WOOSTER, Ohio — Low milk prices were definitely on the minds of dairy producers who gathered for the annual Wayne-Ashland Dairy Service Unit banquet March 22 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Prices have been in a slump for the last three years, and the average all-milk price for 2018 is expected to be $15.75-$16.35, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dianne Shoemaker, dairy production specialist with Ohio State University Extension, said dairy farmers, at current prices, are basically “paying for the privilege of milking cows.”
On the upside, the most efficient herds are still profitable, and producers who keep track of their numbers during this downturn will be the most likely to succeed as conditions improve.
Shoemaker helps oversee a program called the Farm Business Analysis Program, which helps producers track their cost of production, and net returns. Although people often speculate that the larger dairies are making more money, Shoemaker said the top 20 percent of producers in the study had herd sizes that ranged from 47 cows to 1,200 cows.
“There is an opportunity to be successful in a wide range of herd sizes,” she said.
Success is what dairy farmers want — and need — as they face one of the worst price slumps in anyone’s memory.
“To me, this looks like one of the worst periods we’ve had in the 30 years that I’ve worked with Extension,” said Shoemaker.
Tom Wolf, whose family milks Ayrshires near Shreve, said he wasn’t sure if this is the worst or not, but it’s definitely bad.
“It’s tough and it’s tougher for the younger person who is just starting,” he said. “The only good thing about it, is the price of grain is low, so it helps feed-wise to feed these cows that probably aren’t generating the income that you’d like them to generate.”
Tom Stocksdale, an ag lender with Farmers National Bank, said farmers are feeling down, but it’s good for them to spend an evening in support of each other, like they did at the banquet. He reminded farmers to look out for each other and to get help if someone is suffering mentally or emotionally.
“In times like these, you can get easily depressed, so watch your neighbors,” he said.
On the positive side, dairy farmers recognized another great year of production and youth involvement.
In his report on the Dairy Herd Improvement Cooperative, the organization which tests and records dairy production data, General Manager Brian Winters said last year DHI provided services to about 135,000 cows per month, and had a good year with pregnancy testing, averaging about 5,500 tests per month.
Most of the growth in pregnancy testing was actually in sheep and goats, he said, and the DHI also pregnancy tests beef cattle.
Winters said he also managed the Southeast DHI over the last year, which covers Florida and Georgia, and includes about 95 dairy herds and 75,000 dairy cows. He said the boards for the local DHI and the Southeast DHI are in discussion, over whether to continue a management contract, or whether the two organizations should merge.
Winters congratulated the Ayers family, of Ashland County, for finishing in the top 10 percent in the state for milk production, with 32,968 pounds of milk and 963 pounds of fat.
Paul Keener and his family, also of Ashland County, produced 31,683 pounds of milk, 1,247 pounds of fat, and 1,013 pounds of protein.
In Wayne County, Raygor Farms placed in the top 5 percent for protein, with 893 pounds of protein.
Ro-La-Sue Dairy, placed in the top 5 percent of milk production, at 24,443 pounds, with Brown Swiss.
And Farriss Dairy Farms placed in the top 5 percent of milk production with Holsteins, at 29,331 pounds.
In the two-county combined awards, Aaron Steiner recorded a low somatic cell count of 61,000, with his Jersey herd. And Brad Carter and Trent Neuenschwander recorded a somatic cell count of just 74,000, with their Holstein herd.
The combined high energy-corrected milk award went to Paul Keener, whose Holstein herd produced 34,256 pounds of energy-corrected milk.
The combined county most-improved energy-corrected milk went to Harmony Farms, whose Jersey herd improved by 2,384 pounds ECM.
Instead of naming a dairy princess, the group decided to open the contest to male participants and name two dairy ambassadors. The recipients were Ethan Stoll, 16, the son of Ralph and Lisa Stoll, of Marshallville; and Myla Walton, 9, the daughter of Richard and Sherry Bloomfield.
Outstanding youth recipients were David Miley and Sara Wolf, a member of 4-H and FFA, and dairy judging teams. Both received $250.
Scholarships were received by David Miley (1,000), Abby Schellin ($750), and Maryellen Bliss ($750).
The Herd Management Award went to the Winkler family and their farm located in Sterling. The farm is run by Jim and Joan Winkler, their sons Jeff and Jerrod, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca Winkler. They milk 368 Holsteins three times a day, with a rolling herd average of 27,657 pounds of milk, 1,087 pounds of fat, and 825 pounds of protein. Their farm will be the site of this year’s Twilight Dairy Tour in July.
• Harpster Enterprises led the way in energy-corrected milk, herds milked twice daily, with 35,490 pounds of ECM from a Holstein. They also led the county in protein, at 1,026 pounds, and fat, at 1,461 pounds.
• Paul Keener led in energy-corrected milk for herds milked three times daily, at 47,869 pounds with Holstein, and he led in fat, with 1,885 pounds. His Brown Swiss also had the high ECM, high protein and high fat.
• Ayers Farm was the protein leader for herds milked three times, Holstein, at 1,527 pounds.
• Low somatic cell count awards went to Matthew Zimmerman, who achieved a SCC of 98,000 on his 106-head Holstein herd; and Ayers Farm, whose 702 cows achieved a SCC of 110,000.
• The top two Wayne County herds by SCC were Aaron Steiner, an 85-head Jersey herd with a SCC of 61,000; and Brad Carter and Trent Neuenschwander, a 115-head Holstein herd with a SCC of 74,000.
• The top Ayrshire herd for ECM was Spring-Run Farms, with an ECM of 18,640; top Brown Swiss was Gary Dotterer, ECM of 26,924; top Holstein two-times herd went to OSU-ATI, ECM of 28,996; top Holstein (3x) herd went to Ben-Alli Holsteins & Jerseys, ECM of 29,868; top Jersey went to Cantendo Acres-Grazeland, ECM of 23,848; and top mixed breed ECM went to Pine Tree Dairy Farm, ECM of 30,864.
• The top two ECM cows was a Holstein by Pine Tree Dairy Farm, at 48,907 ECM; and a cow by Harmony Farms, at 38,842 ECM.
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