Archive for June, 2009

Grandin shares livestock handling practices and techniques

Livestock producers can make significant improvements to their operations by noticing small distractions and making simple changes to their facilities.  Dr. Temple Grandin, renowned livestock handling expert and best-selling author, shared a number of animal handling techniques and suggestions with more than 350 livestock producers at South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even’s farm near Humboldt, S.D.

“To make livestock handling facilities work better and more efficiently, you have to get rid of all distractions and be a better observer of things that we don’t notice every day,” said Dr. Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University.  

Cattle, pigs and sheep will be easily distracted by the smallest details, such as a shadow on the wall, a chain or piece of plastic moving in the wind, a change in flooring materials, or an object lying on the ground, said Dr. Grandin.  She noted that most distractions can be addressed with simple and inexpensive changes, such as covering the sides of fences so cattle aren’t distracted by people or moving equipment on the other side.  She also suggested that producers experiment with temporary coverings like cardboard before making permanent changes to pens or corrals. 

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the way we work with cattle and keep our facilities working better,” said Lincoln DeKramer, cow-calf producer from Canistota.  “Dr. Grandin’s presentation was very informative and gave me a number of good ideas on how to remove distractions and keep both the cattle and people working with them calm and safe.”

Dr. Grandin emphasized the importance of keeping animals calm and outlined a number of techniques that can be used to direct animals into pens or keep them moving through chutes by working with the animal’s own instincts and natural behaviors.   

“Cattle, pigs and sheep can all sense the difference between a person who is calm and someone who is excited or yelling at them.  Once an animal is excited or stressed, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for it to calm down again,” said Dr. Grandin.  

Dr. Grandin also walked producers through the cattle handling facilities at Secretary Even’s farm as a hands-on example of how to evaluate pens and corrals at their own farms.  

“Dr. Grandin’s approach really hits home because she encourages producers to look at things very simply and make changes that really can improve the well-being of the cattle and safety of people working with them,” said Bob Wollmann, of Rural Manufacturing, a company that makes livestock handling equipment in Freeman, SD.  “Designing livestock handling facilities to keep animals moving in a single direction and keep the flow going smoothly is important.”

Dr. Grandin also recommended that farmers and ranchers implement a version of a “scoring” system similar to those used at many processing plants.  Keeping track of the number of possible issues such as animals slipping or stopping will help producers identify needed changes or improvements.

More information about Dr. Grandin’s research and recommendations can be found at  Video demonstrations of livestock handling techniques and examples of animal behavior can also be found on

The free event was open to the public and presented by Agriculture United for South Dakota, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service.  Lunch was provided by Ag United, Rural Manufacturing and the Montrose Vet Clinic, and was served by the West Central FFA.  

Ag United was developed through a collaboration of farm organizations that support livestock production and development and includes the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Pork Producers Council and the South Dakota Soybean Association. The President of the organization is Volga farmer, Scott VanderWal; the Secretary is Astoria farmer, Dave Iverson.

Producers launch initiative to increase awareness of dairy’s value

Dairy checkoff organizations creating opportunities to promote nutritional and economic value of dairy to consumers

Dairy producers, through their checkoff investment, have launched a consumer awareness initiative to educate consumers about the nutritional and economic value of dairy products, as well as the contributions that America’s dairy producers make to their community, economy and the environment.

“The time is right,” said Paul Rovey, Arizona dairy producer and chair, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program. “Families always look for nutritious and economical foods and beverages, especially in tough economic times.” He added that these efforts can heighten awareness of dairy’s nutritional value in a time when retail prices are economically viable and stable.

“This initiative advances our goal to help grow immediate- and short-term sales,” said Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of DMI. “Not only are we communicating about dairy’s value, but also this enables us to share with consumers how dairy producers contribute to their community, the economy and the environment.”

National and local dairy promotion organizations are implementing activities that promote how dairy foods – such as milk, cheese and yogurt – are naturally nutrient rich and provide important nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, potassium, and calcium to the diet. “Dairy’s unique nutrient package offers a real economic value when evaluating the cost per nutrient compared to other foods and beverages,” Rovey said. 

In addition to dairy’s nutrient value, the initiative will educate consumers about dairy producers’ commitment to children’s health, their communities and the environment. Specifically, communications efforts will highlight:

• A $250 million investment by producers (through the checkoff) over the next five years to help fight childhood obesity in schools by supporting access to naturally nutrient-rich products, providing nutrition education and encouraging physical fitness.

• How the nation’s 56,000 dairy farm families and processors invest in their local communities and generate billions of dollars in economic value across the country.

• Why dairy producers are the nation’s original environmentalists. Over the past 60 years, dairy producers have reduced their carbon emissions by 63 percent, the equivalent to taking 32 million cars off the road. (Source: Research conducted by Cornell University. Judith L. Capper, Euridice Castunada-Gutierrez, Roger A. Cady, and Dale E. Bauman,Journal of Animal Science, published first on March 13, 2009.)

Elements of the initiative include:

•  One-time print placements in USA TodayPeople and Time leveraging on increased awareness during June Dairy Month.

•  Heightened presence on Facebook, through Twitter and other social media efforts that will mobilize hundreds of dairy producers, health professionals and other dairy advocates to connect with consumers and build dairy’s positive image online.

•  Links from national and local checkoff-funded Web sites, along with other industry sites, to messaging about “dairy value” on the Web.

•  Local dairy promotion efforts that celebrate June Dairy Month, including media relations, consumer events and government proclamations that reinforce dairy producers’ contributions to their community, economy and the environment.

For more information visit or


Op-Ed: Current dairy crisis is worst since Great Depression

By Gary Genske

For over three months I have been communicating with many industry leaders about the financial crisis all dairymen are currently facing.  Because the leadership is failing to be responsive to this crisis, dairy farmers are losing $4-$5/cow/day, and as this article goes to print, no help is on the way.

Gary Genske  is a managing partner with Genske, Mulder & Co., LLP, a certified public accounting firm representing clients who produce 12% of the nation’s milk. He is also a partner in two 2,000-cow dairies in New Mexico, and one 1,000-cow dairy in Virginia. He can be reached via phone: 949-650-9580 or e-mail:

Gary Genske is a managing partner with Genske, Mulder & Co., LLP, a certified public accounting firm representing clients who produce 12% of the nation’s milk. He is also a partner in two 2,000-cow dairies in New Mexico, and one 1,000-cow dairy in Virginia. He can be reached via phone: 949-650-9580 or e-mail:

Many plans to improve producer pay prices have been offered.  Some co-ops have formed task force committees to review proposed corrective plans and to form opinions and recommendations for their respective co-ops to support.  To date, no nationally organized conclave has been planned, like the conclave that formed the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program within 30 days.

I have proposed a “36 Month Base Plan” and it is being considered along with other proposals.  The outline of this proposal is:

1)  Legislation to assess a market clearing charge of $6.00 per C.W.T. on milk shipped over a producer’s established base.

 2)   The marketing clearing charge, after administrative costs, would be sent to the Cooperatives Working Together Committee for use:

               a)  Matching the national dairy cow population’s production with domestic and known export needs

               b)  To catch up on cattle retirements by buying and converting very young dairy heifers to growing beef cattle

3)  The initial production cut-back to be 5% for the first two months, during which time an “ag committee” will announce production needs for future months.

4)   The “ag committee” will work with the Farm Service Agency to report monthly production entitlements to co-ops, etc. for purposes of assessing the market clearing charges.

 5)  During the 36 months of this plan, the “ag committee” will work on revising:

       a)  A better way to match supply with anticipated demand in the future

       b) Correcting the flaw in the current milk pricing system where the last carload of cheese sold on the Chicago Exchange dictates the price dairy producers are paid for all of the milk they produce.

 This concept for change, or any of the other proposals, or any combination thereof, must be considered and acted on now.  Dairy producers are desperate to see an immediate change in the price they are paid for milk they produce.  They are literally being financially suffocated and many dairy operations will die.  Producers will no longer be pacified with “hope” for a change, they have to “see” the change, and now, and then work on the accountability of those who have allowed this crisis to happen, the worst since the great depression.




Not all favor government-run supply controls

ARTESIA, NM  — Select Milk Producers, Inc., Continental Dairy Products, Inc. and United Dairymen of Arizona announced  they are opposing a government run supply management program for U.S. dairymen.  The opposition to mandatory production controls has been a longstanding one held by the Select and Continental, according to Rance Miles, the COO for those cooperatives.  The decision was made by those cooperatives’ membership.  

“Production control programs will hinder our members in sizing and locating their family owned operations to meet the ever changing needs of the markets they serve,” Miles said.  A recent report by New Mexico State University has noted that milk producers in the Southwest and New Mexico would suffer if such a program was instituted, he added.

“Controlling supply to meet market demands is only effective when done at the local level by real time decisions made between those who are producing the milk and buying it, not by a government imposed rule on all production,” Keith Murfield, CEO of UDA, stated.  

Members of the cooperatives expressed concern that such a program would reduce the value of their herds, decrease income from the sale of heifers, and otherwise reduce profitability.  Miles added.  Similar programs have been instituted in Europe and those producers are suffering like dairymen in America.  None of the producers have confidence such a program in America would be of any help, but would hurt dairy farmers.   Additionally, discussions with buyers of milk have voiced concern that such a program would hinder the development of global markets as dairy continues to be a part of the world market place.

Rather than spending resources debating a program based on past models, producers need to be working on how the industry will work for growth and profit in the future.  “There is no doubt that dairy farmers are suffering significant operating losses at this time,” Miles said, “but this program will do nothing to help struggling farmers today.  Instead it will hurt future dairy farming profits.”  

United Dairymen of Arizona is a dairy farmer owned cooperative in Arizona with dairy farmers in Arizona and California.  Select Milk Producers, Inc. is owned by its dairy farmers located in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.  Continental Dairy Products, Inc. is owned by its dairy farmer members located in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Dairy economy in need of stimulus


Producers could feel $12 billion hit in 2009 

By Dave Natzke

Although it dipped from 2007’s high, 2008 was another strong year for gross income from milk marketings. However, lower prices in 2009 could result in the lowest gross receipts since 2003. 

statsfinance2003-2009According to latest USDA estimates, U.S. 2008 cash receipts from milk marketings totaled about $34.8 billion, off about $700 million from 2007. The estimate includes direct cash receipts U.S. dairy producers received for their milk sold to plants and dealers, and milk sold directly to consumers. It does not include Milk Income Loss Contract program payments, and does not factor in cost of production.

2008 milk marketings totaled more than 188.8 billion lbs. The producer all-milk price averaged $18.41/cwt. for the year, down 80¢/cwt. from the record-high $19.21/cwt. average in 2007. 

Based on USDA May forecasts, 2009 U.S. milk marketings will total about 186.5 billion lbs., with the 2009 all-milk price in a range of $11.85-$12.35/cwt. ($12.10/cwt mid range). That would result in total cash receipts of about $22.6 billion, the lowest total since 2003. On a per-cow basis, average 2009 gross receipts from milk marketings could be down $1,300 from 2008.

State-by-state data for 2006-2008 is listed below.





Dairy needs foreign workers, fair immigration policy

By Susan Harlow, Editor
Eastern DairyBusiness 

U.S. dairy, increasingly reliant on immigrant workers, could lose 2,266 farms and 14.7 billion lbs. of milk production annually if half its foreign-born workforce left the country due to federal  immigration policy. That’s according to a survey of the industry released by National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Thursday.
    The survey found that two-thirds of the U.S. milk supply comes from farms employing immigrant labor. Dairies employ 138,000 full-time equivalent workers. Of those, 41% are foreign, almost all of them Mexican. 
   Loss of half those foreign workers would cost 66,000 jobs on farms, and with agribusiness suppliers and services. The economy would lose $6.7 billion in farm inputs alone; economic losses would total $11 billion. The retail price of milk would be driven up 31% as dairies went out of business.
    Most NMPF members name immigration as their top policy concern. NMPF plans to use its survey results to lobby lawmakers for immigration overhaul, particularly the recently introduced AgJOBS bill.
    “Dairy’s employment needs are inextricably tied to foreign-born workers,” said Jerry Kozak, NMPF president and CEO. “We want to counter people who say immigration reform is just sending everybody back home.“
  According to the survey, average annual compensation for dairy’s immigrant workers is $31,500, which includes an average $10 per hour salary and benefits, such as housing and food.
Texas AgriLife Research at Texas A&M University did the survey, asking 5,000 producers and receiving a response from a little more than 2,000.  Results of the survey are on the NMPF website at

Minnesota dairy industry growing despite challenges

A new study by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) shows Minnesota’s dairy industry achieved steady growth from 2005 to 2008, after years of decline in the early 2000s.  The annual growth rate averaged 2% from 2005 to 2008, closely following the national trend.  Minnesota is the sixth largest dairy state in the U.S., contributing 5% of the U.S. total milk production.

The study, conducted by MDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services, shows the industry generated $1.7 billion in cash receipts or 24% of the state’s total livestock marketing.  In 2008, milk prices received by Minnesota growers averaged $19.08/cwt., a second historical high.  However, milk prices saw significant declines early this year, averaging $12.60/cwt. in the first four months – the lowest level since 2002.

The study shows dairy exports also increased.  As the fifth largest dairy exporting state in the U.S., Minnesota reached a record-high of $113 million in dairy exports in 2007, a 22% increase from the previous year.  Since 2000, dairy exports have grown by 61%.  Dairy is one of the fastest growing export sectors in Minnesota agriculture.

Many large dairy states have seen decreases in cow numbers in the past decades; Minnesota, however, has achieved increases in cow numbers from 2005 to 2008, a four-year growth trend after long periods of decline.  In Minnesota, milk yield per cow increased 34% from 1990 to 2008, from 14,000 lbs. to 19,000 lbs.

The study also shows Minnesota’s dairy industry has far-reaching economic impacts on many economic sectors across the state, including crop production for feed, dairy processing and food manufacturing, supply and services, transportation, distribution and marketing.  The total economic impact generated by Minnesota’s dairy production and processing brings $9 billion in total output and supports more than 39,000 jobs.

View the study online at