From zero to $300,000 in five years

Young couple shows there’s money in start-up grass dairy

By Larry Tranel, Kieler, Wisconsin —There is no money in dairying. Dairying is too much work. It takes too much capital to start dairying. You can’t graze dairy cows profitably. You cannot outwinter dairy cattle and survive. You can’t crossbreed dairy cows. You can’t start dairying with high-priced land and cows.

You can’t be profitable with 15,000 pounds of milk per cow. One person cannot handle 80 cows. Profits of $1,000 per crop acre or $1,000 per cow for return to labor cannot be done. Earning $30-$50 per labor hour milking cows is impossible. Landlords are better off getting rid of the dairy cows and cash cropping the farm. You can’t earn a 20% return on assets from dairying. You need more than 80 cows or 80 acres to make it dairying. The naysayers go on and on. Continue reading “From zero to $300,000 in five years”

It’s tough to beat $4.65 per hundredweight

Tim Pauli’s model offers small-farm hope for an uncertain future

Belleville, Wisconsin — For a while now I’ve had a theory that if we could turn the calendar back about six decades, and proceed from that point in agriculture on a path very different from the reality of what mainstream Americans chose, the world would be a better place.

And when I think these thoughts, Tim Pauli is usually part of the process. Continue reading “It’s tough to beat $4.65 per hundredweight”

Advice from 10 years of no-grain dairy

Moores: it’s all about energy and keeping flesh on cows

Nichols, New York— Rob Moore, who has not fed grain to his milking cows for the past 10 years, has mixed feelings toward the subject.

Rob is happy with his choice, saying “this is the way I want to farm.” Over the years he learned how to keep his cows in good body condition while getting enough organic milk out of them to provide family living and make payments on two farm mortgages. Today that organic check is usually above $28/cwt., but a decade ago it was closer to $11. Rob and his wife, Pam, believe no-grain offers opportunities for others, and Rob has said so at grazing conferences and other venues. Continue reading “Advice from 10 years of no-grain dairy”

Tips for getting cows bred for a tight window

By Dan and Ruth Vosberg, South Wayne, Wisconsin — If the only information you’ve heard about dairy farming the last few years came from mainstream farm publications, you’d think that all dairy farmers need estrus synchronization hormones to get their cows bred. Indeed, one of these magazines recently highlighted some of the top reproduction herds in the country. All but one farm used hormones, and those that used them stated that these products were key to their success.

Also, in looking at the average pregnancy rates published, you’d believe that it’s impossible to have a seasonally bred herd. A 60% first-service conception rate (which I consider necessary to be seasonal) isn’t even considered an attainable goal for most dairy farmers. Continue reading “Tips for getting cows bred for a tight window”

No-grain dairy: potential benefits, but handle with care

By Karen Hoffman, Norwich, NY — Over the past two years, I have given at least 30 presentations on feeding pastured dairy cows. In many of those presentations, the question has been raised about feeding no grain to lactating animals.

I realize the concept of not feeding grain has been popularized across the country due to interest in increasing the CLA content of grass-based milk. Most of the research has shown that grain feeding reduces the amount of CLA in both meat and milk. For those looking to capitalize on potential markets for high-CLA, grass-fed products, grain is almost a taboo thought. Continue reading “No-grain dairy: potential benefits, but handle with care”

A start-up dairy model for the future

With an innovative approach, extension agent walks his talk

Kieler, Wisconsin—There are lots of people within the grazing community who talk about the need to help young people get into the game. Larry Tranel happens to be one of those who matched that talk with his own money, and his own sweat.

Tranel, dairy field specialist for Iowa State University Extension, has employed a series of innovative ideas in converting 70 acres of good Southwest Wisconsin prairie ground into a productive starter grass dairy. Last year Eric and Amanda Gaul, both in their 20s, registered more than $90,000 in net farm income and $83,000 in returns to labor – along with an eye-popping 51% return on assets. (As renters, they had just $1,593/cow in assets, including an average of $1,100 in each cow.) Continue reading “A start-up dairy model for the future”