cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, December, 2012

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added December 9, 2012. The most consistent thread over the last month was farmers’ concerns with shrinking margins due to the high costs of purchased feeds. Even for farms that are relatively self-sufficient, this year’s drought brought reduced yields in widespread areas of the country and the shorter grazing season meant that most organic farms began feeding out stored feeds earlier than normal. One farmer wrote a plea for a 10% increase in the retail price of organic milk this winter. Another farmer offered his updated and revised calculations on feed costs -- he reported that the feed costs alone for organic milk would be an average of $22.50/cwt. Another producer reported that the parity price of conventional milk has risen to $52.50; so it is no wonder that everyone feels that costs have surged ahead of pay prices.
One farmer suggested that not enough attention is paid to getting soils balanced; he recommended the Albrecht/Reams systems to maximize the nutritional content of crops.

A producer asked for advice on preparing a laneway. His contractor recommended using recycled, crushed concrete as a base, then covering with coarse sand. He wondered if the sand would be too difficult for the cows to walk through, and if he will have some erosion problems after a rain. Another farmer reported that she has used stone dust as the top layer, and it has packed well. She installs diverters in areas where there is erosion potential to keep the water from running down the laneway. Her diverters are made from old pieces of baler belting sandwiched between 2 pieces of treated lumber laid at and angle to run the water off. The diverters are laid so that the lumber is completely buried, but the belting sticks up 3 to 4 inches to divert the water. Another producer has recommends getting help from the NRCS staff in planning laneways; he has been very happy with the materials they specified.