Animal and agronomic research has provided many tools and practices over the past decades that have assisted producers in doing their job better and easier. A direct transfer of the results to real world does not always equate to the same positive results. It is easy to get caught up on the potential benefits conveyed from research in either increased milk production, improved health, higher crop yields, better fiber digestibility and the list could go on. There are several key factors that come into play when determining how much a farm may benefit from a new product or management practice.
Results of monitoring THI, rumination, and milk production on a Southeastern Pennsylvania farm.
Enacted to further improve the safety of our food supply, these laws will impact most farms.
Dairy profitability seems to be a constantly moving target. Producers are dealing with the highs and lows of milk prices and feed costs. Some fixed and variable costs stay about the same regardless of what is happening in the markets. Producers are working with biological units (crops and cows), which are subject to external forces making crop yields and milk production unpredictable. Can dairy producers control what appears to be uncontrollable?
The hit and miss rain this past summer in Pennsylvania has left dairy producers with reduced forage inventories. Corn for silage within fields and farm is extremely variable in regards to plant height and corn grain fill. This will provide many challenges to the nutritionist in formulating rations that will remain consistent over time.
Feed costs tend to be the largest expense on a dairy operation and managing those costs contributes to a dairy’s ability to be profitable.
Precision feeding is a strategy for productive heifers and a healthy bottom line. The Penn State Dairy Heifer Diet Formulator (PSU-HDF) program encourages an approach to heifer feeding that is driven by the desire to precisely meet metabolizable energy and nitrogen needs of growing dairy heifers while still allowing farmers to meet their desired goals for growth, age at first breeding, age at first calving, and first lactation production.
The last several months Pennsylvania dairy producers have received less than $16/cwt for their milk. The average breakeven milk price on many farms hovers around $18 to $19/cwt, so right now producers are hurting financially. If that was not bad enough, many dairies are suffering through drought conditions. The following website http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home.aspx shows conditions in the U.S. and for individual states. These are both situations producers have endured before however it never gets any easier. If not already, now is the time to be forward thinking. Forage quality and quantity could be issues and purchasing additional forage is a real possibility. What contingency plans are in place if the worst case scenarios play out: continued low milk price and low forage inventories?
The dairy industry as with any commodity deals with the peaks and valleys of the markets. Other commodities are in a similar situation as the dairy operation and to stay in business they have to know their cost of production. They are constantly monitoring their business’s performance so changes can be made quickly to compensate for a downturn. It can be depressing when the current income over feed cost is less than the breakeven number. Instead of focusing on how to cut costs, many times to the determent on animal performance, focus on making adjustments that improve upon what is already being done. Many times it is honing in on a small detail that can make a significant impact on milk income.
The Penn State Extension Dairy Team is hosting an agricultural tour of Costa Rica in January 2017. Trip details updated! Registration deadline July 10th.
Future milk prices are looking (somewhat) better, but it seems like since 2008 no one has felt completely secure in the stability of the dairy industry. Being more cautious can be a good thing, but letting the milk prices and low milk margins get you down is not healthy for you, your family, or your farm in the long run. There is plenty of advice on how to manage your margins and your herd. Now, it is time to talk about how to manage your stress.
When data is available, managers can look at mortality numbers, feed shrink (tons harvested or purchased compared to as fed), and inventories of supplies to determine what changes if any are needed to reduce these sometimes steady drains on profitability.
A typical discussion of farm safety may focus on equipment operation principles, the use of personal protective equipment, or safe animal handling, but there are other aspects of farm safety that we sometimes neglect to include in our discussions.
We have recently updated an article about trends in age at first calving using records obtained from DRMS for all first-lactation Holsteins in Pennsylvania during 2015.
Today’s technology provides the opportunity to collect a lot of data related to crops, cows and financials. The problem is a human element is still needed to monitor and evaluate the information. Determining the key metrics important to the producer or manager is essential for detecting and correcting problems earlier versus later.
A common mistake when working with dairy producers is focusing solely on production management or finances. It is the combination of the two that determines if an operation will be successful. Over the years the trend has been for advisors to become specialized. However, it is the interactions of the whole farm system that is critical, especially when working in an industry with extreme market volatility. Communication amongst advisors is essential if dairies are to remain in business.
Although all the compartments of a ruminant stomach are present at birth, for the first part of their lives calves rely on the abomasum to digest milk or milk replacer. As calves begin to eat dry feeds, particularly starter grain, the rumen begins to supply nutrients produced by fermentation. At weaning calves must rely entirely on dry feeds, and the rumen becomes the most important part of the digestive system. This series of photos illustrates the process of rumen development.
These photos provide examples of cows with body condition scores across the range of the 5-point scale used for dairy cattle. Each photo includes description of the key observations at that score.
In 2015, over half of the milk produced in the U.S. came from five states: California, Wisconsin, Idaho, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Structures that house cattle are vital to the success of a dairy business.