Why is it (BIG farms)

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by JeffNY, Jan 29, 2005.

  1. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    I need clarification, and what needs clarrifying is the reasoning behind big farms. Now I have tried to figure for the life of me why farms get soooo big, yet the main goal is to make money. A farm that has 1000 animals, with all the overhead, etc seems to make about the same as a farm with 65 animals milking, after expenses. What is interesting is a farm with say 20 animals milking can make more money than even a farm with 65. This fella I know that used to work here, and is helping out currently with other things told me about his uncle. His uncle used to milk about 15 or so animals I beleive. He made enough money that he never was in debt, he died with money in the bank. He died I guess while milking, as in right in the barn. Now I myself am staying small, I can control the feed 10x better, I can concentrate on quality vs volume (worrying about feeding 20 vs 100), and I can keep the animals in top notch condition. Now I have seen big clean operations, however it is hard to keep an eye on a ton of animals.


    To get back to the point, why do farms get SOOO big? Do they get special incentives? Do they make a ton of money because of being so big, the breaks they get for grain etc? I am confused, I sit here and think, why? If the point is to make a living, why get so damn big? Is it an addiction? Having a huge herd, and the sheer size makes one giddy? I myself am doing this because 1: I love to work with cows, 2: To make some good cash (going to be organic due to the prices). The owner of this farm that I am getting 10 holsteins from said to us they were going to have only 80. Now they have well, 750 milking and 1500 total as mentioned above. I can't figure it out, with more cows you need more help, more feed, more electricity is burned, more maintence, etc etc etc. Yet a small herd, you have a cheaper electric bill, less feed, etc etc. Maybe someone here can answer this for me, because im confused..


    Jeff
     
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Economies of scale.

    The more you have, the cheaper it is to keep each individual.

    If you set up a dairy for 20 cows, that's a lot of money in equipment. Is that equipment paying for itself with 20 cows? If you had 100, wouldn't the cost per cow be lower for equipment?

    The bills get bigger, but so does the income. As long as the income keeps a step above the bills, you get to stay in business and you end up with more money in your pocket....or to buy more cows.

    Jena
     

  3. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I don't know much about dairys, but...

    are you really going to make a living off of 20 cows? Pay all the farm expenses, plus what you live on?

    If you are, I need to sell my beefers and go get some Holsteins! If not, then you might consider expanding in order to do so. I'm not saying that is the choice for you, but I bet it was for the guy with 750 milking cows.

    Jena
     
  4. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Jena is exactly right, there are economies of scale, but it varies across the type of livestock operation. You seem to be talking about dairying, but you are really comparing apples to oranges when you are comparing a 65 cow operation to one milking 1000+ cows. Comparing a guy milking 15 cows a generation ago to operations today is meaningless. I guess what you are not understanding is that lots of your costs are fixed. Say you build a 16-cow parlor and freestall barns, feed storage, commodity sheds, etc. Just take the parlor, you can go from 200 to 300 cows with the same parlor and add only costs of additional free stalls. Big dairies can probably get better prices for their protein, cottonseed, etc. With these high fixed costs including debt service, the big operations tend to get larger to capture some of these scale economies, although low milk prices a couple years ago led to lots of bankruptcies in dairy operations. One thing a lot of these large parlor operations tend to have is very high replacement rates for cows; they tend not to last very long in some of these set-ups. (Same with hired help.)

    Lots of old-time farmers used to farm "tight" -- they'd take in little income but had very little expenses, so they'd eke out a bit of profit. You saw this a lot with farrowing operations, but lots of guys used to feed cattle and milk this way as well. For one thing, it's kind of a myth that all dairy operations were small back in the days when everyone milked by hand. Lots of people ran the milk through the separator, fed calves and slopped pigs with the milk and sold only the cream, but their were bigger dairies as well. My Dad hired out in the late 1920s to milk 34 cows in a dairy and then came home and milked 8 of his own.

    With dairying, there are lots of different types of operations. I used to milk 96 cows, but am now down to 48. I have a tie-stall barn and pipeline with 48 stalls. I'm too old now to run two bunches. I have registered Holsteins, so I care about both production and type and generate a fair amount of income from sales to other registered breeders.

    I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean by quality vs. volume? Are you saying you don't care about production or that you just want to look at the bottom line. From a bottom line perspective, you have to feed and manage for peak production and run a high herd average to break even or return a small profit. I don't know why you'd think that a small operation would have any better control over feed quality than a larger operation.

    It doesn't sound like you've started milking yet? Are you certified organic? Do you have organic feed supplies lined up? Are you planning to raise your own hay/alfalfa, corn and soybeans?

    If you think you can earn decent by running 10-15 cows and selling organic, then go for it, don't worry about the large operations. What are you figuring on for a price per cwt. for your milk, $20? What do you think will happen to the price differential for organic milk once more and more producers go organic?

    You figure on making "some good cash," well I'll let you in on a secret -- there are probably a quite a few easier ways to make a buck than dairying. Get set up and running for 2-3 years and then talk about your P/L.
     
  5. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    It is still possible to make a living with 20 or so cows dairying. I know of 2 dairy farmers in my county that do just that. One has 20 jersey cows(an older gentlemen) and the other has a mixed herd who didn't want to invest in lots of machinery(a younger gentlemen who prefers to farm w/ horses) he started his own bottled milk/cream processing plant on the farm.

    It's actually personal preference. Some is likely is due to the fact one can better protect their family more financially with a large farm as it will be deemed a corporation and the home will be seperate. They can set it up much differently tax wise.
     
  6. Patty0315

    Patty0315 Well-Known Member

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    The only way I can see a smaller dairy making it is if there have no over head. No mortgage , equiptment dept ect. When you have alot of animals you can buy feed and supplies in bulk which helps.
     
  7. farmerdan

    farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    A farmer can make it with less than 100 cows if everything is paid for and he doesn't feel the need for a different tractor every day of the week. There are still some family owned smaller farms in this area but dad got it from grandpa. You have to be a good accountant to keep your books too. The mega dairies around here buy a farm, build huge free stalls and parlors, put 8-12 non-Americans in the big old farm house and milk 2000-5000 head of cattle 24 hours a day. They get great gov't. subsidies. There are all kinds of tax cuts for the big guys and with cheap labor, they can grow their own crops. They buy all the surrounding land around them because no one want to be near the operation. Sounds a little biased but check one out for yourself and see - I have.
     
  8. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    How much do you need to be making it? My step dad made it on 40 acres with 6 scrub milk cows and 6 or seven brood sows plus 150 leghorn laying hens. The milk check done well to average $25 per week, The eggs averaged around $12 per week, and he would sell around $2500 worth of hogs per year. This was during WW 2. He drove a 13 year old Ford, and farmed with 3 horses. He made enough to buy the 50 acres ajoining our place for $3300. He bought an old steel wheeled F12 Farmall tractor for $500. He bought a 1940 chevy in 1948 for $1325. He paid for an opperation for both he and my mother.
    Today he would have to go on food stamps.
    We can't even reach the poverty level now doing what farmers did several years ago.
    I own 150 tillable acres. I can not farm it myself and break even, even with the Gov, subsities that are available.
    The equipment required to farm the place costs too much even when you buy old over the hill stuff. The farmer who is farming nearly 5000 acres with his two sons can give me $125 per acre cash rent and come out ahead. To buy the equipment he has would cost over a million dollars.
    Farming and homesteading are not in the same catagory.
     
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  9. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I'm with Unc' on this one. The insurance on our cars, house, Harley, Travel Trailer, and lord knows what all is way over $3000 a year. Granpa didn't even pay insurance, the state didn't say he didn't had to. If I can make enough out here to pay for my animal feed, and fuferaw I need for containing the critters I think I'll "be" doing great.

    I get some great feed for the family tables, I get to have fun, and I get to keep busy, but I'll never be able to turn a profit much beyond breaking even, and it will take loads of hard work and clever management to do that.

    Clear 2% on a $20,000 a gross yearly income and you have enough for an evening on the town. Clear 2% on a $10,000,000 a gross yearly income and your doing okay.
     
  10. Reformed_Farmer

    Reformed_Farmer Member

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    Well, I make a living milking 50 cows. This farm supports Me , my wife, our 2 kids, my mom and dad, my grandma who just came to live with us, and bails out my younger brother when he is broke(often). We don't have the farm paid for. We don't have any off farm income. We rotational graze our cows, keep feed costs down, sell reg. breeding stock, and pinch our pennies. We started from scratch...I mean nothing, when I was in highschool. We didn't borrow money and grew as we could afford to. I have no interest in getting any bigger. Check the auction listings....just as many "big boys" selling out as anyone else. Economies of scale are highly overrated. Who are our biggest competitors in the global marketplace.........a bunch of low tech, cheap milk countries that are grass based. Don't buy the crap, you can make it if you want to. You have to be willing to sacrifice a little, work hard and never give up. I don't have alot of money....but I don't have to punch a time clock or ask anyone permission to do anything. I always wanted to be a farmer, so thats what I am.
     
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  11. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Let me explain myself in detail after reading some of the replies (replies make me think of things I leave out).


    I know of a farm that is organic, they milk 9 Jerseys, they milk from March to December, or so. They don't milk in the winter because it is tooo cold, and live up north in the Adirondacks, gets quite nasty up there. He is planning on going to 18, due to the demand, but might not if he can't get help. He makes enough money to take a trip to Italy off of 9 cows. Now my goal isn't to go on trips, but the fact it's a consistent income over the beef and the hay sales. So a small herd, especially if you don't have a lot of overhead etc can make some cash. I was talking with a grain producer, organic grain producer (finding the source and seeing what the prices are like, which aren't bad). He said he knows of a farm that milks primarily during the months they can graze, since they dont have to buy much grain, or put up much hay they make almost total profit. Basically, whatever they bring in goes into their pocket vs into expenses etc. So two examples of organic dairy that makes a nice profit, small dairy too. The last one I mentioned doesn't have storage space, so that is why they milk during the growing season.


    Now as far as my plans, see on a yearly basis during crop season, we have minimal expenses. We don't have break downs, if anything happens its minor (I grease and keep things in top condition, we have a baler that was bought in 98 that still looks new (wash it too each fall)). All the equipment is bought and paid for, so each year the expenses are primarily the oil for the spring change, filters, twine, and grease. Of course the spring shots (rabies). So vet expenses are small, and heck we see the vet maybe once a year. The reason why things run so smooth here is because im always on top of it, I don't let things go, I run the machinery, and would never hire someone to operate something unless they were as good as I am (not an ego, but ive seen how hired help can take care of things).

    My feed we put up, we don't buy feed except for grain. Of course we have to buy grain, but up untill now we didn't buy as much, I find with good quality feed, grain becomes candy vs beneficial. I compared ours with other animals (Grained vs ours), and I see no difference. Ours are beyond energetic, and heck one of the cows taped at 1500lbs, she is huge, her father was big too, and she is as big as he was. The feed I put up ( I say I because I make the call and cut when its good), is quality. We don't have feed that is dusty, the animals chunk it down, and actually anyone who buys some has no waste. Funny compliment I got one time from this horse farmer. "There is only one other farmer that could put up alfalfa like yours, and he was 75 yrs old". That made me feel damn good, here im 25 and I can compare to someone with more experience than I? Of course I know some guys that are in their 50's and make some ok hay. Not sure why I have the nack for it, but maybe its because ive seen a lot of mistakes, or take pride in what I do.. This is what I mean by quality vs quantity. I see farms that do put up good corn and grass silage, and even hay. However the BIG farms ive noticed a difference. For example, this small farm we got some animals from stores their silage in a silo etc. The smell of the feed is totally different, it is sweeter, not sour. Of course feed out of a silo is better than a trench and those big farms can't economically use a harvestore or a silo due to cost, etc. Funny how the one person at the farm mentioned milking 750 cows did say "the feed out of a silo is better, but we cant use them due to the cost, because of the volume needed". You can smell the difference..

    So yes we put up our own feed, we also have minimal labor etc, keep it small and labor is also not as much of a issue.


    Now one thing ive seen with big farms, and perhaps its noticeable due to more animals, vs 1 or so out of 20. But that one farm has a free stall barn devoted to sick or injured animals. Now another farm has the same thing, 100 or so animals sick or injured (large farm). When I see that im thinking wth? I know you get problems even with small operations, but come on thats massive IMO. Heck the way I see it, people who raise heifers for farms should also get into caring for sick or injured milk cows, sure if they have to be milked but 30 of them here and there would make a big difference. One thing with big farms is the quality control, its like a BIG buisness. With a small buisness you have quality control, you can control what is going on to your best ability. With cattle they will go down if that is what they must do. But anything that has happened here was preventable, and I guess you learn from your mistakes. Now the way I do things is controlled more, animals look 10x better (looked good anyways), and also take out the animals that aren't as aggressive. But I found a way around that problem, extra feed and if inside, put food in a couple different spots so they have access regardless. Now in a big herd, this would be hard to do. Say you have a group of 10 heifers in your barn, and a couple aren't aggressive. But all your other barns have cows, so no room! Now you can't take up a corner or two to cater to those less aggressive animals. See one thing im not sure if anyone realises but 50% of the farms in the U.S. Are under 50 head. Now when I saw that statistic in Hoards, I was floored. I figured that wasn't the case, so spread out the HUGE farms aren't as common as I beleived. I guess those big farms stick out more than the smaller farms. Actually come to think of it, the small farms do blend in, the big ones don't. You know what is interesting? One of the owners Saturday said to us that she would rather have 400. Then she said heck 100, 80 20! It seems its a big headache to run something that big and I see why.


    See you need MORE land, you need BIGGER equipment (those self propelled choppers are EXPENSIVE). You need big bunks, you spend more on shots, spend more on grain, etc etc. You also need MORE help. Im sorry but I don't buy BIGGER is BETTER. Lets do some math. Figure you feed an average of 12lbs of grain per day for your milking animals. You have 1000. Now figure in help, 20 x 10.00 hr or so. Now figure in diesel, figure in power, figure in medicine etc. Now figure in maintainence. This all adds up, sure your farm might gross 3.1 million, but damn the cost of grain etc ain't cheap. How about rent too? Farms around here rent land as well. Now lets use the small farm. Lets say you have 30 total, now do you need help? If its not family run and family doesn't help yes. But lets say you dont. Your grain costs will not be as high, power requirements are lower, the machinery doesn't need to be as big, your storage needs aren't as massive. You can also care for the animals better. This one family farm I was at milk 45 or so at a time, 60 max. I've seen all their animals, and they are all healthy, they don't have a barn devoted to sick animals. If any DO have issues, they can get on it due to the size of the herd.


    I could go on and on, but the fact is, a small farm that is good with their animals (keeps things clean, keeps an eye over their herd) will have a decent operation.


    Now back to focus, as far as my setup. By 2006 ill have 140 acres of hay land, now I doubt ill need many cuttings off that to meet my needs, heck 100 is beyond what I need now. But with a milking herd, ill need a decent amount of hay, but I always estimate HIGH with my feed needs so im likely overestimating my feed. But I figure 4500-5500 bales, plus haylage (including haylage, say 30 lbs of haylage or 20, will lower the amount of dry hay fed, either way I went high). So I have tons of feed, more than my neighbor that milks 50 animals! My grain requirements will depend highly on my feed. Higher protein hay, would transtlate to less grain. From what I see, grain makes up for lacking feed. Where we got our jerseys, she said if your feed is good, you don't need as much grain. I've noticed that with the 4 Jerseys. They are getting a light 2nd cut grass, and their grain intake is less than what she was giving. My barn setup is ideal, feed above, and actually EVERYTHING is attached to that barn. The silo, grain bin, and hay mows. I can fit 7000+bales in the barn, and heck if I put that much id have soooo much excess id have to sell hay, or add a few more animals. Certification is easy, we did 90% of the work. The feed has been certified for 4 years now, the only thing that isn't organic is the grain but what is great is the fact that can be 20% of the 100% that CAN be non organic. The last 3 months of the year transition has to be 100% organic (grain/feed). That was music to my ears, this makes the graining easier, and I don't have to buy organic grain right off. The lady at NOFA said what we are doing is perfect, and will be easy. See we set ourselves up and I pondered with saying the heck with organic, but the idea of milking was on my mind. So I stuck with it and glad I did.



    So IMO you can make a decent income if you do it right. It takes some skill to raise animals and to get good feed in. I've watched many, and their feed is ok, some do a good job. However more goes into your pocket if you keep on things, vs letting things slip. I guess you have to care about what you do, and be willing to try new things if need be. I feel a small herd is easy to manage, and you can keep them healthy. But those big farms, from what I see have problems, that can be the same as small farms, but are magnified x10.

    Don't take this all the wrong way, but I guess everyone as it seems has different opinions, perhaps because of their experience.


    Jeff
     
  12. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Im glad you posted, your the perfect example for a farmer who thinks before he does stuff, and thinks things through. As you said, just as many big farms going as small, and last year a BIG farm sold out near here. Actually they were bought out.
     
  13. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes I think having hired help would be a dream come true. I could do the chores I want to do and leave the routine, boring stuff to the help. Of course, it wouldn't happen that way because I'd be right there looking over their shoulder to make sure they were doing it "right". It's amazing how someone can screw up something as simple as feeding chickens or putting hay out for cows.

    My kids hate working with me because they say "It all has to be your way". They are right, it does. I don't insist on a certain way of doing things because I'm OCD, I insist because I've made mistakes and know what the consequences are of not doing it the way I've discovered works best. My kids are stuck with me and if they want money, farm chores is the only way to get it. I suspect a free-will employee would run screaming in the other direction after a few days with me :)

    I don't even trust my husband do to my chores, though we do have to help each other out quite a bit. I just have to live with it and I'm sure he feels the same way when I do his stuff.

    We are beyond our physical capacity to work this place. We cannot grow anymore without doing some major changes in operations or hiring help. I don't want to grow anymore, so I concentrate on making what we do have as profitable as possible.

    My husband is a sloppy farmer. Very sloppy and it drives me nuts. He wastes a lot of time and money because he doesn't take the time to do stuff correctly the first time around. He won't take the time to do things like put tools away when he's done (He always knows which bush they are sitting under, but that doesn't help with snow on the ground, not to mention it's not real good for tools to sit out in the snow). He never checks oil in a tractor, never greases a thing then wonders why his equipment breaks down all the time. He won't treat a sick calf until it is down and dying and then he won't treat it aggressively enough to save it. If there is hay in the feeder, the cows are fed. Never mind if that hay is two years old and half full of rose bushes.

    He is THE biggest obstacle I have in my farming. I have to work around him to get stuff done and he is constantly interfereing with my stuff. It took a few years before I caught on and learned not to listen to his advice in how to do things. It would sound dumb when he said it, but thought "Well, he should know" and do it his way...only to have disastrous results. He agrees to operational plans, then turns around and does stuff like sell a bunch of cattle when I'm not looking, like when I'm out of town. I have learned to double check everything he tells me because it probably is not good advice.

    Dang...don't know where all that came from, but I've been very frustrated with him lately. It does no good to try to talk as he just sees the world the way he wants to see it. The best I can do is keep doing my stuff and try to keep him away from it.

    Jena
     
  14. cloverfarm

    cloverfarm Well-Known Member

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    We milked in stanchions, wiht a pipleine, kind of like Milk-Stool Cowboy although these cows could go out into a loafing area. We basically had our cows in a rented barn, which can be a bad situation when it comes to who pays for repairs. DH was a pretty good herdsman.

    What tore us up was the recent volatility in milk prices since the federal orders and price structure changed in the 1990s. Our fixed prices (rent) remained pretty much the same ... feed, bedding, supplies, vet, AI, and DHIA fluctuated some ... but the milk price went from $9.75 at one point to $16+ and back. The cows used to pay for most of the rest of the farm. By the time we sold, the farm was carrying the cows. If the kids were older and in 4-H, we might have continued, but would have had to make some changes. (Our herd had good fat and protein numbers ... we almost always got bonuses for that and quality)

    We sold the herd a couple of years ago after selling many of the heifers earlier when teh price of heifers was very strong. We had a registered Holstein herd, about 90 percent red or red factor.

    Family issues impacted us too, and are harder on a family with a small dairy. Although DH was sharp, FIL was really teh dairyman (the one who LOVES cows) but (I might have mentioned this elsewhere) he has arthritis and possibly a form of muscular dystrophy. He felt he had to be out there twice a day no matter what even after retiring and it was just getting too much for DH. While FIL was starting to fail we were starting our family (and I got pneumonia for about 3 months during one pregnancy) so much of the time I was not much help. When both couples were able to relieve each other none of minded dairying. When it was all on DH, it was too much.

    Before getting into dairying, I would look very, very closely at teh financials. And aslo infrastructure. Where will you sell the milk, who will haul it, how much will they charge, who will do your vet work -- and will the same party do your emergency vet work -- who is your repairman, where do you get your supplies ... when the cow kicks a milker off and it flies to piecs, do you know how to put it back together ... who is your electrician, plumber, carpenter, refrigeration specialist ... do you have a generator ... who will mix your feed, how will you balance your ration ... who are your relief milkers ... FIL was in teh hospital this summer with a possible stroke (ambulance in the middle of the night adn it sounded like he had a MASSIVE stroke at first) and my first thought was ... at least we don't have to worry about who's going to milk in the morning if we are trying to plan a funeral.

    We thought about relocating to an area with better priced farm land but all the pieces were not in place for dairying (vet, suppliers, repairmen, milk haulers etc.)

    Good luck whatever you decide.
    Ann

    PS ... you know what, folks, I read through this and thought "Cue the violins!" :no: Sorry, you all ...
     
  15. ADKmilkmaid

    ADKmilkmaid New Member

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    Hi Jeff. Yes, the Adirondacks are chilly. Nights here were -30F much of last week. However, there are a couple of things you didn't mention about that dairyman and his trip to Italy. One is that it is an artisan cheese-making operation, not a fluid milk business. Two is that the dairyman's wife owns a store in a nearby tourist town which brings in income. He is a wonderful guy but you may be comparing apples to oranges. Ciao.
     
  16. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    It seems that everyone living large while apparently working small has an "ace in the hole."

    Times aren't what they once were, when a body could and would raise nigh all of their food, and live at an economic level, that in today's world would have the "SS" social secvices down on them.

    I lived with my Kentucky Grandparents from the time I was 13 and they had years that $1500 total income for the year was high living; and this was in the 1960's. There were about ten folks living in the house, some too old too work, and some too young to quit school to work (everyone worked "out" when jobs could be had, and everyone worked the garden and cash crop; sorgum for molasses).

    We never went to the table but what it was groaning under the weight of the meal to be, but Grandfather was actually jailed once for refusing Welfare and free health care for the kids.

    We cleared Grandpa's faorested land by hand, we made sorgum molasses for market with a mule powered mill, and lived the way he was raised.

    It was a great life, but I can't recreate it here at Wolf Cairn Moor. Times have changed, a diversity of income sources has become key to just surviving, and the government has become a resident in our homes; for a fee of course.
     
  17. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Jeff, I would agree with you that there are different types of dairy operations that are feasible, and I don't think anyone on here is claiming that large dairies are the only way to succeed in dairying. Where I live is still dairy country although the number of dairy farms continues to decrease. But Cloverfarm is right that there were periods of time in the late 1990s and again in 2001-2002 where milk prices were in the toilet. Even without interest expenses and not too much depreciation, almost impossible to remain profitable over those stretches.

    I would agree that good management is important, but from my experience I've seen just as many (if not more) poorly-managed small operations as large ones. I have no doubt, though, that those big operations struggle with finding and keeping good help, as they are always advertising for milkers. I've had more hired men than I could even care to remember, some I'd swear by and some I'd swear at. Two former hired men are now milking on their own. I have had the same hired man for the last 14 years, but he is only part-time as he works in town. He really doesn't do any livestock chores except help with chute jobs.

    At the same time, Jeff, I think that some of your claims are rather unrealistic. First, unless you've seen any farmer's books and tax returns, do you really know how much they are making? You can't look at an operation and tell whether it's profitable. Do you believe that everyone who goes to Vegas "wins big" as well?

    You don't have breakdowns -- What, has God blessed you to live a breakdown free life? I take excellent care of my machinery as well and have been farming for over fifty years AND EQUIPMENT BREAKDOWNS ARE PART OF THE BUSINESS. Ask anyone. To say you'll never have any breakdowns is laughable. I've had my current baler since 1977 and averaged over 15,000+ bales/year with it, but it's had its share of breakdowns, and not just sheared pins. Even maintenance takes time and costs money.

    Your main expenses are oil and filters, twine and grease? What, your tractors require no fuel to run on? (You might also want to check out twine prices for this coming year?) You'll be making a few passes through that organic corn with the cultivator to keep the weeds down. You also have expenses of buying seed.

    You see the vet maybe once a year and vet expenses are small? Wow, again you're the miracle worker? Ever hear of herd health programs, pregnancy check, a cow that wouldn't settle? If you are counting on a zero vet bill, I think you are living in a fantasy world.

    What exactly does having a cow weighing 1500 lbs. have to do with anything? An animal's height and frame largely determined by genetics. I had a Happy Crown years ago that weighed over 2000 lbs. and was a beautiful animal (VG-89) but that didn't make her a better dairy animal.

    Putting up high-quality forage is a huge challenge, and I'm glad you're so successful at it. Hey, at least you are willing to acknowledge that there are some older guys who put up some OK hay. Again, have you seen the forage tests on everyone else's hay and your own? Have you never had a field of hay cut down that got rained on for a week? I know for a fact that there are western growers who can put up better quality hay than me because I've seen the forage tests. Different climate and irrigation can do wonders with alfalfa.

    Just wondering, when people come on here who give every indication to me of being very sophisticated and hard-working dairymen and say it has become increasingly difficult to make money in dairying, what does that tell you?

    Some of us do make a living at it and have for a considerable period of time, but your optimism/arrogance (I'm not sure which) is unmatched by those of us here who are more experienced.
     
  18. cloverfarm

    cloverfarm Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    717
    Joined:
    May 31, 2004
    Location:
    Michiana
    In my opinion, the weakest links in teh mega-dairies are finding labor (if they aren't your cows, a lot of dairying can be frusrating) and finding replacement heifers.

    Which is why we sold our cows to another purebred herd owner with a similar set up. FIL and DH worked too hard on those genetics to have them culled out of existence in two years or so.

    Manure management for a giant herd is another unpleasant aspect of it. We have a neighbor who might be facing jail time for a manure spill into the creek. (He was warned many times but didn't listen, basically)

    Also ... milk consumption is very inelastic. A percent or two either way causes wild price swings.

    Just another 2 cents worth. No violins this :haha:

    YSIC
    Ann
     
  19. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

    Messages:
    14,609
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2002
    Location:
    Dysfunction Junction
    OMG, I could never hire anybody to take care of my animals!! I've seen/heard too many horror stories on the farm where I work.

    In the year I was full-time, my boss went through at least 6 night milkers. One he ended up firing after he came in and found her beating a downed cow with a broomstick. :no:

    It doesn't help that the pay is so low ... that certainly is not going to attract rocket scientists either.

    I'd have loved to stay in the business, but without health insurance, one accident or serious illness could have wiped out my life savings. I ran the risk for awhile, but figured a year and a half was pushing it, so now I'm working for the government and hating every minute of it, wishing I could be back on the farm. :(

    (Ann and I are doing a violin duet here! ;) :D )
     
  20. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Jeff,

    The best thing I ever learned about cattle was "You have to do what works for your operation". That is so true. It doesn't matter what your neighbor is doing or what all the experts say you should do, if it doesn't work with your place, then you find something that does.

    With that being said, I also feel you are a bit...I don't know what the word is. People who decide to start farming and take the attitude that they have a better way of doing it. Trust me, if there is a better way, someone has already found it. There is nothing you can learn that will be all that much different than what someone else has already done. The trick is to find what works for your place. I know this because I was the same way. I was going to have the best cattle operation around because I was just plain smarter than everyone else.

    Reality will set you back down to earth and it doesn't do it gently. Equipment breaks, catches on fire, or worse can injure you. Animals die, don't perform as they ought too, get sick and do things you never ever even thought of, let alone planned for. Weather doesn't cooperate, people don't always cooperate and in general crap happens. The worst is that your grand ideas may very well fail to work as you think they will. You can never know until you actually try them. Some of my best ideas got thrown out within 30 seconds of trying to implement them when it became apparent they weren't going to work. Some of my most workable ideas were borrowed from others. My very best workable ideas are bits and pieces of other people's ideas, combined into something that works for my operation.

    Things seem to go a lot smoother when you quit trying to convince yourself (by trying to convince everyone around you) that your ideas are good and that it will work. Listen to others because they can teach you tons. Take what is useful from that information and incorporate it on your farm. File away the stuff that isn't useful today because it sure might be tomorrow when you find one of your ideas doesn't quite work as well in the real world as it does on paper. IF everyone is telling you that you have grown a tail, you'd better turn around and check. It doesn't mean that you will have that tail your whole life, but taking a reality check is a wise move.

    I don't know what you are living on now, or what you consider a "decent income" to be. That is different for everyone. I hope you are successful at it, but you'd be wise to listen to some of the advice that has been given and heed it. It just may save your butt somewhere down the road.

    Jena