Small farm stands tall

Farmer with cows

Belleville, Wisconsin — I spend most of my time writing about graziers with “all-grass” mindsets who want to milk scores of cows through swing parlors and the like.

But I must admit that if I had a Top 10 list of most admired dairy graziers, on it would be a guy with 72 tillable/grazing acres, a five-year cropping rotation and fewer than 30 cows.

Between 1993 (when he stopped green chopping and started grazing) and 2001, Tim Pauli averaged net income of $1,408 per cow including interest and depreciation costs, but not unpaid labor or return to capital. For 2002, a horrible year for so many dairy farmers, early figuring indicated a per-cow net of $1,424 without Uncle Sam’s MILC payments, and $1,603 with them. This was accomplished by shipping 15,893 lbs./cow priced at $11.80/cwt. from an average of 26.2 Holsteins in an operation that required 2,400 to 2,500 labor hours last year. Continue reading “Small farm stands tall”

One-shot rations come north

Farmer with feed

Glenn Moyer finds high-fiber feed aids milk production, profits and labor efficiency

Mercersburg, Pennsylvania — Profits, both per-cow and total farm, are way up at Cove Mountain Farm, the American Farmland Trust’s dairy grazing showcase for the Northeast. Per-cow milk production in the seasonally calved herd peaked 11 pounds higher this spring compared to a year earlier, and production was holding at a much higher plane this summer despite a long stretch of hot weather. Cow body condition is much better, and conception rates have improved markedly compared to those of a couple of years ago. The amount of labor required to produce 100 pounds of milk has substantially declined.

And Glenn Moyer, who has run Cove Mountain’s dairy on a lease basis since the operation’s beginnings nearly six years ago, is very happy these days. Continue reading “One-shot rations come north”

You, too, can have a parlor

Farmers in milking parlor

He’s planned them. He’s built them. He’s milked in them. Vance Haugen thinks you should consider a low-cost milking parlor.

By Vance Haugen, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin — Whether you manage 20 cows or 200 – and whether you graze your cows or not – New Zealand-style “swing” parlors are certainly worth considering. These parlors offer a lot of milking efficiency at a relatively low cost and with less physical labor than milking in stanchions, which fits well with the grazier mentality. I’ve seen some brand-new swing parlors that do a wonderful job of milking a lot of cows at far lower costs than conventional American “low-line” facilities.

But what really intrigues me is the idea of putting such a parlor in an existing building — usually a stall barn. There are tremendous savings to be found in using existing walls, current milking equipment and “pre-owned” iron. Continue reading “You, too, can have a parlor”