Dairy farmers keep busy in winter

Now that we are into the middle of winter, what kinds of activities take place on the farm this time of the year? It depends on what kind of farming we are talking about. Activities on a dairy farm are much different than on a grain farm.

On a dairy farm, many jobs continue on just as they do in the spring and summer. Cows have to be milked two or three times per day; they have to be fed and have access to water. Their stalls have to be cleaned and bedded with whatever material that is being used. They have to be checked two or three times per day for any health problems or for those that need to be bred.

Dairy farmers constantly watch milk prices. Right now, prices have been better than last year but there are some concerns. Fluid milk sales in the store keep dropping and the bankruptcy of two major processors, Dean Foods and Borden Dairy Co., has caused farmers to wonder about future markets.

Some big chain stores have built their own processing plants, taking business away from the major plants like Dean’s and Borden’s. Also, the sales of beverages that like to call themselves milk have increased considerably. These beverages are not real milk and do not have the nutritional value of milk.

These developments have affected the price of milk and are of concern to dairy farmers. Some states, Wisconsin for example, have seen a lot of dairy farms go out of business. Reports say that in 2019, the state lost 818 herds or 10% of its total. In the last several years, it has lost 7,300 herds.

Locally, we have a few good herds that manage to stay in business. There are rumors that a few of them will quit this year.

One of the activities on dairy farms this time of the year is farmers sharpening their pencils to plan for 2020. If the milk prices stay strong or improve, they will be better able to pay off some bills and maybe buy some needed equipment. If not, they will have to use the equipment they have now so they can pay milk production costs.

Grain farmers, along with dairy farmers who grow their own feed for their animals, are looking ahead to spring planting. Some indicate that they are buying and prepaying fertilizer and seeds they will need. Often they can get some price breaks when they buy now and take delivery in the spring.

Some farmers have soil tested so they know how much to buy now. Others base their purchases on yields from various fields last year. They don’t buy or apply any more than they need because both seeds and fertilizer are expensive.

Another thing that many farmers do this time of the year is participate in educational meetings that can provide valuable, current information. The Ohio State University offers a number of good, timely meetings that are good for both the farmer and farm wife. These meetings may be free or have a small charge to cover a speaker or meal expense. If you are not on Extension’s mailing list, give them a call.

Many commercial companies also have winter educational meetings for their customers. These cover topics of current information and are usually free.

One of the best uses of time in the winter is to take part in some of these meetings that are offered.

One of the topics that may be covered is growing hemp as an alternative crop. There are many questions being raised about growing this plant.

Passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is also positive news for all farmers. More about that later.

So stay warm and keep the cattle comfortable these winter months.

Submitted by John Parker, an Ashtabula County Farm Bureau member, who is an independent writer for farm organizations.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.