From Way Out West – Dias & Fragoso Custom Harvesting
Click here to download the Dias & Fragoso PowerPoint Presentation.
California may be a U.S. state, but, when it comes to custom forage harvesting, it seems like a whole different world compared with typical Midwest operations.
Bob Headrick has been a part of that world since he started his custom harvesting business in 1976. He bought his first choppers in the ‘80s and grew his business until 2010, when he sold it to his “competitors and friends” at Dias & Fragoso. That business is currently owned and operated by Bud and Jerrod Fragoso, and Headrick continues to work with Dias & Fragoso as a forage consultant.
Dias & Fragoso started in 1979 with two harvesters, seven trucks and a bulldozer. Today, they run 18 Claas choppers and one John Deere. All of their business is done within 60 to 70 miles of the home shop in Hanford, California. Three-quarters of the business is within 25 miles. Corn silage is the main crop they harvest, but they will chop haylage for customers as well. Headrick explained they are paid on tonnage and haylage tonnage tapers off as the season progresses, so it’s not a great revenue generator. They do it to take good care of their customers.
“Every dairyman feels he’s special and to me he is,” Headrick said.
That’s why he was comfortable turning over his business to the Fragosos – they also are committed to providing quality service. Headrick said follow-up is a key component of that service. They check in with the dairy producers to see how the silage fermented, how it’s feeding and brainstorm ways to improve next year.
Dias & Frogoso usually runs two choppers per crew and keeps a third as back-up when harvesting corn for silage. Headrick estimated they have about 75 trucks on the road and seven or eight packing tractors at work in the peak of the season.
They have 120 employees during the chopping season and about 80 to 85 percent of that crew is Hispanic. Headrick said he is confident they have a secure workforce because the Fragosos have a good reputation, run good equipment and pay competitive wages.
Those employees help Dias & Fragoso put up about 1 million tons of forage in a year. They harvested just 14,000 tons when the business began.
During his presentation at the Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting, Headrick was asked what’s the key to putting up good corn silage.
“That’s actually pretty easy,” he responded. “Customer service and quality.”
Headrick said he “wanted to be one of the big players once upon a time” so he chased after a lot of customers to add to his list. But he soon realized his quality and equipment suffered as a result. He remembered a piece of advice his dad had given him: “Everyone once in a while, walk across the street and take a look at your business.” Headrick thought about what he wanted his shop, equipment and crew to look like. He realized, if he focused on quality, it would keep him busy and he wouldn’t have to lower prices to get customers.
That philosophy has served Headrick well in his 40-plus year career in custom forage harvesting, and it’s a good bet it will continue to fuel the success of Dias & Frogoso as they put up quality forages for dairies in California’s Central Valley.