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.
Shredlage has been a hot topic in recent years, but studies have demonstrated it has the same overall dry matter and fiber digestibility as conventional silage.
In 2015, over half of the milk produced in the U.S. came from five states: California, Wisconsin, Idaho, New York, and Pennsylvania. These states have accounted for over 50% of U.S. milk production annually for the last decade. Despite annual production rankings, how do these states compare between themselves for annual milk per cow, milk price, feed cost, and more importantly income over feed cost (IOFC)?
The Penn State Extension Dairy Business Management Team summarizes Pennsylvania dairy cash flow plans annually to assess the factors that lead to farm profitability. In 2015, the 105 farms in the summary were divided by farm size to determine if there are any benefits to larger-scaled farms.
Structures that house cattle are vital to the success of a dairy business. It is essential these buildings are able to withstand weather events, have tolerable maintenance costs, and contain materials resistant to an interior environment that can be rather aggressive. Buildings need to provide a safe environment for employees and animals, remain in good condition for their functional life with minimal maintenance, and last (at least) the duration of the loan taken to construct them.
It is increasingly common for dairy managers to use tools that allow for pregnancy diagnosis earlier than the traditional 35 to 45 days after insemination. Diagnosing pregnancy early is beneficial for identifying open cows and allowing for reinsemination strategies that will help minimize days open and increase profitability, but losing confirmed pregnancies can be very frustrating.
Regardless of high or low profit margins the investment in health care for calves, heifers and cows should not waver.
When margins are tight the conversation usually focuses on the lactating cows and how to improve performance. This makes sense as they are the major driver of income. However, there are other groups of animals that generate expenses and unless they are sold do not contribute to the income stream. Dry cows and heifers take up on average 20 percent of the farm’s total feed costs (home raised and purchased). This number is generated from the cash flow plans conducted by the Extension Dairy Team.
An examination of 2015 cash flow and breakeven production costs for 107 Pennsylvania farms shows that breakeven ranged from less than $16/cwt to over $22/cwt. Not surprisingly, feed costs are a big contributor to differences between farms.
Women have always been an important part of the dairy industry, but at many universities today the number of women earning degrees in agricultural sciences is equal to or greater than the number of men. The number of women who are the principal operator of a farm is also growing.
Understanding differences between cultures can provide helpful insight for situations encountered everywhere in our increasingly global society, including common encounters on U.S. farms.
It should be no surprise when the dairy industry comes off a year like 2014 with exceptional milk prices that the other extreme will come around. The carryover of income from 2014 softened the blow of 2015’s lower milk price. Moving into 2016 the milk price is expected to be even lower. The same issues affecting cash flow in 2009 are impacting producers in 2016. Have we learned from past experience?
The Penn State Extension Dairy Team is hosting an agricultural tour of Costa Rica in January 2017
The definition of audit is an official inspection of an individual's or organization's accounts, typically by an independent body. Audit is usually associated with financials however it applies very well to a total mixed ration (TMR). The premise of precision feeding is that the same ration is consistently mixed and fed to animals every day. In the real world there are elements influencing how well this practice is implemented. A TMR audit is something every producer should consider.
Penn State Extension Dairy Team has created an online farm margin monitoring tool to help farm managers track their milk margins more effectively and make more informed daily and long-term decisions.
Feeding forage to calves has been the subject of much debate over the years, in part because even though we know that fermentation of grain is essential for rumen development, sometimes in research and on farms calves fed hay have shown improved performance. If we focus on the rumen environment rather than the specific feeds we are providing, we can start to make sense of both the calf's requirements and ways we can meet her needs.
It's been said, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." The same can be true for the information highway, and with the maze of data available today it is easy to get lost. Here are a few key questions to help you focus on the road ahead.
Some of the latest, greatest timed artificial insemination (AI) protocols have become pretty complex, but not without valid reasons. Conception rates with timed AI now commonly exceed what can be expected with the use of traditional heat detection approaches. Ovsynch, one of the foundational timed AI protocols, can lead to reasonable pregnancy results, even without additional treatments. But a number of add-on treatments are standing the test of research and repetition.
Farm employees are relied upon to handle tasks so that the farm owners' time can be focused on management. If employees are to excel, they must know how to handle day-to-day situations. This requires proper training on the protocols and practices for their job. But how do managers accomplish this when a language barrier makes communication difficult? Penn State Extension can help bridge the gap with customized training.
As 2015 comes to an end, the next year appears to be more of the same: tight margins due to low milk prices and feed costs still relatively high. Producers have dealt with both scenarios the past six years, however, a new wrinkle has developed: a cap on the volume of milk shipped.