Dairy Dollars

Entrepreneurs know that an efficient business is a profitable business. In the dairy industry, the same is true.

In the never-ending battle for productivity, several farmers gathered at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Jamestown on Wednesday.

Gathering under the name “10 Pound Club,” the group discussed ways to get 10 more pounds of milk out of their cows each day without spending more money.

Beth Dahl, dairy modernization specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warsaw, led the discussion and offered advice to farmers.

“The idea of the meeting was to address dairy farmer profitability,” said Dahl. “We’re trying to share ideas – what works and what doesn’t. The idea is to arm yourself with as much information as possible and know your options.”

As aforementioned, the goal set by the club was to find ways to increase cow productivity by 10 pounds of milk per day without incurring additional costs.

“There are three ways to improve the profitability of your dairy,” said Dahl. “You must either increase the price received for your milk, produce it for less, or sell more of it, providing the margin is positive.”

According to Dahl, there are simple changes farmers can make to encourage cows to yield more milk per day. And though 10 extra pounds of milk per day per cow is not a substantial number, Dahl explained how that 10 extra pounds per cow per day can add up.

“I wanted to show exactly what that next 10 pounds of milk is worth,” said Dahl. “Ten pounds of milk is worth about $1.80. With the New York average of 100 cows per herd, that’s $40,000 over the course of a year. That’s why many farmers opt to try to get more milk out of the cows they have instead of bringing in more cows, because you can get more milk without buying more feed.”

In order to get those 10 extra pounds, farmers might need to give their farms a little bit of a “tune-up.” A few changes farmers can make to get more milk out of their cows are: curtail protocol drift, maximize the value of milk, identify unprofitable cows, seek marginal milk, tighten reproductive program, and seek better care for calves.

“There are common areas where many dairy herds find a way to increase profitability,” said Dahl. “One of those ways is to tighten up labor protocol. Farms have many different employees doing many different jobs – there are so many people doing many different things, it’s a good idea to make sure what the farmer wants to happen is actually happening. … Another idea is to try to increase profitability is to increase milk quality. The higher the fat and protein content of the milk, the more it is worth. If a farmer’s milk quality is low, they should see about bringing in a nutritionist.”

Dahl also talked about how farmers should know what cows traditionally yield more milk than others on their own, and farmers should consider replacing those cows. One way to go about replacing those cows is to make sure that cattle are giving one calf every year.

“Typically, you give the cow around two months after she has a calf, then you try to get her pregnant again,” said Dahl. “The cows’ systems are set up so they can have about one calf every year. Keeping them healthy and making sure they get that calf every year is very important.”

Additionally, cow comfort is something which could determine whether a herd will yield more milk. Cows which are stress-free and comfortable tend to produce more milk than uncomfortable cows, according to Dahl.

The club’s next gathering, which will probably happen in March, will take place at one or more local farms that are scrupulous in making sure their cows are comfortable. The farms which will be visited are yet to be determined.

Wednesday’s meeting of the 10 Pound Club was arranged by Harvest NY, a pilot program launched by Cornell Cooperative Extension designed to expand and enhance existing regional agriculture extension programs with the addition of three new areas of expertise: agriculture economic development, dairy modernization, and dairy food processing.

To learn more about Harvest NY, visit cce.cornell.edu/FeatureStorys/Pages/harvestnewyork.aspx.