Assessment of a Collaborative Milk Shed in Lamoille County, Vermont

Project Overview

ONE20-361
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $16,079.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Center for an Agricultural Economy
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Silene DeCiucies
Center for an Agricultural Economy

Commodities

  • Agronomic: clovers, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed management, feed rations, feed/forage, genetics, grazing - rotational, grazing management, livestock breeding, pasture fertility, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, no-till
  • Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, feasibility study, financial management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, public participation, social capital, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will work with 8 dairy farms in Lamoille County to create a body of data that reflects the financial and practical state of a small milk shed and provides a catalyst for future collaboration and change. Our goal is to complete a cost of production for each farm (a powerful tool in itself), work through these data with the farmers to find areas of potential improvement in follow-up consulting, aggregate the data to gain a better understanding of the milkshed broadly, and foster communication between farmers to increase profitability across the region through collaboration and skill sharing. This “dairy triage” approach will force each farm to evaluate their enterprise as a business, and tighten operations, leaving fewer dollars on the table. Our team includes diary financial, crop and soil, dairy feed, pasture, and marketing experts. The farms involved in the project range in size from 30 -100 cow milking herd and are all grass-based operations. This project could not come at a better time; the dairy industry is struggling in Vermont, especially for the small grass based farms that create our rural landscape and are more sustainable (water quality and soil quality wise) than their large and expanding counterparts. We need more robust data that can accurately inform both farmers and the general public about the current and future state of dairy in Vermont and we need farmers to start thinking more critically within the system that exists and perhaps beyond it.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks assist a group of dairy farms in looking at their enterprise more critically from a financial perspective in order to increase their bottom line. This will mean different changes in production for different farms, but with the common goal of improving systems that exist to maximize profitability of the small grass based dairy farm. The project will create a body of data that farmers can use to better understand their operation as it compares to others. With this data, the team (of farmers and consultants) will be able to better communicate with stakeholders and among themselves about the needs of a group of small farms and discuss their viability moving forward. An additional outcome that we would like to see is more communication between farmers in the milk shed about their production system, pricing, successes and failures. More of these conversations will help the group collectively to get the most out of the commodity system, and create stronger relationships moving forward. We hope that this project will provide a model that can be repeated across other milk sheds across the Northeast.

    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.