Syracuse Fiber Recycling, based in Syracuse, New York, is a family owned and operated company and they “provide bedding to over 70 farms located in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, including Super Milk Farms.” Here, we spoke with Melanie Elston, administrative manager at Syracuse Fiber Recycling for our latest Five Questions interview.

FARMING:
What are some of the biggest niche issues in your industry and how is Syracuse Fiber addressing them?

ELSTON:
In the dairy cow bedding industry, we have seen technological changes over the last ten years. In New York State we have farms using sand, sawdust, blended paper fiber such as we produce, and anaerobic digester solids to bed their dairy cows. Farms weigh variables such as quality, reliability, cost and availability to determine which bedding to use. The various types of bedding have differing levels of pH, bacteria retardance, absorbency and life. Some materials like ours are suitable for use in the fields after being used in the stalls. These are all cost benefit factors the farms will take into account when choosing their source for bedding. At Syracuse Fiber Recycling we acknowledge the other bedding alternatives out there and their place in the market.

FARMING:
In what areas is Syracuse Fiber expanding in the next five years? 10 years?

ELSTON:
We are constantly searching for additional sources for paper fiber residuals to expand our capacity. However, our primary focus is to improve our process so that we are prepared to handle growth with the same level of quality and efficiency we achieve today. We have the capacity at our Solvay facility to handle the growth we see in the industry over the next 5-10 years. Our near term goals are to bring in more paper fiber to meet rising demand and to reduce our operating costs by investing in technology and new advances in equipment. This all passes through to our farms and keeps our bedding economical for them.

FARMING:
What is the process of producing dairy cow bedding and what make Syracuse Fiber standout in that regard?

ELSTON:
Using our own formula we process paper fiber residuals to manufacture dairy cow bedding. The paper fiber we use is kept out of landfills. We work closely with the DEC to ensure everything on our site and going to the farms is green. Not only does our bedding allow for a comfortable habitat for the cows, it also has a high pH which allows farmers to reuse it in their fields. Our bedding is tested monthly at Cornell University and at NY State Certified Labs to ensure it is healthy for the cows and the environment.

We are a second-generation family-run business with roots in the dairy industry in Northwest Ohio, and later in Syracuse.  Over the past fifteen years, seven family members have been actively involved with the business. In addition, our employees are like family, having worked for the company for up to fifteen years. They are a vital ingredient to our success, as are our trucking partners. They maintain agriculturally clean trucks bringing product to us and taking bedding to our farms. They are experienced and reliable at delivering to farms, and act as a communication channel between us and the farms. These factors are our competitive advantage in our industry.

FARMING:
What are you hearing from customers in terms of product development?

ELSTON:
Dairy farmers appreciate bedding that contributes to the health of their herd. Our customers choose our product due to its antibacterial properties, absorbency, and eventual benefit to the soil. Our farms will come to us through word of mouth and based on our reputation.

FARMING:
How does customer service play a role in helping customers understand the importance of using quality dairy cow bedding?

ELSTON:
We strive for 100 percent performance in response to our farms needs. Our farms are on schedules to receive their bedding, but weather and farm circumstances will change those schedules. We remain flexible for our customers and get bedding to them quickly when necessary. We regularly survey and make visits to our farms, both large and small, to discuss their needs and ensure we are adapting as necessary to meet those needs.  We also attend farm shows and dairy seminars to help us stay abreast of changes in the industry and allow us to continue to address those changes. As an associate member of NEDPA we keep ourselves educated, and believe it is as important to understand our customers’ industry as our own in order to do a good job for them.

Five Questions is a FarmingMagazine.com monthly series that discusses industry-related topics with the people who influence the industry.