This upside-down market, where cash costs exceed milk price, is something few of us have seen before. We're all scrambling for answers.
Throughout this issue, we talk to producers and experts from across the country. Their message is pretty clear:
Start with the basics.
Don't give up milk by cutting rations. That 10¢/cwt. savings might cost you 20¢ or more in lost milk. But double-check rations to ensure they're balanced. Don't overfeed protein or energy. Consider multiple total mixed rations to better target nutrients to specific groups. See Nutrition, page 22.
Cull high-maintenance cows.
You'll avoid some headaches, save feed, open up bunk space and probably give up very little milk. See "Cull the Bottom 5%,” page 10.
One large dairy I know found that culling their top six high-cell-count cows was a double win—even though they averaged more than 100 lb. of milk/day. The animals were contributing so many somatic cells to the bulk tank that the dairy was losing 16¢/cwt. in quality premiums on all milk shipped. The premium loss was $2,500/month.
Meet with your adviser team.
Ask your nutritionist, vet, lender and others to scrutinize your dairy. Consider calling in an outside consultant, just to have a fresh set of eyes. See "Year of Pain,” page 8.
Look for deals.
With the economy running on empty, many venders are offering discounts. Last month, one dairy producer I know was able to lock in $1.60/gal. diesel for all of his 2009 needs.
Don't skip that Lions meeting or your bowling night. If you're religiously inclined, attend services. Now is not the time to become isolated.
Take care of yourself.
Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Use alcohol only in moderation.
Be gentle with your family,
your employees and your friends. Never forget that everyone is feeling stress.
If you're feeling overwhelmed,
seek professional help immediately. For crisis hotline numbers and Internet links, follow the dot at left.
Everyone needs support to get through this time of crisis. Remember, we're all in this together.
Follow the links below to your states farm crisis website or call the hotline listed.
North Dakota: 800-472-2911
South Dakota: 800-691-4336
Vermont: 800-281-6977, 800-639-2130, 800-545-8920