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Dairy Talk Start A New Trend

00:00AM Oct 11, 2008

Jim Dickrell
Sometimes, trends just sneak up on you. The resuscitation of the dairy industries in Missouri and Wisconsin are prime examples.

Our cover story, "Kiwis a-Comin',” page 15, describes how the discovery that intensive rotational grazing works well in Missouri led to a stabilization of cow numbers and the influx of $50 million in capital from New Zealand. The new dairies, modeled after the Kiwi prototype, are adapting to Missouri conditions, feeding 12 lb. of grain or more per cow per day.

Credit for the resurgence goes to the University of Missouri, which converted its Southwest Center at Mount Vernon, Mo., to grazing in 1998. Producers started grazing their herds, and soon a movement was born.

In Wisconsin, analysis by Bob Cropp, professor emeritus of ag economics, suggests milk production has rebounded almost to the extent that state cheese vats could be swamped within a few years.

Nobody knows exactly how much capacity Wisconsin cheese plants operate. But over the past two decades, they've had to pay premiums simply to attract enough milk to keep plants operating efficiently.

Those days might soon be over. Cropp estimates Wisconsin farms could ship an additional 2 billion pounds a year by 2012. That would surpass the peak total production output of 25 billion pounds back in 1988.

Freestalls and parlors are responsible for the surge in milk flow. But credit also has to go to the Badger State itself, which poured millions into grants for producers to do expansion feasibility studies. The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association helped pass the state's siting law, which makes the regulatory process more predictable. Most importantly, credit goes to producers and their lenders, who saw a future in dairying in America's Dairyland.

So here's the message: If dairying is languishing in your area, find a niche. What worked in the past may not work in the future. Be smart; do your homework. Then have the guts and conviction to make it happen. Wisconsin and Missouri prove it can be done.

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