Some producers are doing a better job of predicting their future feed needs, points out Ken Bolton, dairy agent for the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability.
“Some dairy managers are now becoming familiar with many more risk-management options for milk and feedstuffs,” he says.
“Many producers are looking at controlling more land, making it more productive and purchasing less feed,” he adds. “Added crop diversification may also be occurring.” (See more comments below.)
And, it helps to keep life in perspective.
“My parents always told me I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I was happy and as long as I gave it everything I have. I’m still happy, and I’m still giving dairy farming my all — for my family and for all those who depend on us,” Katie Dellar says.
Ken Bolton, dairy agent for the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability, conducted a quick survey of a dozen University of Wisconsin extension agents to assess the impact of the drought on farmers.
Here are some of the observations:
- The situation is still very fluid. As folks get their corn silage and emergency forages in, the emotion is lessening. Crops may not be quite as bad as feared except in the worst drought areas. At any rate, it’s a challenge.
- Those who prepared and executed well-developed plans are positioned to weather the storm.
- There is an increased understanding that maintaining a feed reserve (rather than running out) is critical. Many feed producers now recognize the importance of crop insurance; it isn’t just for cash grain producers anymore!
- More awareness of the cost of feed shrink is evident.
- More culling is occurring of low-end cows ― and, based on genomics, low-end heifers to both lower total feed costs and to place what feed is available with animals with a potential to pay for it. Like 1988 it is expected that folks who cut back on cow numbers will produce as much or more milk as they did at the larger herd size. Some already have! Cull 10 percent and produce more milk.
- Some are recognizing the TRUE value of corn silage. In those areas of the country that can grow it profitability, regardless of the year, corn silage is a miracle crop and feed.
- The current drought-tolerant hybrids are awesome and may get even better!
- Producers who have used sexed semen for several years are using less to reduce semen purchase costs and future feed bills for additional heifers they may not need. More ultrasound and timed AI is used to get cows bred and bred earlier than without these technologies.
- Producers are closely evaluating the use of waste milk for calves versus replacer purchases due to pasteurizers.
- On the business side, production decisions are being made more often based on data than what the neighbors are doing and panic decision-making.
- More and more dairy business managers are requesting and receiving monthly business record updates from record suppliers.
- Many are realizing it is prudent to prepare for the unexpected and are placing lesser weight on things with a low probability of occurrence. Some contingency planning is occurring for implementation when/if those contingencies occur.
- A few are realizing and some are accepting that liquidation or business restructuring isn’t necessarily a coward’s way out and it may preserve equity.