Midwestern dairy producers hold the distinction of having the highest cost to milk cows on a per-cow basis. It’s not that they pay their milkers more, it’s that their level of efficiency is below their competitors — especially Western dairy producers.

   While high cost is not something that any producer wants to be known for, it is something you can change, says Doug Reinemann, professor of biological systems engineering, University of Wisconsin Milking Research and Instruction Lab.

After analyzing results from the 2003 Dairy Milker Wage Survey conducted by Gregory Billikopf at the University of California (shown in the chart at right), Reinemann came to these conslusions:

  • Milking parlors in the Midwest are ‘overpopulated.’
  • Milking parlor efficiency in the Midwest is way behind every other region in the country.
  • The Midwest pays milkers less than all other regions.

He then took that data to calculate efficiencies shown in the chart at lower right. Labor efficiency is the number of cows milked per person per hour. Economic efficiency is the cost of milking each cow.

The results show that labor efficiency in the Midwest is about half that of producers in the West and Southeast, and two-thirds of that in the Northeast. The cost of milking a cow in the Midwest is the highest of all dairy regions, and almost double that of their Western counterparts. 

The Midwest has a lot of catching up to do if producers there want to stay in the ball game. Reinemann lists three solutions that you can use to help solve the problem.

  • Don’t put the extra person in the pit.Adding a second or third milker to a milking parlor smaller than a double-12 is never a good economic move. The cows milked per hour never increases proportionately to the added labor cost.
  • Build reasonably sized parlors.View other parlors. Run through all of the calculations with your equipment dealer.     
  • Pay good workers a decent wage.Inspire excellence and reward it. It pays. 

For more information: www.uwex.edu/uwmril