If you can make it through the first half of 2013, you will have weathered the worst of the turbulence that has rattled the dairy industry over the past few years, says Purdue University Extension Dairy Specialist Mike Schutz.

That’s not to say the going will be easy; the first six months of 2013 likely will be stressful for producers, he notes. But assuming feed prices fall or, at the very least, stabilize, in the latter half of 2013, dairy farmers should benefit from a relatively neutral economic outlook for the rest of the year.

“We're hopeful that feed prices will be reduced or stabilize with the planting of the 2013 crop, which will also hopefully help producers get back to approaching at least break-even or somewhat profitable prices,” Schutz says.

For those producers who are still short on forage supplies, Schutz recommends that they keep a close eye on feed prices and check inventories frequently. Farmers with low inventories can consider planting an early spring forage crop, such as spring oats, he adds. Spring oats can be sown in very early spring, giving farmers the opportunity to double-crop and produce more forage before next winter. Other options are sorghum-sudangrass, sudangrass or pearl millet, which can be sown in mid-May and ready for harvest by early July. Alfalfa can be sown by mid-April and also would produce a first harvest in July, followed by subsequent harvests for many years, Schutz notes.