Dairy Farmers Continue to Tighten Their Belts

GROVE CITY, Pa. — The weather was dry and farmers anticipated harvesting crops the day the Center for Dairy Excellence scheduled its meeting in western Pennsylvania. But, a few farmers came out to hear what the latest news was about the dairy situation, and shared what they were doing to deal with the persistent low prices for milk at the farm gate.

During the discussion of ways to economize, Jordan Kennedy of Four Seasons Farm, Butler County, said that they had always had their corn trucked, dried and stored at a Witmer’s in Ohio. Beginning last year, he and his dad Jeffrey decided to store the corn on the farm as high-moisture corn. That saved on trucking and drying costs, he said.

Several of the farmers present raise and show purebred cattle.
“We have been selling September calves privately in the fall, rather than wait for the (consignment) sales in the spring,” said Sherry Ealy, who farms with her husband Dan and their children at Ealy Highland Farm, Sharpsville, where they raise Guernsey cattle. She said that it pays to take a little less for the show calves in the fall and not have to care for them through the winter.

Thad Sturgeon of Camp Run Holsteins said, “We aren’t replacing equipment.”

He farms with his dad and brother. They continually look for ways to save money.

The story is the same across the board. With all the cattle on the market, all the farmers are concerned about the cull cow prices. It’s also difficult to sell bull calves. The question was raised: Does it pay to feed a cow to add more weight, or do you sell now?

Despite all the negative news, these farmers are working hard to ride out the lengthy downturn.

Alan Zepp, risk management specialist for the Center for Dairy Excellence, explained the new Dairy Revenue Protection program that went into effect Oct. 9. He recommended that farmers look into the program to see if it would fit their operations. The program can be used along with the updated Margin Protection Program.

Phil Taylor, business management consultant with AgChoice Farm Credit urges his clients to participate in both programs.

The programs are like insurance. DRP is purchased through a crop insurance agent, and the premiums are subsidized from 59 to 44 percent.

The insurance can be based on Class Pricing Option or Component Pricing Option. Zepp and Taylor recommended that farmers contact a crop insurance agent to learn how the program would work for their farms.

Jayne Sebright, executive director for the center, talked about funding available for consultants to assist dairy farmers with decision making.

Sebright deferred questions about school milk programs to Amy Leslie, industry relations specialist with American Dairy Association North East.

“Getting whole milk in schools is a legislative issue,” Leslie said. “Our organization cannot lobby, but we can provide farmers with the information they need to talk to their legislators.”

Leslie said that promotion dollars are being spent on social media ads rather than on television. This is where the target audience will most likely see the dairy messages. The agency works with schools to insure that milk remains on the lunch tray.

Chip Fohl, DeLaval representative with Hill’s Supply Inc., Canal Fulton, Ohio, announced that Frank Burkett had purchased the local dealership. There will be a meet and greet across the territory the week of Dec. 17 for people to get to know the owner and to also see the newest DeLaval robotic milking system. The first stop should be in western Pennsylvania. Details will be forthcoming.

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