cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, January, 2012

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Producer Representative and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added January 30, 2012. Last month, several producers discussed the current hay prices and the best strategy for feeding purchased hay. One producer said that good quality dairy hay was $300/ton. It was suggested that farmers who had to purchase some feed to augment their low to medium quality feed were better off to buy a better hay at the higher price so they could feed it on top of their lower quality feed and allow sorting by the cows. The practice of sweeping the hay up to the cows also gets them to eat the fine bits of the leaves, usually the best part. The coarse, refused hay can then be scraped down to feed animals with lower nutritional needs or used as bedding.
The high cost of purchased hay has some producers in a corner. When grain prices are high, farmers often feed less grain, and feed more hay. This year with high hay prices, there is no clear option. It was suggested that buying feed to keep extra cows will not pay this year. One producer calculated that under current conditions, the cost of production for 100 pounds of milk is $28.75; another calculated his feed cost at $20.33 per cwt.

There was also some discussion on farms that sell raw milk. Two producers reported that their insurance companies are going to require an amendment to their farm policy removing any liability for the sale of raw milk.

Things were relatively quiet on the list until the last two weeks of December when a discussion of feed prices led to some very serious talk of financial hardship. Several farmers had begun the year-end accounting, and realized how seriously they had fallen behind. Some farmers were thankful that "Gee, it's not just me." Some farmers were angry that processors had not moved to adjust the pay price in a meaningful way sooner. And others shared their pain as they look at the very real possibility of exiting the organic dairy industry.