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Management

Manage dairy employees, establish farm protocols, take on milk marketing, and become more confident in your farm financials.

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Over the past 65 years, the number of dairy farms in the United States has decreased from approximately 4.5 million to 74,000. During the same period, the number of cows per dairy farm increased from five to 125. The total number of dairy cows in this country decreased from 21.5 to 9.1 million while milk per cow increased from 4,500 to 19,000 pounds per year. The current national milk production could be produced in 8,000 dairies milking 1,000 cows producing 20,000 pounds each, thus requiring a 90-percent further reduction in the number of dairy farms.

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A 2003 Vermont study found approximately 50 percent of farms have at least one nonfamily employee. A Wisconsin study of farm characteristics found that 63 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms utilize only family labor. Regardless of which survey you’d like to use, it means nonfamily labor is a significant and important factor in dairy farming today. The misconception is that only those with employees need to manage their labor resource.

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As much as dairy producers and their advisers may try to eliminate the risks associated with dairy expansions, it cannot be done. The key to a successful dairy expansion is to anticipate, reduce and control those risks. Developing a strategic business plan can help producers and their advisers accomplish this. Careful planning reduces risk. However, any business plan is only as good as the information used to develop it. It is therefore important to have a systematic approach to evaluating an expansion plan to determine how effectively it has addressed the above issues. The areas to evaluate include:

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Relocating or expanding a dairy facility is a process that requires a tremendous amount of time and planning. Owners or managers of dairies will go through a number of steps including:

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“The Milk and Dairy Beef Residue Prevention Protocol” is a pamphlet designed for use by dairy producers, veterinarians and employees to assist in the evaluation of current production practices and the development of a plan to prevent residues in milk and dairy beef. The Milk and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Center (www.dqacenter.org), a not-for-profit corporation which provides dairy producers and consumers with educational and scientific materials, produces English and Spanish versions of the manual. The manual has five sections, including: critical control points; a comprehensive list of FDA-approved drugs for use in lactating and nonlactating cattle; a list of milk, serum and urine screening tests; an eight-step plan for keeping records; and completion certificates.

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Cow handling is a very important topic because of its impact on milk production, milk quality, milk composition and animal welfare. Canadian and Danish studies have demonstrated that hostile cow handling negatively affected the behavior of dairy cows. In one study, the hostile treatment consisted of striking the cow forcefully with a hand.

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