'It makes sense for us to operate a housed system'
Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30
So how does an Irish farmer at the national average of 70 cows compete with the Elliotts with their 4,500 cows?
This is a question that Rodney often receives from the many Irish visitors that make the pilgrimage to his farm every year.
"Irish farmers can't compete on size, but you've got to play to your strengths," he says.
"Grass grows brilliantly here for about five weeks, but it's too hot or cold for the rest of the year."
As a result, Rodney's cows are housed year-round, and his costs are slightly higher than the Irish national average of 27c/l.
"I'd say my break-even is about 31c/l. But it makes sense for us to operate a housed system here because there's some of the cheapest feed in the whole of the US in South Dakota because there isn't much local demand for it."
Maize meal, which might cost €200/t here is available to Rodney for about €100/t, while spent distillers grains from the huge ethanol plants locally is also dirt cheap at €55/t.
Even though US milk production costs may be higher than Ireland, they have a massive domestic market that buffers US milk producers from the worst of slumps in global markets.