Energy is Innovation
October 27, 2020
Earlier this year, Brandon Dingmann and his wife Jennifer, purchased the Dingmann family farm operation from his parents, Dave and Lynn. Learn how this family of innovators has built a new barn and implemented new technology solutions over the last few years to set the farm up for success well into the future.
After graduating from college in 2011, Brandon Dingmann came back to work full-time on the family farm. At the time, Dave was still working full-time away from the farm until he retired in 2013.
In 2014, Dave and Brandon started diversifying their farm. They added a chicken barn and expanded their cattle operation. They also started growing specialty crops along with corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
In 2019, Brandon took over the existing chicken and cattle operations. In 2020, he purchased the farm from his dad. Today, Brandon and his brother Ben, along with their father, farm 1,100 acres of crops and raise 850 Holstein steers annually.
NEW BARN, NEW TECHNOLOGY
Farming comes with many challenges, but for Brandon, he enjoys hunting for the solution. “I’ve enjoyed the challenge of taking over the everyday farm operations over the last few years and I enjoy the uncertainty. I like to look at the problems we have and try to figure out the solutions,” he said.
Electrifying some of the daily farm operations has been a beneficial solution.
About two years ago, Brandon had big plans to build a new steer barn. The new barn would include an automatic feeding and watering system, a new manure pit, and cameras to monitor the operation. Building began in March of 2020 and by the end of this month, the new steer barn will be fully operational.
“Instead of mixing separate batches of feed twice per day, I can now fill the feed bins any time of the day and rely on technology to do the rest,” he said. “The computer will automatically feed the cattle three or four times per day.
It pulls the necessary ingredients from each feed bin, mixes them together, and sends the feed to the cattle via conveyor belts.”
In all, there are eight different cattle pens, each with its own feed station. Brandon has full control from his smartphone to monitor the automatic feeding system, which has the capacity to feed all of the cattle for three full days.
Essentially, it’ll free up some of Brandon’s time to focus on other farm tasks or spend a few days away from the farm knowing the cattle are still being fed and watered.
Along with the automatic feeding system, the new barn has a manure pit which is a win-win for the cattle and the Dingmanns.
“We save a considerable amount of time and work with the slatted floor and manure pit below the new steer barn. Instead of cleaning out each cattle pen, hauling manure away and finding a place to store or pile the manure every month, we now have 12 months of storage and we haul it away one time per year,” he continued.
COOPERATIVE COMMITMENT TO EFFICIENCY
Stearns Electric Association is committed to providing reliable electric service and innovative energy solutions for our members. In order to help our commercial, industrial and agricultural (CI & A) members save money and use energy more wisely, we provide an extensive rebate program in partnership with our wholesale power provider, Great River Energy.
“Our rebates and grants assist our members with the initial cost of energy-efficient installations,” John Pantzke, Stearns Electric’s Business Development Representative, said. “When we connect with our members as they plan or complete their project, it’s our goal to ensure that operational changes and new equipment are as energy-efficient as possible. We are also able to help determine energy and cost savings by calculating the anticipated return on investment before the project gets underway.”
For this project, despite the need to use more kilowatt-hours of electricity over time, energy will be used more efficiently, which helps simplify daily operations on the farm.
“In the energy industry, this is known as beneficial electrification. Energy-efficient products, like this automatic feeding technology, make using electricity in new ways a smart choice. Even though there might be more energy use overall, energy is being used more efficiently, which helps promote renewable energy resources and helps electric utilities cut down on using fossil fuels like propane, natural gas and gasoline. Mutually beneficial for both the electric cooperative and the electric consumer,” Pantzke said.
“I’ve always enjoyed trying new things and taking risks,” Brandon explained. “We’ve been innovative with our work in the field and with our equipment in the past. Now was a great time to be innovative with this new barn.”
Brandon encourages other farmers who might be considering implementing new technologies in their farming operations to step out of their comfort zone and try it. “Don’t be afraid of risk. Don’t be afraid to make the initial decision to implement something new. Whether it’s right or wrong, you won’t know until you try.”
New technology has given Brandon peace of mind at any time of the day. “These days, if I feel I need to check on something for the farm, I can just pull out my phone and ensure the technology is working as it should. I no longer have to leave the dinner table or rush home after an event just to check on things,” he said.
And these additions to the farm set the Dingmann family up for future success. “Jennifer and I knew we wanted to get an early start in purchasing the family farm. We are looking forward to expanding operations ourselves before we pass it on to the next generation,” he continued.
“One thing I will miss by having this new technology is driving the feed tractor in the morning. Some mornings, there is nothing better than enjoying my cup of coffee while watching the cattle come running over to eat. But the new system is better for the cattle, and it’s easier for me,” he concluded. “I am thankful to my dad for giving us the opportunity to purchase the farm, and supporting and trusting the decision to build this new steer barn.”
Throughout 2023, Stearns Electric will be featuring residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural EnergyWise programs, rebates and other cost and energy saving…