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1108 PD: Expand even when you can’t

Published on 24 July 2008

What profitable dairymen know is that you’ve always got to be expanding to survive. Being progressive requires it. But what do you do when you can’t? Find a way. This issue is full of examples of producers who have done just that.

For example, take the dairy featured on this month’s front cover. Nunes Dairy is a 1,000-cow dairy in Buhl, Idaho. I recently visited the facility and spoke with the dairy’s owner, Jason Nunes. While my primary purpose for visiting wasn’t to talk about his current building project, we spent a portion of my visit discussing why he was doing it.

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Jason is building a Saudi-style shade over his feedbunks and dry lot dairy pens. He’s already installed one such shade on the dairy and is pleased with the results. The shades represent Jason’s way of expanding his milk supply. A canal borders his dairy property on three sides, so adding another barn at his current location isn’t feasible. To make more milk, Jason is focusing on two things – cow comfort and reproductive efficiency. (Watch for a future story about Nunes Dairy’s breeding protocols.) By the first part of next year, Jason’s processor will no longer be accepting milk produced from cows supplemented with bST. So he’s looking for ways to make up milk. Increasing cow comfort, he says, is doing just that.

After installing the first shade, Jason noticed cows in the shaded pen increased milk production by as much as 10 pounds. Standing under the shade, he explained how much different the cows looked this summer. He said they get up to the feedbunk and eat and look much less stressed. He described it as “beautiful.”

So, in addition to the current shade installation and as financing will allow, Jason hopes to build more of the shades over each of his pens.

You could call this issue the “How to expand even when stuck between a rock and a hard place” issue. We’ve got stories that address how to plan around rising building material costs (pg. 39-40), how a parlor renovation may be just as good as building a new barn (pgs. 45-47) and why high feed prices don’t have to hold back your profitability (pgs 13-15 and 16-17).

We also have a story about a growing trend in the Midwest – dairy partnerships. (See pages 43-44.) When a Minnesota couple needed to expand but were uneasy about taking on more debt, they turned to another dairying couple who were willing to become their partners and purchase a new dairy. They discuss how they have made the partnership a success. Read it and see if a partnership might work for you.

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These unique expansion ideas are a curiosity when evaluated next to traditional expansion thinking. Building a brand new dairy or a parlor are the no-brainers, but consider some of this issue’s ideas when those long-term plans aren’t yet feasible. Some of these ideas are short-term templates for expansion. PD

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