It may not be the dairy farmer's finest hours, but Ted Probert, Dairy Specialist with the University Extension Office out of Wright County, says there are still things they can do to help their bottom line.
“It’s all about Fuel, Feed, and Fertilizer,” he stated. “The three F’s as someone else called them. Every dairy farmer knows that costs are through the ceiling so it’s all about ways to lower those.
“For instance, the more you can grow on your own place, the more economically you can run your operation. We’ve got folks who are grazing, growing their own forage and cutting back on grain to meet their feed needs. Using the highest quality forage as the basis to their operation is the most economic way to do this. Other things they can do is just watch prices, and buy when feed stuffs are good buys. Now everybody’s operation is different and some  don’t have the storage space.  Traditionally, corn is at its lowest price right now, at harvest time, when you look at the year in, year out prices.
He continued, “We also have more people growing their own corn silage than ever before to help lower feed costs and that’s working well.
“Each farm has their own way of doing things. There’s different things for different operations and each one has got to find their own way to lower their basic costs. Now I realize, it’s easier said than done, from someone like me, but I’ve seen folks make it work and that’s how the different dairies are staying in business.”
In addition to costs, Probert mentioned there are health issues, product quality, and waste disposal concerns that are also unique to each operation.
"Mastitis is often a big problem and can rear its head about any time, and then there are also breeding problems. Increasing milk fat or solids content in the milk are also concerns, some of which are easier to change than others. For instance, breeding is the way to increase solids, but that’s a slow process. It’s easier and faster to change butterfat than protein, through diet changes. Diet has a big influence on butterfat and that can be done through adjusting rations, fiber and starch levels.
“Finally,” he concluded, “manure systems vary widely. Where grazing is practiced, manure handling is easier since the nutrients go directly back to the pasture. In confinement situations, which uses a pit or a lagoon, it involves more labor. The manure actually has to be hauled or pumped out. They have to use an irrigation-type system to pump the manure back onto the fields and that can get into a pretty substantial operation all on its own.”
There is additional assistance available to dairy farmers through their local National Resources Conservation Service office.


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