Dairy Excel: Important questions for dairy farmers within the next 45 days


For those of you who are politically minded, you probably think I am trying to get you to decide how you will vote on issues that will be on the ballot Nov. 8. Like on the America’s Got Talent show, that would be a big “X”.

Maybe one of the most important questions is to ask your spouse (or significant other) where you will be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas. You many need this much lead time to make sure your labor force and personal schedule are in place to align with the time off.

Critical time

For a dairy farmer, the fall season is a critical time. Within 45 days, all forage should be harvested. For some areas, forage harvest has already been completed for one to two weeks.

It is very important that the storage is such to preserve the feed’s quality and reduce what we call shrinkage (waste; stuff you paid for that will not reach the cows).

Inventory forage

Amount of forage in storage must be inventoried and samples taken for analysis. If there is inadequate forage to take you to the next harvest, then finding a source NOW is important while prices are lower, than when prices go up with the lower supply later.

Within the next 45 days, the first killing frost will likely have occurred (when you’re discussing the weather, you never want to be very sure), and most of the corn, grain and soybeans will be harvested.

Corn yields

At this moment, projections on corn yields are low. The actual yield tallies will set the price for corn, by which most other grain commodities will follow. The supplemental protein prices will be highly influenced by the soybean yields and subsequent soybean meal prices.

How do you plan to react to these outcomes? How much purchased energy and protein will be need for one year? Are you being flexible by considering contracting and using different energy and protein sources than just corn and soybean meal?

Optional plans should be forming now because some of your decisions may require more storage capacity, and you may need to act before others to get the best pricing options.

Impact of heat

The extreme heat in the USA for the 2011 summer resulted in considerable drops in milk yields by cows. Although the July 2011 milk production was similar to that for July 2010, there was a 6.3 percent drop in milk production for Ohio.

There were about 4,000 fewer cows during this time period (1.5 percent drop), but much of the drop in milk can be attributed to the heat stress.

The effects of this heat on reproduction are yet unknown but will reveal itself within the next 45 days. Will your cows rebound from this stressful summer — what things on your farm will limit this rebound?

Input prices

Although milk prices have been quite favorable in 2011, the prices for feed, fuel, and fertilizer have remained extremely high, resulting in marginal profitability of dairy farms.

These energy costs are likely not going to show much improvement in 2012, but the price of milk is projected to drop by about 8 percent in 2012 compared to 2011.

What does this mean for you? Were you able to dig out of the 2009 pit that the dairy industry experienced?

Taxes, already?

Within the next 90 days, the 2011 tax year will be closing in. Do you need to make any changes now that will improve your 2011 tax situation?

The retail industry is already planning on black Friday and Christmas; the lawn product and equipment companies are making plans for the 2012 spring; and the auto industry is planning for the 2013 models.

Be making plans on how you are going to wrap up this tax year.

Winter’s coming

We just started a new season but within the next 45 days, we need to be prepared for winter.

What changes in housing will be needed for animal comfort, health, and production? What changes in water supply are needed — new defroster, new water line, another fountain, etc.?

Projections are for normal temperatures (whatever that means) for the Midwest, but snowfall will be heavy, with an increased number of storms compared to 2010-2011. If this were to happen, are you prepared to handle the additional snow and the consequences?

Look around you

The fall is a great time for farm families. The beauty of the season is spectacular. It is a great time to go pick apples, set around in the evening sipping on hot apple cider, take that family photo that hasn’t been taken since the new family addition (birth, adoption or wedding) or since you started getting gray hairs.

It is also a very busy time with a lot to be done, so do some planning and execution of those plans for the next few weeks that will take your family’s business into the future.

By the way, BE SAFE! As silos are filled — you know those gases can be deadly. With the haste of harvest, equipment is moving quickly and everyone needs to drive defensively. Talk about these things in family and staff meetings.

Find a moment each day to enjoy the beauty of the season and the warmth of family and friendships.

(The author is a professor and Extension dairy specialist at Ohio State University.)


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