Will you make CHANGES in ’17?


Now that the 45th President of the United States has been sworn in and many new leaders put in place, including a new Secretary of Agriculture, change is inevitable.

CHANGE was a major platform during the entire campaign. As we look forward for the dairy industry, some change would be welcomed, such as a higher milk price, higher price for cull cows, lower production costs, “milk” used only for dairy products, etc.

Some of these aspects for which we would like to see change are within our power of influence and others are not.

I suggest that energy is best extended on those things for which we can directly influence, with the focus in this article on the dairy farm.

Someone recently shared with me that he and his family decided many years ago that they had to be 25 percent above the average if they were going to be successful in farming.

The critical points in this statement are: 1) continual change is likely necessary to be successful — the average doesn’t stay the same, 2) being successful must be purposeful, and 3) a specific target needs to be set.

Change may be necessary in how I view and measure success and how I manage. How will I know that? Can I be honest enough with myself or do I need to consult with someone who can be more objective?

Will 2017 have to be the year that I decide to call it quits or that I will milk it out until when.

How are my facilities designed to support animal production and animal well-being? Are there bottlenecks in the facilities that are restricting animal performance from the nutrition and genetics available.

Take a second look at comfort of free stalls, ventilation, stocking density, etc.

Are heifers the weak link in your operation?

If so, should changes be made in your management of the heifers or should the heifers the raised by someone else? What are your costs to raise heifers until they calve? What is the death loss for the heifers? How many heifers are needed on the farm to maintain herd size?

Number of cows in the breeding herd may need to decline; I didn’t say you needed to reduce herd size.

The goal for pregnancy rate was 21 percent for several years, but now the focus is on achieving a pregnancy rate of 24 or 25 percent, with some herds achieving 30 percent.

Goal go milk production should be set and evaluate all those factors that may be limiting this goal. The average yearly yield of Holstein cows in Ohio is about 25,000 pounds and about 17,000 pounds for Jersey cows, yet 2,000 to 3,000 pounds lower than the national average for the respective breeds.

It’s not uncommon for herds today to average 90+ pounds/day for Holstein and 60+ pounds/day for Jersey cows.

What’s holding the production back in your herd, mammary health, forage quality, animal comfort, etc?

Evaluate your costs of production. In the 2015 Ohio Dairy Business Summary, cost of milk production ranged from $16.49 to 29.77/cwt and net return ranged from $-6.40 to 10.88/cwt.

Where was your herd within these ranges? Where was it in 2016? Where will it be in 2017?

In a recent study by Zoetis and AgStar Financial Services that was highlighted in a recent dairy industry publication, six aspects of dairy management in Midwest dairy herds accounted for 85 percent of the variability in profitability.

Each of these aspects and some others are addressed within the comments above. I encourage you to consider changes in management needed for 2017 that are within your control, and for those that are outside of your control, attempt to predict these changes in 2017 and already have a response plan.

Best wishes for a successful new year.


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