Understanding Opportunities and Risks Associated with Alternative Milking Strategies

Progress report for ONE20-360

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,737.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

Access to information on a diversity of production practices can help farmers successfully evaluate and implement practices that improve farm viability. One practice increasing in popularity is altering milking frequency. Farmers are interested in utilizing this practice to overcome labor challenges, financial stress, cow and farmer quality of life concerns. However, as decreasing milking frequency ultimately results in lower milk production, the cost savings and other gains attained through this system must outweigh the costs of lower production and potential changes in milk quality. As farm economics are impacted by so many farm management and external factors, it is critical that we better understand the considerations and impacts associated with these systems in the Northeast. To our knowledge there has been no alternative milking frequency research conducted in the US let alone the Northeast. Through a survey, this project will gather important data about the characteristics of northeast farms employing alternative milking frequencies. This project will also expand our existing production benchmarking, Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) testing program, and cost of production analysis gaining an additional 12 participants using alternative milking frequencies. The data gathered from the benchmarks will be used to develop metrics by which other interested farmers can make informed decisions. Further, webinars, on-farm workshops, conferences, and factsheets will be developed to aid farmers in understanding the risks and challenges associated with alternative milking frequencies as well as key factors leading to successful adoption of these practices to help them make successful management decisions.

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to understand the economic and production metrics for farms that have adopted alternative milking frequencies through implementing benchmarking on farms in the Northeast. This project benefits the farmers by strengthening their knowledge and providing them with decision making tools to assess the feasibility of adopting alternative milking frequencies on their farms,

 

Access to animal specific, high quality herd production and quality data through dairy herd monitoring programs is often too cost prohibitive, or perceived as such, for farmers to consistently use it for monitoring purposes. Although farmers have some idea of their production and quality, they don’t always know if they are on-par with other dairies of similar nature. Although there are currently available benchmarking programs for the dairy industry, these programs are typically offered through lenders with a heavy focus on financials and are not production system specific.

 

This project will create new information and benchmarks for farms currently or interested in utilizing alternative milking frequencies. The information and tools created will allow farmers to accurately decide if this practice is the right fit for the sustainability and viability of their farm.

Introduction:

As farms struggle to remain viable in today’s dairy economy, farmers are looking for innovative ways to adapt and diversify their businesses. Dairy farmers have largely relied on transitioning to management systems that offered higher milk prices such as certified organic or 100% grass-fed. However, as both of these systems rely heavily on grazing, additional land and labor are required. Finding qualified and reliable labor is challenging and may increase farm expenses beyond the benefits of the higher milk prices. Additionally, as more farmers are relying on off-farm income, looking to increase quality of life, or working on business succession, more flexibility in scheduling is desirable. As both organic and 100% grass-fed production systems already experience lower milk production than a conventionally managed dairy, many farmers have expressed interest exploring and/or adopting a once-a-day (OAD) or a three times in two days (3-in-2) milking schedule. A recent survey of grass-fed organic dairy producers found that 15% (n=167) of respondents were already using alternative milking frequencies on their farms. Interest in transitioning to alternative milking frequencies is rising throughout New England. During the summer of 2019, field days held at two farms utilizing alternative milking schedules (OAD and 3-in-2) drew over 125 farmers curious about this option. Unfortunately, there was little data available to answer farmer’s questions about the benefits and risks associated with these milking strategies. At the 2020 UVM Organic Dairy Conference, 76% (n=52) of attendees responding to a post event survey indicated they wanted to know more about characteristics and economics of farm’s implementing alternative milk frequencies.

 

These alternative milking schedules can theoretically lower labor costs and provide more time during the day for farm management tasks, other enterprises, or family time. But are these systems profitable? Studies have shown that reducing milking frequency from twice-a-day (TAD) to OAD reduces milk yield, fat, and protein yields (Rémond et al., 2004; Davis et al., 1999). Furthermore, some research shows minimal milk yield reductions if milking intervals remain <18 hours (3-in-2). The economics of OAD milking, has shown to decrease farm operating expenses by an average on 25.5% in New Zealand (Anderle and Dalley, 2007).

As so many farm management and external factors impact farm economics, it is critical that we understand the risk/benefits associated with these alternative milking frequencies in the Northeast. Currently there is limited accurate information available to farmers interested in transitioning to an alternative milking frequencies. This project will expand our existing benchmarking and milk testing programs (DHI), gaining an additional 12 participants using alternative milking strategies that will contribute information on cost of production, farm production, and farm management data. From this information, we will develop and deliver outreach including 2 webinars, 1 conference, 2 on-farm workshops, and 3 factsheets that will aid farmers in understanding the risks and benefits associated with alternative milking frequencies.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Karl Brown - Producer
  • Cameron Clark - Producer
  • Sarah Flack (Researcher)
  • Sara Ziegler (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

2020 Report

Since the grant was awarded, we have notified our farmer partners and key collaborators and supporters of the award. The first step in the project is to complete a survey of dairy producers in the northeast to obtain information relating to the prevalence of use and interest in alternative milking strategies as well as challenges, barriers, and knowledge or resource gaps needed to successfully assess and adopt these strategies. In the fall of 2020, a draft survey was created and has been reviewed by two of our farmer partners. The survey and methods was submitted in November of 2020 to the University of Vermont Internal Review Board (IRB) for review and approval.

Logistics planning for survey deployment has been started between our team, milk buyers/cooperatives, and other outlets that will help advertise the survey. Both online through Qualtrics and mail-in options will be available.

A project announcement was created and posted to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) ODairy forum (510 subscribers) and Vermont Agriview agricultural newspaper (over 1000 recipients). Similar avenues will be used to distribute an announcement of the survey but will also be advertised on our program website and distributed directly through milk buyers/cooperatives. We expect to distribute the survey in February.

In December of 2020, the online benchmarking program was updated to include some specific questions geared towards farms that use alternative milking strategies. The next step will be to enroll 12 farmers using alternative milking strategies in our production benchmarking, DHI testing, and cost of production analysis programs. A list of potential participants known to be employing alternative milking strategies has been created and will be used in the new year to begin to recruit participants.

2021 Report

Since the last reporting period the survey of dairy producers in the northeast was completed. Survey questions and implementation strategy was designed using the Tailored Design Method (Dillman, 2000). The survey method and tool were approved through IRB at the University of Vermont. In the spring of 2021, the survey was sent to approximately 800 dairy producers through both physical mailings and online communications. The survey was closed at the end of June 2021 and the results compiled.

The survey included questions about the use of OAD and 3-in-2 milking systems including time in the year the practices are employed, how long they have been in use on the farm, information needed and desired on the practices, and benefits/impacts realized from adopting the practices.

As with past surveys, we partnered with the major regional milk buyers and certifiers to identify the mailing list of recipients and for communication support with their membership about participating in the survey. The final survey can be found at Alternative Milking Strategies Survey.

Survey data is currently being summarized in a farmer friendly article that will be distributed to the survey recipients and to farmer publications. Results will also be highlighted at conferences and other regional outreach events. 

A goal of twelve farms currently utilizing or transitioning to OAD or 3-in-2 milking strategies were approached participate in benchmarking and monitoring (DHI testing and benchmarking program) as well as financial analyses (Dairy TRANS Financial Analysis software, Iowa State University) to help develop comparisons to establish commonalities and address challenges and considerations of these alternative systems.

In the DHI testing program, farmers gain access to monthly milk testing services in which milk yield, components, quality (SCC, MUN), and reproductive performance (calving interval) data are collected for each cow currently milking that month. This provides the farmer with a very detailed snapshot of their herd and can provide insight into breeding, culling, and milk withholding decisions which can significantly impact herd success and economic return both in the short and long term, especially under alternative milking schedules.

The cost of production data will be collected with Dairy TRANS software developed by Larry Tranel at Iowa State University and has been used by the UVM project team since 2018. Currently Dairy TRANS software is being used to collect cost of production data from over 30 grass-fed organic dairy farms. This data is being used to create a financial benchmark by which other grass-fed organic dairy farms can compare. Although our data set will be relatively small from this project it will allow us to develop an initial financial benchmark for farms using alternative milking frequencies. Once the data is collected, the farmer will immediately have access to a simple report outlining their farms income, expenses, and cost of production metrics and will compare that to current benchmarks for their respective production system (i.e. organic, grass-fed). Each year, data will be anonymously compiled and analyzed via descriptive statistics and correlations.

Nine farms have enrolled in our production benchmarking and DHI testing programs. These farms complete a monthly survey detailing their farm management and production and receive individual cow production and quality data through the DHI test. Each month they receive a report summarizing their farm’s data and as more data become available additional reports will be created and distributed. Finally, financial data on 11 farms were collected and compiled in 2021. At the time the data were collected, the participating farms received a summary of their data which included their overall cost of production and farm financial health metrics. The data are currently being analyzed and summarized. Results will be shared with the participating farmers and posted to our website and shared through various outreach methods.

Also, during this reporting period, a webinar focused on alternative milking strategies was held on 9-Mar 2021. The webinar included a dairy scientist from New Zealand who discussed current research on the impacts of altering milking frequencies, as well as two local farmers who discussed their experiences with alternative strategies. The webinar was recorded and is posted on our website along with a copy of the slides used during the presentation.

 Data collection through the benchmarking/DHI testing programs and the cost of production analysis will continue into the next reporting period to gain as much data on these alternative systems as possible. With the relatively low numbers of farmers having experience with these systems it is critical that we have as large of a sample size over as long of a time period as possible before drawing any conclusions that may influence farmers’ decision making.

 

Research results and discussion:

2021 Survey of Farms Utilizing Alternative Milking Strategies

Of the respondents, 62.6% indicated that they operated a certified organic operation while 34.4% were certified grass-fed. The remaining 3% of respondents were managing their operation under one of those production systems but not certified and 0.8% managed conventionally. The average herd size was 55 mature cows with 42.5% managing Holsteins, 33.1% Crossbreeds, and 19.7% Jerseys. Annual milk production averaged 12,849 lbs per cow but ranged from 4,400 to 27,375 lbs. The majority (60.4%) of farms milk in a tie stall while 38.1% milk in a parlor and 1.5% milk with a robot.

Of the total respondents, 17.2% indicated they have tried or are currently using an alternative strategy. Of these, 69.6% have tried or are using once-a-day milking, 56.5% seasonal production, and 13.0% milking three times in two days. An additional 8.7% utilize robotic milking and 4.34% milk 13 times each week. It is important to note that farms could have tried or be utilizing multiple strategies. The average duration farms employed once-a-day milking was 44 months or 3.7 years while the average duration for seasonal production was 107 months or 8.9 years. We would expect the duration of once-a-day milking to be shorter as these responses include both the duration for farms that are currently using the practice but also the duration of trialing the practice; one cannot as simply try seasonal production over a short period of time as is possible with altering milking frequency. Interestingly, farms who have tried or are milking three times in two days have done so for an average of 15 months indicating that this practice is relatively new and rare in the northeast compared to the other strategies.

The most common impacts observed by respondents who have tried or are currently using an alternative strategy included decreased milk production (69.6%), improved body condition (43.5%), increased reproductive performance (43.5%), and increased somatic cell count (34.8%). The estimated decrease in milk production averaged approximately 25% but ranged from no change up to 50%, indicating that some herds were better suited to the alternative strategy employed. Similarly, farms indicated that increases in somatic cell counts ranged from approximately 15% to more than 300%. Managing somatic cell count and mastitis were the challenges cited the most by farms who tried or are milking once-a-day. The most common challenge cited among farms who tried or are milking three times in two days was managing the variation in the daily schedule including milking late at night. The most common challenge cited among farms who tried or are producing milk seasonally was getting the herd bred within the narrow window necessary and having to cull otherwise high-producing cows who do not fit this reproduction schedule. Despite these challenges, the most common benefits of interest to farms who tried or are using an alternative strategy were increased flexibility in daily task timing (73.9%) and decreased facilities wear and tear (43.5%).

Of the total respondents, 20.1% indicated that they were interested in but have not yet adopted an alternative strategy. For this group, the most common benefits of interest were flexibility in daily task timing (77.8%), ability to participate in other income generating ventures on or off the farm (59.3%), decreased facilities wear and tear (40.7%), and increasing job attractiveness to potential employees (40.7%). The most common concerns cited among these farms were economics due to lower milk production (74.1%), managing milk quality (48.1%), and maintaining cow health (40.7%). Interestingly, 84.0% of farms interested in adopting an alternative strategy indicated that they would adopt one of these strategies if they could overcome these challenges.

Of the total respondents, 62.7% indicated that they were unsure or not interested in adopting an alternative strategy. For these farms the most common concerns were uncertainty in the economic viability (64.3%), maintaining milk quality (38.1%), and uncertainty about the herd being a good fit for the strategy (31.0%). In addition, 22.6% of farms indicated that they do not understand the potential benefits of these systems and 15.5% indicated that they do not understand the strategies themselves. When asked if they would adopt an alternative strategy if their challenges were overcome, 42.5% still indicated they would not while 42.5% remained unsure. Interestingly, 15.1% of these farms indicated that they would adopt an alternative strategy if they could overcome these challenges.

These data suggest that northeast dairy producers are interested in adopting alternative milking strategies but require assistance in overcoming common barriers including farm economics, milk quality, and herd health/adaptation to the system. These data also suggest that there are opportunities for education and outreach around what these alternative strategies entail, their potential costs, benefits, and considerations.

2021 Benchmarking, Cost of Production, and DHIA

Data is being summarized as we also begin to start collecting cost of production data from 2021.

There are a variety of alternative milking strategies being employed by farms in the cost of production study. Not every farm is using the same strategy so difficult to compare data. The farms have been divided by type of milking strategy and seasonality. The preliminary data is below and a second year of data collection will help to build more information on costs for operating under these different types of management.

2019-2020 Seasonal milking 2x/day Seasonal, alternative milking frequency Year-round, alternative milking frequency Seasonal (all milking frequencies) Alternative milking frequency (all seasonalities) Overall Year-round 2x/day
  Average          (n = 10) Minimum Maximum Average        (n = 6) Minimum Maximum Average               (n = 4) Minimum Maximum Average          (n = 16) Minimum Maximum Average           (n = 10) Minimum Maximum Average          (n = 20) Minimum Maximum Average        (n = 23) Minimum Maximum
Farm Information                                          
Herd Size 76 23 220 58 42 88 60 44 70 69 23 220 59 42 88 67 23 220 59 33 106
Acres 281 97 699 465 285 850 373 210 475 350 97 850 428 210 850 354 97 850 342 69 793
Acres per cow 4.54 2.02 11.7 7.61 6.25 10.3 6.14 4.77 7.79 5.69 2.02 11.65 7.02 4.77 10.30 5.78 2.02 11.65 5.56 1.71 10.34
Fertilizer & seed expenses ($/cow) $151 $0 $640 $65 $0 $166 $183 $0 $366 $119 $0 $640 $112 $0 $366 $132 $0 $640 $131 $0 $538
Fertilizer & seed expenses ($/acre) $39 $0 $201 $8 $0 $16 $30 $0 $63 $27 $0 $201 $17 $0 $63 $28 $0 $201 $29 $0 $120
Purchased forage expenses ($/cow) $370 $0 $1,288 $186 $0 $458 $408 $0 $1,037 $301 $0 $1,288 $275 $0 $1,037 $323 $0 $1,288 $308 $0 $1,064
Purchased forage expenses ($/acre) $147 $0 $637 $27 $0 $73 $63 $0 $133 $102 $0 $637 $41 $0 $133 $94 $0 $637 $111 $0 $509
Milk Information                                          
Total milk sold (lbs/year) 653514 149180 1919543 374511 188362 580000 449895 372047 608161 548888 149180 1919543 404665 188362 608161 529089 149180 1919543 533058 256257 1148174
Total milk sold (CWTs) 6535 1492 19195 3745 1884 5800 4499 3720 6082 5489 1492 19195 4047 1884 6082 5291 1492 19195 5331 2563 11482
Total milk sold (CWT eq.) 7507 1703 21710 4499 2542 7195 5124 4258 5756 6379 1703 21710 4749 2542 7195 6128 1703 21710 6219 2917 13244
Milk per cow (lbs/cow) 8923 5906 14990 6546 4485 10007 7678 5724 9970 8031 4485 14990 6999 4485 10007 7961 4485 14990 9083 6457 12970
Milk per acre (lbs/acre) 2604 557 5119 906 505 1534 1282 921 1869 1967 505 5119 1057 505 1869 1830 505 5119 2264 653 5534
Fat per cow (lbs/cow) 400 291 639 334 201 559 323 240 423 376 201 639 330 201 559 365 201 639 378 263 519
Fat per acre (lbs/acre) 116 26 208 47 25 86 54 39 78 90 25 208 50 25 86 83 25 208 96 26 248
Labor efficiency                                          
Full Time Equivalents (FTEs)§ 2.15 1.18 3.33 1.56 1.46 1.67 2.08 1.43 3.23 1.93 1.18 3.33 1.77 1.43 3.23 1.96 1.18 3.33 2.71 1.58 5.48
Cows per FTE 34 10 66 37 27 56 31 19 38 35 10 66 35 19 56 34 10 66 23 15 39
Milk Sold per FTE (CWT eq.†) 3435 719 6520 2860 1741 4620 2623 1781 3012 3220 719 6520 2765 1741 4620 3100 719 6520 2480 1061 5609
Return to labor $46,845 -$53,518 $99,589 $24,711 -$25,180 $69,658 -$36,846 -$87,344 $24,604 $38,545 -$53,518 $99,589 $88 -$87,344 $69,658 $23,467 -$87,344 $99,589 $34,065 -$42,663 $138,738
Labor earnings per hour $10.44 -$10.57 $34.89 $8.31 $2.91 $16.05 $2.59 -$13.55 $23.04 $9.73 -$10.57 $34.89 $5.77 -$13.55 $23.04 $8.22 -$13.55 $34.89 $4.37 -$4.61 $15.39
Unpaid labor (cost) $53,000 $40,000 $80,000 $46,667 $40,000 $60,000 $40,000 $40,000 $40,000 $50,625 $40,000 $80,000 $44,000 $40,000 $60,000 $48,500 $40,000 $80,000 $45,217 $40,000 $80,000
Unpaid labor (hours) 5609 2800 7300 4691 4380 5020 4881 2636 5928 5264 2800 7300 4767 2636 5928 5188 2636 7300 7286 3650 16450
Farm Income                                          
Milk price ($/CWT) $38.11 $35.41 $40.60 $40.20 $31.68 $46.18 $40.66 $36.97 $45.64 $38.90 $31.68 $46.18 $40.39 $31.68 $46.18 $39.25 $31.68 $46.18 $38.13 $29.13 $45.58
Gross Milk Income $248,578 $54,336 $729,570 $154,093 $68,817 $222,380 $181,950 $157,595 $242,588 $213,146 $54,336 $729,570 $165,236 $68,817 $242,588 $206,907 $54,336 $729,570 $199,406 $115,604 $431,097
Gross Cull, Calf, & Livestock Sales $16,868 $1,536 $67,060 $10,280 $1,688 $18,400 $3,175 $0 $7,600 $14,398 $1,536 $67,060 $7,438 $0 $18,400 $12,153 $0 $67,060 $6,098 $0 $20,264
Gross Crop Sales $764 $0 $5,200 $267 $0 $1,000 $465 $0 $1,400 $577 $0 $5,200 $346 $0 $1,400 $555 $0 $5,200 $2,371 $0 $31,842
Other Income* $11,163 $2,090 $24,630 $17,101 $0 $65,500 $32,393 $18,765 $57,464 $13,390 $0 $65,500 $23,218 $0 $65,500 $17,190 $0 $65,500 $21,010 $0 $79,245
Total Gross Income $277,373 $75,036 $799,881 $181,741 $85,875 $270,508 $217,983 $184,173 $275,506 $241,511 $75,036 $799,881 $196,238 $85,875 $275,506 $236,805 $75,036 $799,881 $228,885 $129,305 $452,326
Farm Expenses ($/CWT eq.)†                                          
Bedding $1.08 $0.00 $2.35 $1.33 $0.00 $6.07 $0.52 $0.45 $0.59 $1.17 $0.00 $6.07 $1.00 $0.00 $6.07 $1.04 $0.00 $6.07 $1.13 $0.00 $4.06
Breeding Fees $0.08 $0.00 $0.29 $0.41 $0.00 $1.36 $0.57 $0.40 $0.73 $0.21 $0.00 $1.36 $0.48 $0.00 $1.36 $0.28 $0.00 $1.36 $0.18 $0.00 $0.58
Custom Hire $1.36 $0.00 $3.84 $1.30 $0.00 $3.41 $1.10 $0.00 $4.41 $1.34 $0.00 $3.84 $1.22 $0.00 $4.41 $1.29 $0.00 $4.41 $0.70 $0.00 $5.44
Machine Rentals $0.51 $0.00 $4.83 $0.13 $0.00 $0.27 $0.05 $0.00 $0.20 $0.37 $0.00 $4.83 $0.10 $0.00 $0.27 $0.31 $0.00 $4.83 $0.59 $0.00 $3.40
Land Rentals $1.41 $0.00 $6.13 $0.87 $0.00 $1.78 $0.51 $0.00 $1.36 $1.21 $0.00 $6.13 $0.73 $0.00 $1.78 $1.07 $0.00 $6.13 $1.66 $0.00 $7.32
Supplies $1.85 $0.58 $5.87 $4.18 $2.29 $8.57 $4.89 $2.14 $10.95 $2.72 $0.58 $8.57 $4.46 $2.14 $10.95 $3.16 $0.58 $10.95 $2.29 $0.53 $4.39
Farm Insurance $0.53 $0.00 $3.87 $0.92 $0.45 $1.44 $1.62 $0.60 $2.58 $0.68 $0.00 $3.87 $1.20 $0.45 $2.58 $0.87 $0.00 $3.87 $0.90 $0.00 $3.55
Fuel, Gas and Oil $1.91 $0.79 $8.76 $1.52 $0.76 $2.44 $1.33 $0.89 $1.99 $1.76 $0.76 $8.76 $1.44 $0.76 $2.44 $1.68 $0.76 $8.76 $1.51 $0.68 $3.04
Hired Labor $1.79 $0.00 $10.63 $0.20 $0.00 $0.50 $3.53 $0.23 $7.86 $1.20 $0.00 $10.63 $1.54 $0.00 $7.86 $1.66 $0.00 $10.63 $2.52 $0.00 $7.29
Property Taxes $1.14 $0.00 $4.48 $1.46 $0.70 $2.32 $1.75 $0.68 $2.68 $1.26 $0.00 $4.48 $1.58 $0.68 $2.68 $1.36 $0.00 $4.48 $1.10 $0.00 $3.17
Purchased Forages $3.39 $0.00 $11.41 $2.12 $0.00 $5.33 $4.44 $0.00 $10.99 $2.91 $0.00 $11.41 $3.05 $0.00 $10.99 $3.22 $0.00 $11.41 $2.93 $0.00 $9.27
Minerals $0.53 $0.00 $1.37 $0.63 $0.00 $0.95 $0.83 $0.53 $1.13 $0.57 $0.00 $1.37 $0.71 $0.00 $1.13 $0.62 $0.00 $1.37 $0.51 $0.00 $1.37
Energy Supplements $0.59 $0.00 $3.72 $1.02 $0.00 $2.36 $3.00 $0.37 $4.82 $0.75 $0.00 $3.72 $1.81 $0.00 $4.82 $1.20 $0.00 $4.82 $0.29 $0.00 $3.94
Repairs $2.53 $0.86 $5.98 $4.04 $2.50 $7.81 $5.49 $1.70 $10.31 $3.09 $0.86 $7.81 $4.62 $1.70 $10.31 $3.57 $0.86 $10.31 $2.64 $0.00 $7.13
Seed & Fertilizer $1.73 $0.00 $6.48 $0.92 $0.00 $2.61 $2.34 $0.00 $5.14 $1.42 $0.00 $6.48 $1.49 $0.00 $5.14 $1.61 $0.00 $6.48 $1.22 $0.00 $4.02
Utilities $0.49 $0.00 $1.69 $1.12 $0.24 $2.17 $1.32 $0.05 $2.92 $0.72 $0.00 $2.17 $1.20 $0.05 $2.92 $0.84 $0.00 $2.92 $1.05 $0.00 $2.54
Veterinary & Medicine $0.31 $0.04 $0.99 $0.55 $0.11 $1.34 $0.57 $0.25 $1.01 $0.40 $0.04 $1.34 $0.56 $0.11 $1.34 $0.43 $0.04 $1.34 $0.31 $0.01 $1.75
Stop & Hauling $0.77 $0.00 $1.48 $1.32 $0.53 $2.30 $1.15 $0.90 $1.48 $0.98 $0.00 $2.30 $1.25 $0.53 $2.30 $1.01 $0.00 $2.30 $1.37 $0.33 $3.21
Other** $1.43 $0.57 $2.82 $2.70 $1.28 $4.36 $1.25 $0.72 $1.94 $1.91 $0.57 $4.36 $2.12 $0.72 $4.36 $1.78 $0.57 $4.36 $1.68 $0.39 $9.51
Total Cash Expense ($/CWTeq.) $24.31 $16.68 $43.32 $26.74 $18.85 $30.83 $36.28 $20.90 $49.47 $25.22 $16.68 $43.32 $30.56 $18.85 $49.47 $27.43 $16.68 $49.47 $25.31 $11.69 $39.03
Total Cash Expense ($/cow) $2,416 $1,273 $4,143 $2,100 $1,550 $3,312 $3,129 $2,023 $4,668 $2,298 $1,273 $4,143 $2,512 $1,550 $4,668 $2,464 $1,273 $4,668 $2,609 $1,130 $4,024
Total Cash Expense ($/farm) $194,109 $47,106 $683,956 $115,222 $78,361 $152,350 $191,411 $89,019 $284,752 $164,526 $47,106 $683,956 $145,697 $78,361 $284,752 $169,903 $47,106 $683,956 $149,851 $67,989 $322,518
Net                                           
Net Cash Income¥ $83,264 $1,257 $150,215 $66,519 $7,514 $139,761 $26,572 -$9,246 $95,960 $76,985 $1,257 $150,215 $50,540 -$9,246 $139,761 $66,902 -$9,246 $150,215 $79,034 $15,470 $189,943
Inventory change -$2,793 -$29,813 $67,745 -$10,435 -$31,457 $5,596 -$23,992 -$47,285 $4,601 -$5,659 -$31,457 $67,745 -$15,858 -$47,285 $5,596 -$9,325 -$47,285 $67,745 -$9,616 -$86,893 $92,053
Net farm income from operations (NFIFO) $80,471 -$25,957 $183,670 $56,084 $2,112 $108,305 $2,580 -$56,531 $62,074 $71,326 -$25,957 $183,670 $34,682 -$56,531 $108,305 $57,577 -$56,531 $183,670 $69,418 -$7,747 $185,177
4% Equity $33,626 $12,159 $101,616 $31,373 $27,293 $38,815 $39,426 $30,813 $44,736 $32,781 $12,159 $101,616 $34,594 $27,293 $44,736 $34,110 $12,159 $101,616 $35,353 $10,407 $102,760
Rate of Return on Assets (ROA) 3.72% -9.57% 19.04% 0.85% -5.55% 5.00% -4.23% -12.53% 2.36% 2.65% -9.57% 19.04% -1.18% -12.53% 5.00% 1.27% -12.53% 19.04% 3.72% -12.52% 32.07%
Operating Profit Margin (OPM) -2.13% -106.32% 29.21% -2.83% -41.03% 19.95% -17.00% -42.05% 12.91% -2.39% -106.32% 29.21% -8.50% -42.05% 19.95% -5.31% -106.32% 29.21% 4.98% -64.06% 42.55%
Asset Turnover Ratio (ATR) 40.59% 9.00% 71.58% 23.08% 13.05% 31.33% 21.75% 16.49% 29.80% 34.02% 9.00% 71.58% 22.55% 13.05% 31.33% 31.57% 9.00% 71.58% 36.55% 9.65% 116.82%
         Time period (years) 3.4 1.4 11.1 4.9 3.2 7.7 4.8 3.4 6.1 3.9 1.4 11.1 4.9 3.2 7.7 4.1 1.4 11.1 4.0 0.9 10.4
                                           
DairyTrans Total Expense per CWTeq. $44.08 $30.44 $91.33 $47.84 $39.89 $58.31 $55.08 $43.77 $62.01 $45.49 $30.44 $91.33 $50.74 $39.89 $62.01 $47.41 $30.44 $91.33 $42.12 $25.51 $67.46
Participation Summary
11 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

5 Consultations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

77 Farmers participated
46 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

Our project will combine a variety of educational strategies, fostering learning, adoption, and positive change on farms interested in altering milking strategies. We expect to reach at least 300 stakeholders through our outreach efforts.

Report 2020

A Program Announcement was created and posted to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) ODairy forum (510 subscribers) and Vermont Agriview agricultural newspaper (over 1000 recipients). 

Our project team met in December 2020 to discuss outreach options for the winter of 2021. Given a need to deliver information virtually we have decided to plan at least 1 webinar focused on alternative milking strategies. 

Report 2021

Eleven farms currently utilizing or transitioning to OAD or 3-in-2 milking strategies are participating in on-farm data collection and monitoring (DHI testing and benchmarking program) as well as financial analyses (Dairy TRANS Financial Analysis software, Iowa State University) and comparisons to establish commonalities and address challenges and considerations of these alternative systems. This combined data (as well as general survey data) will be used in 2022 and 2023 to develop the outreach materials and highlighted at the events described below.

Due to the pandemic our in-person field days, workshops, and conference have not been held. We are hopeful that we will be to hold field days in the summer/fall of 2022. Farmers involved in the benchmarking program will host field days and also participate in a conference farmer panel.

As part of a organic dairy webinar series, a focus on alternative milking strategies was included on 9-Mar 2021. A dairy scientist from New Zealand and two farmers from Vermont discussing research and personal experience altering milking frequencies and milk production seasonality. A recording of the webinar can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWY_k6Vgzr8&ab_channel=UVMExt_NWCrop%26Soils and a copy of the presentation shared during that webinar at https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/2021%20Events/Online%20Dairy%20Series/PaulEdwards_March9.pdf

The webinar focused on alternative milking strategies had 111 attendees. The entire webinar series advertisement can be found at 2021 Online Dairy Series Flyer.

In the June-July 2021 edition of Graze Magazine, an article summarizing the webinar and this research project was published. Digital copies of this edition can be purchased at https://www.grazeonline.com/digital-back-issues.

 

 

Learning Outcomes

11 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Cost of production, milk production, milk quality

Information Products

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.