Midwestern Cooperative, First District Association, Overcomes Adversity in a Challenging Milk Hauling Environment 

Jul 7, 2023 | June Dairy Month

In today’s rapidly changing agricultural landscape, dairy cooperatives have emerged as beacons of resilience, promoting sustainable farming practices while empowering dairy farmers of all scales. 

These organizations play a vital role in fostering economic stability, ensuring high-quality milk, and safeguarding the interests of producers and consumers.   

A Century of Innovation 

For over a century, First District Association has been a leading dairy cooperative in the midwestern United States–driven by a ubiquitous spirit of growth and innovation.  

Like other cooperatives, First District is no stranger to challenges, and this is not a problem unique to the dairy industry: the shortage of qualified drivers.  

While the effects of the driver shortage are felt across the economy, Blake Tangen, Director of Supply Chain for First District, believes it poses a unique challenge to dairy. 

“The cows do not take a day off,” he said. “It is necessary to find a solution.” 

Optimizing Routes with Ever.Ag  

The nationwide driver shortage has hit the dairy industry particularly hard. Farm and plant consolidation often means that milk moves further, increasing logistical complexity and the burden on haulers and drivers. To help haulers cope, First District has implemented several solutions. 

“First, we needed to ensure that our contract haulers are taken care of,” Tangen said, “so we revamped our fuel surcharge program and rate structures to ensure that they can cover increased costs.  In addition, we are exploring ways to help haulers optimize routes, cut out extra miles, and get the maximum supply on a tanker.” 

In addition to route optimization, the plant recently increased intake capacity by 30% to ensure trucks can get in and out without delays. 

First District is also partnering with nearby cooperatives to capture savings for members.  “There are many different dairy processing facilities around Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota,” Tangen said. “Working with other cooperatives and swapping milk around helps us to reduce mileage and stay efficient.” 

It is no small task to take on route efficiency. Still, Tangen believes that collaboration across farms, haulers, and other cooperatives can help the Midwest dairy industry meet the challenges ahead. 

“Working with partners like Ever.Ag helps the industry as a whole. Anything we can do together to help reduce cost and gain efficiencies is a win for all of us.” 

Blake Tangen

Director of Supply Chain, First District

Celebrating June Dairy Month through Community Outreach 

June Dairy Month allows First District to recognize its members’ hard work and dedication. Like dairy farmers worldwide, these individuals rise before dawn and brave harsh Midwestern weather conditions to care for their cattle, ensuring their health, comfort, and well-being. Tangen considers the people he serves to be the highlight of his career. 

“Our farmers are the country’s lifeblood and of what we do at First District,” he said. “They are always looking for new ways to innovate, be sustainable, and ensure their passion is there for the next generation. There is no doubt that they are doing the same thing with our plant.” 

Community outreach is a vital part of operations at First District. The cooperative is involved in town celebrations, K-12 agricultural programs, and dairy tours annually. During June Dairy Month, First District gives back to its supporters through milk giveaways on local radio stations.  

Helping Haulers Down Every Road with Intelligent Solutions and Services for the Dairy Industry 

The downturn in reefer and dry van freight has brought added attention to dairy, with carriers and drivers attracted to consistent movements and somewhat higher rates. As a result, the driver and equipment shortage has receded temporarily as the dominant challenge haulers face. In a turn of events, some dairy haulers must identify new business to keep drivers and equipment utilized. As spot tanker rates for dairy have fallen and contract rates have ceased their upward surge, operational efficiency, cost, and cash management are king. 

Serving Haulers through Technology 

Ever.Ag recognizes that without the dedication and hard work of dairy haulers, the industry would face an instant and brutal demise, so we have a lot of loyalty to them. Ever.Ag is beneficial to haulers in this environment. Our scheduling tools inform haulers about their loads as early as possible and ensure that changes are communicated quickly and accurately—so haulers avoid wasting resources showing up when or where they aren’t needed. Our spot market and lane bidding services help haulers find/build complementary business, enabling them to minimize wasted time and miles. Through our 3PL and managed services, we ensure that payment is fast, efficient, and accurate for haulers and actively advocate for them when payment problems occur. 

We know that haulers have it rough right now, so if there are things we can do to make their lives easier, we want to do them. 

Real-Time Data Collection with Mobile Manifest

When it comes to hauling, paper has been the long-time standard for data collection. It serves its purpose, but not without redundant data entry and driver errors. With Mobile Manifest, your frustration and waste are reduced with a simple-to-use app that unites Ever.Ag’s world-class software by digitizing records and real-time tracking. The application is available on Apple and Android, making it easy for haulers to quickly record all critical load information.