From homeland to Grasslands

Written by Kara Petrovic

Soon after arriving at the dairy, Zydenbos met his future wife, Kelsey, through her brother’s friend who worked on the farm. After learning that Kelsey had grown up on Robthom Holsteins farm, a fifth-generation dairy in Springfield, Mo., Zydenbos says he couldn’t imagine spending his life with anyone else.

In between attending classes at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., for marketing and entrepreneurship, Kelsey spends her free time working alongside Craig on the farm. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than working in the industry,” Kelsey says. “I’m so grateful that Craig and I share the same passion.”

The dairy consists of 31 9-acre paddocks, which the cows graze. Like many pasture-based producers, Zydenbos’ grazing platform varies between seasons. During the cool season, he uses BarOptima Fecue, but plants Red River Crabgrass when the weather warms. Crabgrass is followed by an annual rye.

According to Zydenbos, the herd’s grass-based diet keeps their consumption of grains down. Unlike a conventional dairy that feeds up to 25 pounds of grain per cow per day, his cows only eat 4 to 12 pounds of grain per day. And to minimize cost, he also dries the herd off in the fall, but resumes milking each spring.

“The weather is very different from where I come from,” he says. “In southwest Missouri, we can’t be true graziers, but I enjoy the lifestyle of seasonal farming. It’s always nice to get a break when it’s cold. Honestly, that’s probably the best part about it, because I’m not having to milk when it’s cold outside.”

The seasonal schedule also allows the Zydenboses sthe opportunity to visit family in New Zealand each Christmas.

“When we go home for holiday, it’s summer there,” Zydenbos laughs. “It’s always a nice getaway, and a nice change of pace than having to milk on Christmas. But going home also gives me the opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not on the farm.”

Zydenbos says the government’s role in the industry is a change for him; however, he’s quick to recognize that his native cooperative Fonterra, a leading milk processor and dairy exporter, didn’t find success right away.

“As a producer, I’ve lived and breathed the cooperative spectrum,” he says. “I think DFA is making good strides to become a more vertically integrated cooperative. It didn’t happen for Fonterra overnight and it won’t happen for us overnight, but the future is promising.”