Saturday, July 7, 2018

Farm Update - July 7, 2018

Hey, folks! It's been a few months since I've given y'all a farm update, so I figured I'd take a few minutes to get you caught up while I'm waiting on my post-milking coffee to finish brewing.

We're in the midst of another hot, humid Alabama summer. Thankfully, though, we've only had one or two "dry spells" over the last couple of months. Timely rains have kept our corn and hay fields green and growing, and it's looking like we might finish the season with a pretty good crop of each. Our first cutting of hay wasn't that great, but we'll be harvesting for the second time next week or as soon as the forecast says we can string together three days with low rain chances. The second cutting is usually our best, and we could also get a strong third cutting (and a fair fourth) if everything "hits" right. Our earliest planted corn will be ready to chop in 2-3 weeks, and so far it's passing the eyeball test. I won't be sure how the yield and quality compares to last year until we have it in the bunker, but I am optimistic it will turn out pretty good.

Cows heading from the milking barn to their feed trough around sunrise.
On the cow front, we currently have 170 coming through the barn each day. We've been drying off pregnant cows fairly regularly over the last six weeks, and we still have a good many more to send out over the next few months. We will have a handful calve toward the end of the month, and then it will start picking up steadily around mid-August. Milk production is down as it always is this time of year, and likely won't start ticking up until September.

Our long-term prospects for staying in dairy still aren't very good. The price we are paid for our milk has inched up a little bit but we're not expecting any kind of big bump in the foreseeable future. And regardless of price, our regional infrastructure is deteriorating at such a rate it just doesn't seem like staying in is a smart/safe course of action. That said, we are hopeful we can continue on for a couple more years and "milk" as much out of the next positive price cycle as possible. Ultimately, though, it looks like a transition away from dairy will be the most sustainable thing for our family farm. 

With that in mind, please keep us and our fellow dairy farm families in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks and months. Times are tough, and we're all facing difficult decisions over our farms' futures. While we are hopeful that we can make a strategic farm transition on our own timetable, many are finding themselves with no option but to sell their cows and equipment as soon as possible. It's a sad state of affairs, but we each have to play the cards we've been dealt.

To close this out on a more upbeat note, I want to take just a moment to brag on my son. We told our two farmhands to take a three-day holiday this past week, and LG was really helpful lending a hand in their absence. He's still about a year away from being a full-fledged milk hand, but he can do enough to make a noticeable difference when there's only one adult in the parlor. I'm hopeful that I can provide enough farm work (dairy or otherwise) in the coming years for him and my daughter to earn a few dollars and...more importantly...establish a strong work ethic that will serve them well in whatever career they ultimately choose for themselves.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read, and have a "dairy" good day!


Unknown said...

I am a recent Dairy farm retirey. My brother and his son are carrying on the Dairy farm milking 250 cows 3x and 900 acres in north east Indiana. It makes me sad to read what is happening in the Dairy industry.

rbowie said...

God Bless and prayers.