Dairy farmers investing in their future

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The dairy industry in Ohio contributes significantly to the state’s economy and in the provision of food well beyond the borders of Ohio. This industry ranks third in agricultural receipts and first in receipts from animal operations.

Advancements needed

For this industry to remain competitive, advancements in the many facets of dairy farming, from soil fertility, crop physiology and yields, animal physiology and production, animal health, animal well-being, labor management, to marketing, must be made. Therefore, discovery and implementation are key attributes to this success. In1982, the Ohio dairy industry began a voluntary check-off program whereby dairy farmers invest in the future of their industry.

Dairy farm reduction. In 1982, there were 12,000 dairy farms in Ohio with a total 388,000 cows. Today, there are about 270,000 dairy cows in Ohio on 2770 farms.

The number of farms contributing to this program has continued to decline, which limits the investment of the industry into its future.

The program is referred to as the Ohio Dairy Research Fund (ODRF), and the amount of the check-off is 0.1% of the gross milk receipts for the dairy farm. This amount can be deducted by the milk processor and then sent to the Ohio Dairy Producers Association (ODPA).

Also, farmers can send the check directly to ODPA. To put this in perspective, if a dairy herd is averaging 25,000 lb/cow/year and milk price is $18/cwt, then the amount contributed would be about $4.50/cow/year.

The funds are administered by a farmer-based committee of members contributing to the program. The committee solicits proposals each year, reviews the proposals, and invites the investigators to a committee meeting to present the details of their proposal.

Due to limited funding at present, only two to three projects are funded each year.

Funding

Since the inception of this program, about 132 proposals have been funded, totaling over $825,000. Based on how the program originated, the funds are available for projects and programs conducted through The Ohio State University. Faculty and staff from primarily the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine have overseen the funded projects.

Direct costs

With the program, the funds are not used for any indirect costs to the University (current rate of 54 percent for some funding agencies), only the direct costs outlined by the investigator. In a study released in December 2014 by the Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy, the dairy and animal science research program at The Ohio State University was found to be in the grouping with the highest impact ranking.

Ohio Dairy Research Fund

Thus, these funds are being used in programs of high impact, results that directly impact not only the Ohio dairy industry but far beyond the borders of the state. It is clearly known that the funding provided to the projects funded by the farmers contributing to the Ohio Dairy Research Fund do not provide the total funding needed for the projects.

This certainly pertains to personnel costs but often extends to the direct costs of doing the research. Thus, some of the funds from the ODRF are used to leverage other funding, and in addition, the initial project funded through the ODRF often provides evidence whereby the researcher can justify their proposal to another agency for the next step in the research.

It’s likely that the funds that dairy farmers have contributed to the ODRF have helped to solidify over $2 million additional funding in support for the dairy industry.

More information

To learn additional information about the Ohio Dairy Research Fund or about how to make your investment, contact the ODPA Association (ODPA; http://www.odpa.org; 614-890-1800). As quoted from Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.

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

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