Better Prepared Now

January 13, 2010 09:18 AM

*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.


Zach Myers
Jonesville, N.C.

I am a third-generation dairy producer whose family has been farming at our current site for more than 100 years. We are located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the northwestern part of the state.

I graduated from North Carolina State University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and continued my education at Michigan State University, where I earned a master's in animal science with a dairy cattle nutrition concentration in 2003.

I have been happily married to my wife, Sybil, for 10 years. We have three children: Jake (6), Robert (5) and Brenna (4 months).

In 1948, my grandparents, Glenn and Loline Myers, started selling milk commercially with 12 cows. After completing college in 1970, my father took over managing the dairy. I returned to the dairy in January 2003 and officially took over the management of Myers Dairy, Inc., in the summer of 2004. I became a partner with my parents, Dwayne and Barbara Myers, in 2008.

Through the decades, we have grown to a herd size of 830 mature Holsteins and 700 replacements.

We milk 3x in a double-16 parallel parlor with Delaval stalls, Delaval pulsation and Boumatic meters. We have 15 full-time and three part-time employees. Our rolling herd average is 26,100 lb. and our SCC about 180,000.

We house our lactating cows in freestall barns and nonlactating cows in a bedded pack barn. Heifers are raised on-farm until they reach about 600 lb. and are then sent to one of three heifer growers. The heifers are returned to us approximately 50 days prior to calving.

We feed a total mixed ration (TMR) once a day and push up the feed at two-hour intervals throughout the day. Lactating cows are grouped by production and stage of lactation.

They are fed one of three TMRs: early lactation, high cow and late lactation. The TMRs consist of corn silage, triticale haylage, molasses, dried distillers' grain, citrus pulp, soybean meal, custom mineral mix, fine ground corn, cottonseed hulls, custom protein blend and wheat straw.

Forage dry matters are tested weekly and after rain events. Water is added to the TMRs to maintain 48% dry matter (DM). Feed refusals are fed to our oldest (4-7 months) calves, minimizing feed losses and the cost of growing those groups of calves.

Nonlactating cows are given a 60-day dry period and are fed one TMR throughout their dry period. This ration consists of corn silage, triticale haylage, molasses with anionic salts, soybean meal, citrus pulp, fine ground corn, custom mineral mix and wheat straw.

Most dairies in this area have been operating under cost of production since spring of 2009. As the milk price approaches break-even, however, I remain optimistic for 2010. I believe there is significant opportunity in North Carolina and the rest of the Southeast to return to profitability.

In the last half of 2008, my family knew that 2009 would be tough. We did not know that it would not only be the toughest year of my short seven-year tenure, but also of my father's 40-year tenure in the dairy industry.

We started in late 2008 preparing for what would be a dairy crisis in 2009. We determined what expenses could be trimmed or eliminated, and scaled down or eliminated those expenses identified. We continued this mentality for all of 2009 and will continue this mentality in the future.

I firmly believe that years like 2009 force us to become better managers. 2009 was a year that saw good managers forced out of business, and probably more good managers will leave the industry as the cost of dairy animals increases. Those of us blessed enough to make it through this downturn need to remember the lessons we learned in 2009.

In order to continue to be successful in future years, we as owners and managers must continue to apply those practices that enabled us to subsist last year.
The more efficient and streamlined we become, the better prepared we will be when another nadir returns in our pricing cycle.

I am passionate about the dairy industry, and I love producing wholesome, high-quality milk for the consumers of our great nation. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my opinions and ideas with the readers of Dairy Today.

I hope I can teach the readers something from my experiences as well as learn from the opportunity of being a contributor to the "Dollars and Sense” section of this magazine.

Myers' November Prices  
Milk (3.5 bf, 3.0% prt): $15.86cwt.
Cull cows: $88/cwt. (carcass weight at packing plant)
$48/cwt. (live weight at stock sale)
Springing heifers: $1,200-$1,400/head (top grade)
Alfalfa: n/a
Cottonseed: n/a
Ground corn:  $179/ton
 Soybean meal:  $390/ton


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