Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

0309 PD: Capture dairy’s opportunities

Published on 06 February 2009

In January, I sent an e-mail to contacts throughout the industry requesting comments about what dairymen are doing to effectively cope with the industry’s current difficult economic situation.

I received more than 200 e-mail responses. Thank you to those of you who responded.



These responses will be printed in future issues of Progressive Dairyman and will be discussed online at I’ve also started a once-weekly e-newsletter to discuss some of these suggestions in more depth. To get on the list and join in the conversation with other producers and consultants, send me an e-mail at .

Invest in youngstock
I recently visited with a very forward-thinking dairy producer, he is considering investing in youngstock this spring, looking towards stronger milk prices in 1 ½ years. This dairy (150 cows) as a father/son are very frugal when buying machinery. They have never owned a new tractor.They also remodeled their parlor rather than built new.

Things they haven’t cut back on:
1. DHI
2. Dairy nutritionist consultation
3. Veterinarian service
4. Milking equipment dealer service

Barry Steevens
Dairy Professor
University of Missouri

Cut costs prudently
Each one has to assess their own situation and what position they are in going intothe suppressed economic times. Going into 2009, some of our customers were able to position themselves better due to accumulated assets during the year.They were able to take advantage of a lot of programs and pricing opportunities to help them minimize impact going into this year.


My biggest positive message to my customers has been to maintain perspective and try to keep positive. I have told them that cutting some costs is prudent, but that each one needs to be evaluated. During good times, producers begin programs that they believe to be effective. If they are effective and profitable during good times, most will be that way during bad times.

Evaluate all you do based on that outlook and it will help you eliminate those things that are just costs from those things that are calculated, established programs that were implemented to increase cash flow and profitability.

Kevin Fennell
Regional Manager

Change breeding time
The main focus for producers is efficiency! They are taking whatever cost-effective steps they can take. For example, two producers asked the breeders to come in the early a.m. hours (2 a.m.) to minimize lockup time, thus improving cow comfort, which of course means more milk and higher conception rates.

Some have cut back on the genetics going into the herd to minimize semen price. This is not recommended since they alter their future herd. Two farms are actually purchasing more sexed semen to use on the lactating cows, too.They figure more heifers will save them money in the long run. One of my producers cut out CIDRS on first service, realizing the conception may go down.

Kristi Uecker
Genex Area Program Consultant
Shawano, WI


Train workers
One thing I can tell you is that I have seen a remarkable increase in request for training workers with more dairymen worrying about losing milk quality bonuses. A dairyman also mentioned to me that he is using less supplements in the ration. He is going back to the basics. I am not encouraging people to do that, but I notice that a lot of the dairymen are looking hard at their ration.

Another dairyman has started using young sires in A.I. to save money. I think lots of the dairymen are going into survival mode and not caring as much about long-term effects. They just want to survive the crisis and then they will deal with the consequences. Is that the right way of proceeding? I don’t know, and it is hard to judge because each dairyman’s situation is different.

Mireille Chahine
Extension Dairy Specialist
University of Idaho

Feed more cows in groups
Critically assessing the values of feed additives, reducing on-farm shrink, minimizing the over-feeding of cows, feeding more forage and bringing more attention to cow comfortand longevity would be the key areas.

More and more dairies are moving away from one-group diets to multiple groups. This will, in most cases, reduce shrink (adding a larger package to the TMR … multiple small packages increase shrink) and being able to target much closer to the actual production of the group.

Doug Waterman
Director of Dairy Technology Application