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Regional Round-Up from Organic Dairy Producers

Added November 17, 2014. The NODPA state reps and Board have regular conference calls to discuss the direction of NODPA and issues affecting organic dairy. During these calls producers exchange information about what is happening in their region. Producers at the NODPA Field Days suggested that we develop that exchange of information into a regular column in the NODPA News. Below is the first column and we welcome any and all producers to send contributions.

The date for sending regional updates to Ed Maltby (ednodpa@comcast.net) for the next NODPA News is December 20, 2014.

Central Maine

Up here in central Maine we’ve had a good summer as far as weather is concerned. If all summers were like this there wouldn’t be much to complain about - weather-wise. Went to the NODPA conference and came home with two observations:

  • Organic milk is in short supply.
  • Farmgate price needs to be higher (sounds like a broken record doesn’t it?).

The low grain/no grain diet seems to be gathering some momentum. There may be some advantages to this, maybe a lot of advantages, but I don’t believe it’s going to increase the supply. Also, if you cut the grain out, you’ve got to replace it with forage and I’m betting that it’s going to take a lot more than some people realize.

Northern Vermont

September milk per cwt was $33.74 with premiums.

Grain was $641.00 a ton for 14%.

Pastures were done October 20. Feeding 4th cut green chop and baleage. Has been dry all fall, raining all this week. Will start spreading manure. May do 4th cut if we get some more nice weather.

Northern New York

Grain here as of today is $750.00/ ton 16% dairy ration from Lakeview in Penn Yan. Hay and baleage are a little short in St. Lawrence county, NY. It tests fairly well but I would estimate a shortage of 25% in quite a few areas. This has been one of the worst seasons for dry hay in several years and is the scarcest of feeds. Pastures are basically done for the year. We started feeding Oct 1st to help stretch pasture.

The late planting this spring has shorted the time corn needs to make it to grain. Most corn in my area is chopped, and did not make it into the corn cribs and grain bins. Early cut forages are testing low in my area, and late cuttings seem better. Forages yields were well below normal.

Central New York

In Central NY, some farmers are reviewing marketing options as new choices have become available. Upstate Niagara Cooperative is now taking on member farms outside of their traditional Western NY area. Central NY based Byrne Dairy is also venturing into procuring organic milk as they start a line of organic Greek yogurt at their new facility in Cortlandville. Maple Hill Creamery is expanding their fold of grass-fed producers and Evans Farm House Creamery has had to up their pay ante and become a bit more formalized contract wise in order to not lose producers.

With the cold late spring, first cutting was down in yield. The rest of the summer wasn’t quite as wet as last year, but the good amount of rain meant subsequent cuttings were good and pasture kept growing in August and September better than many years. It was not a year suited weather-wise to make dry hay. It was a very difficult year for harvesting small grains because of lack of dry weather during much of the harvest window. In our crop of spring triticale, the annual grasses kept growing when the grain was ready but combining was impossible, forcing us to eventually just mow the whole crop and bale it for bedding. Frost held off long enough for most corn to mature.

South Central NY/Northern Tier PA:

It has been dry here all season, but very wet not too far North of us. Began supplementing pasture in July. Cows will have finished off the last nibblings of pasture by the end of October. We’re anxious for no grain milk routes to come to this region, and hoping demand for milk by several buyers will result in long overdue increases in the pay price. Hay and baleage seem to be in good supply locally - $60 to $120/round bale for milking quality.

Southern Vermont

Our current pelleted grain price $700/ton 13% protein

Mailbox Milk price for September milk including premiums $34.48 @ 3.66 F, 2.9 P, 1,000 Raw, 11 Past, 122,000 SCC.

Started transition to stored feed on Oct 20, Pastures about done, earlier than normal due to dry weather earlier in season. Stored feed tested good, seems to be good market for our surplus. Cows are agreeing with feed tests, production up over 5 lbs /cow in 2 days on stored feed and still getting some fresh pasture.

One more cow to calve shortly, then no calves until May!

Pennsylvania

Here’s my three cents worth. Corn is $500 ton. 48% soy, $1,150 ton. Roasted soybeans, $29.50 per bushel.

SE PA:

Now in harvest, organic corn is ranging $482 - $530 per ton. Soybeans are $1100 per ton. Natural By Nature began paying their 100% grass-fed producers a premium starting with August milk. They are not marketing anything different yet at this point but are looking at the possibility of a 100% grass-fed butter label early next year, with any potential GF fluid sales not coming into play for a year or more yet. The premium is based on butterfat at this point but looks to range between $1.40 - 2.50 per cwt in actual premium. Our September mailbox price was $35.11 @ 4.37 BF, 3.26 P, and a $.10 quality premium. GF premium came to about $2.39 of that if the numbers are understood properly. Facing normal fall transition to stored feeds issues keeping the DMI up while balancing with dwindling pasture volumes. Excellent fall growth though and on pastures used for calves are set to graze into January. Stored feed appears to be better quality than last year and cows are milking slightly better than a year ago accordingly. A year ago sold A2 dairy cows because of surplus and this year thanks to the high beef prices are culling off the bottom of the herd to loosen cash. Facing serious shortfalls in cash with some hay vendors having to wait 4-5 months on payment. Cost of production is very close to mailbox pay price and margins are razor thin.

Midwest - Wisconsin

Some fields were not planted at all this year as the rains just kept coming in. Others were planted late due to excessive moisture and so corn is behind normal with frost finishing it off before mature. Crops are really variable due to timing of planting and rains that prevented any cultivation. Too much rain this fall has folks scrambling to try to get it off the field. Test weights and yields are light because of weather conditions. Dry hay was near impossible this year as the rains kept coming. Pasture is still providing a small portion of the ration. Stored forage quality is lacking as much of it was put up on the weather’s schedule not at optimum feed value. Bedding is also in short supply.

Competition is out there for organic milk as the supply is short. Producers have been able to secure better prices if they are able to move their milk. When you factor in the feed costs and the lack of good quality after all the expenses to make that crop the price paid for milk is not adequate. Not even the prices being quoted to try to move milk are enough. Folks I visited with are reporting that their production is down due to feed and they believe it won’t fully recover until next year’s crops-that is if we have a more normal cropping year.

As supplies remain short, now is the time to work together to secure a better price for everyone.