With another year winding down, our thoughts often turn to reflection on the past. However, my grandson's first birthday has me in a more "futuristic" frame of mind, a theme woven throughout this month's issue of Dairy Herd Management.

Management, financial decisions

In “Wrapping up a profitable year”, Contributing Editor Maureen Hanson takes a look at near-term decisions designed to have a longer-term positive impact on your bottom line.

Undoubtedly, dairy farmers have a lot tot be thankful for this year, likely one of the most profitable ever. Depending on how they are managed, "extreme” years have long tails – we need only to think back to 2009 to refresh our memory. Likewise, decisions made in the final months of 2014 – with the likelihood milk prices are headed for a downturn – will influence your future net return and long-term sustainability.

And, it looks more likely dairy farmers will not have full use of one financial management tool – Section 179 of the IRS tax code – which allows businesses to deduct, for the current tax year, the full purchase price of financed or leased equipment. The provision is still in place for 2014, but the deduction limit is much lower than it was in the past. A bill extending the provision at higher levels is stuck in a dysfunctional Senate awaiting election results.

Two other articles, both by Assistant Editor Lucas Sjostrom, feature topics with impacts a little further into the future.

There's an ‘app’ for that

“Dairy rocket science in your back pocket” details Farm SmartTM, computer software with the capability to estimate the potential financial and environmental impacts of management decisions. Now in its beta testing form on a handful of U.S. farms, the program gives information back to the farmer in a way that helps evaluate current farm management practices, and weigh future options for business planning and analysis.

Spore-formers and your milk check

In a second article, “Spore-formers: The new line on your milk check”, Lucas examines the implications of spore-forming bacteria. While this may be the first you've read or heard about these microscopic bacteria, they spoil milk, slow dairy plant productivity and keep some products out of export markets. Researchers are still working to find their cause and origin, but odds are many dairy farmers will find a separate line for spore-former counts on their milk checks within 5 years – either as a deduction or as a premium.

40 Under 40

This month's issue also features profiles of our 2014 “40 Under 40” Award program honorees. In its second year, Vance Publishing Corporation’s Agribusiness Group recognizes 40 people under 40 years of age who are making a significant contribution to agriculture and the future food supply.

As the editorial team for Dairy Herd Management, Lucas and I shared the responsibility to interview and profile those honorees within the dairy industry.

As someone who is becoming increasingly disenchanted with current political leaders and their inability to accomplish much of anything positive, I can't recall a recent project that gave me more hope and confidence in the next generation.

MPP-Dairy

One final reminder about a decision with an impact on your future: The deadline to enroll in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy program is December 5. If you haven't done so, attend an informational meeting, and then visit your USDA Farm Service Agency office.

Editor's note: This article appears in our November 2014 issue of Dairy Herd Management magazine. To read this and other articles when the issue is available, click here.