Dawson couple honored by pork industry
Wayne and Laura Dahl say it’s humbling to be recognized for their environmental stewardship efforts.
The Dawson couple received the Minnesota Pork Industry Environmental Steward of the Year Award on Jan. 17 at the Taste of Elegance, the evening before Minnesota Pork Congress opened.
The Dahls raise hogs and crops in Lac Qui Parle County. They share machinery and labor with Wayne’s brother and sister-in-law, David and Amy.
Wayne and Laura’s goal is to hand their farm down in better environmental shape than when they purchased it.
The farm was in pretty good shape when they bought it from Hjalmer Farmen.
They’re quite conscious of water quality for several reasons, with one being that the largest drainage ditch in Lac Qui Parle County flows through their home farm. They have a 16 acre buffer along the ditch.
"You should see the pheasants in there," Wayne said.
He, Laura and their family enjoy wildlife watching and hunting in the buffer. They also canoe a stretch of the Minnesota River from Lac Qui Parle village to Lac Qui Parle Lake. They see wildlife all the way down and white pelicans greet them as they enter the lake.
The Dahls have a Conservation Stewardship Program contract and their enhancements include planting grass for wildlife habitat, installing auto guidance, automatic shut off and no-drift nozzles on their sprayer and corn stalk nitrate and micro-nutrient sampling.
Wayne said he’s sure a lot more farmers would participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program if they knew about it.
They have also utilized the Conservation Reserve Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program to complete conservation projects on their land.
Their willingness to seek the advice of industry experts, their forethought to try new technologies and their commitment to continuous improvement of the environment are among the reasons cited for their selection as Environmental Stewards of the Year.
The Dahls began raising hogs in 1979 in a typical 80- to 100-sow farrow-to-finish operation.
In 2003, they were at the point where they needed to replace the equipment or do something different. They decided to build three 1,100 head finishing barns. One of the barns was converted to a nursery.
At about the same time, Laura, who had worked at the hospital in physical therapy department, left her job to take care of the nursery pigs.
"She does a really nice job," Wayne said.
She takes special care of the piglets during those critical first two weeks after arriving. The piglets weigh 12 pounds when they arrive and they leave the nursery for the finisher at 50 pounds nine weeks later.
They discovered that although the nursery is more labor intensive, it provides a nice cash flow.
In 2007, they converted the nursery back into a 1,100 head finishing barn and built a 4,400 head nursery.
From the nursery, their hogs go into their finishing barns or those owned by their nephew, Brent Dahl.
The manure from their operation is applied to soil-tested fields at appropriate agronomic rates and some is sold to an organic farmer neighbor for his crop ground.