Managing During COVID-19 Article Series


PRO-DAIRY specialists have developed Managing During COVID-19 a series of new and updated resources to help farmers navigate through the uncertain environment created by COVID-19. Recognizing the range in circumstances faced by farmers across the state, these resources cover a full spectrum.

Articles include:
Diet and Management Considerations for Emergencies: Reducing Milk Flow Without Harming Cows and Threatening Future Production
By: Mike Van Amburgh, Tom Overton, and Julio Giordano

Given the unprecedented market conditions and the inability to get milk processed effectively in the short-term, processors are asking dairies to reduce milk supply at a time when it is not possible to cull heavily due to decreased meat processing facility capacity for cattle.

We are providing these diet and management considerations to help dairy producers and their advisors meet this unusual request, while maintaining cow health and working to ensure that cows have the capacity to resume normal milk production relatively quickly once this situation stabilizes. These considerations may fit management for some but not all dairies. Every operation will have to determine what might work best for them under their current management conditions.

Feeding Milk to Cows
By: Tom Overton, Mike Van Amburgh, and Rob Lynch

Over the past week, with dairy farms dumping milk and/or being asked to decrease milk shipped by as much as 20 percent, the topic of feeding milk back to lactating cows and/or replacement heifers has been raised. Dr. Matt Akins and Liz Binversie with the University of Wisconsin prepared an article we are sharing with the following additional key points.

Understanding Your Break-Even Cost of Production
By: Jason Karszes

With the unprecedented times around the world leading to significant projections of decreased earnings on dairy farms in 2020, understanding different financial aspects of your business is critical. A key starting point is to understand different measures of cost of production and what a break-even milk price may be for your farm. While earnings are key for long term success and paying back investments, short term cash costs are important during times of negative margins and erosion of equity due to cash operating losses. Knowing these costs and how much below, or above, the milk price they might be determines how much equity might be lost during low periods, and how fast equity can be rebuilt when positive margins return.

Do’s and Don’ts for Dairy Farmers When Facing Financial Difficulty
By: Wayne A. Knoblauch

Wayne A. Knoblauch, Professor, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, SC Johnson College of Business, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has prepared a list of 25 Do's and 11 Don'ts strategies for farmers.
Herd Health Management Do’s and Don’ts for Dairy Farmers When Facing Financial Difficulty During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By: Rob Lynch

Each time the dairy industry experiences low milk prices, managers start looking for ways to save money. This is smart and something that all good businesses do. If less money is coming in, how do we cut down on how much money goes out without hurting the business in the long run? These decisions can be challenging when it comes to herd health expenses since the consequences of a bad decision might not be seen right away.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider as we all turn our attention again to reducing unnecessary expenses on the dairy. During this pandemic there are a few additional things to consider when making cost saving decisions like labor availability, social distancing, and cleaning protocols for high touch surfaces. These precautions add cost to daily operations but are effective in limiting spread of COVID-19.

Spring Field Planning 2020 - Contingency Planning
By: Joe Lawrence

We face unprecedented uncertainty in preparing for the 2020 field season. While spring is an exciting time, it is also a time that strains available resources; equipment, labor, hours in a day. This year, the potential for health issues and the resulting impacts on labor availability could further stress these already limited resources. Certainly, making plans to fill unexpected labor needs is a good starting point, but it may be worth thinking about additional contingency plans. This could include some of the same strategies that have been utilized when dealing with narrow windows to achieve tasks related to weather, as we have experienced in recent wet springs.

Ten Key Herd Management Opportunities on Dairy Farms During Low Margin Times
By: Tom Overton, Jason Karszes, Robert Lynch, Julio Giordano, and Mike Van Amburgh

An unanticipated significant downturn in net milk price over the next several months due to the COVID-19 disruption of consumer demand and dairy processing makes it even more critical for dairy producers to focus their management skills on making sure that their herd management is “being all that it can be”.

  1. Maximize milk component production
  2. Relentlessly seek marginal milk opportunities
  3. Don’t lose fresh cows
  4. Identify and potentially cull low value and low profit cows
  5. Ensure that all management protocols are still appropriate, are working and are being followed
  6. Don’t incur excess heifer rearing costs: raising animals longer than necessary or raising too many
  7. Get the most out of your reproduction program
  8. Optimize neonatal management
  9. Strategically identify ration opportunities
  10. Maximize your feeding management program

Feeding Strategies During Challenging Times
This article by Tom Overton and Larry Chase remains a valuable and relevant resource.

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