff risk.
Rick looks forward to trying more cover crop species and experimenting with interplanting.
Sustainability is at the heart of Roden Echo Valley. They are working hard to set up the people, cows and land for success for future generations.