How do I manage under these new and difficult conditions?

So many changes in life, from politics, technology, cost of living, cost of operating a business, and of course the weather.

All of this “noise” should not define your management style, but your management style will define how you react, or don’t react, to many of these changes.

If a sound management style is not in place, all these changes will likely bring to the surface the need to change the way you manage your dairy operation for economic sustainability. We often complain about the weather forecaster — “They never get it right.”

At least it is an implied acknowledgment that it is a forecast, which provides more information than just stepping outside to assess the present weather conditions.

Yet, we know not to trust weather forecasts much further than a week out. Some economic forecasts aren’t much better, but others can be. Yet, world events, weather related catastrophes, and other influences often occur unannounced, and these episodes can totally turn a forecast, thus a management plan, upside down.

Management practices

This year has already presented some challenges, and others will follow. A few current issues relative to management practices on dairy farms are discussed below:

No. 1. The temperatures were very mild during the 2012 winter, which may result in: a) Excessive heaving of alfalfa may have occurred due to fluctuations in temperatures around the freezing mark. Examine the stands and determine if re-planting will be needed this year. b) The mild winter may result in the occurrence of certain plant pests and diseases — scout the crops carefully.

No. 2. The daily average and average high temperatures in February and March were 10 degrees higher in 2012 than during the previous four years. Thus, spring arrived early, resulting in advanced forage growth relative to typical dates, thus: a) Do not overgraze the pastures. The fluctuating temperatures have caused variable rates of forage growth. Monitor forage growth and adjust the stocking density and length of time on pasture accordingly. b) Harvest of forages will need to be done based on stage of growth (as we always recommend); disregard the calendar for time of harvest.

No. 3. The excessive rainfall in late 2011 and early 2012 has severely limited the window for manure applications. Over the last few weeks, farmers have been very busy hauling manure, but some of them are not completed yet. Be very careful not to over apply manure — determine phosphorus removal rates for this year and follow environmental guidelines.

No. 4. The early elevation of temperature, even in the 80s, should remind us to implement plans for heat abatement now — removing sidewalls, installing curtains, installing or making sure the sprinklers are working, installing more fans, and make sure all the fans in place are working. These aspects need to be in place for dry cows and lactating cows, and don’t forget the holding pen.

Also, re-assess the availability of water for all animals on the farm. Not a surprise at this point in agricultural history, but costs of production for 2012 are going to remain high and milk price is going to remain volatile. Best wishes for managing through these trying times.

About the Author

Maurice Eastridge is a professor and Extension dairy specialist at Ohio State University. More Stories by Maurice Eastridge

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