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Dairy Leaders Roundtable meets in Arden Hills

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 07/02/2013 11:03 AM

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ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — The Dairy Leaders Roundtable had a full agenda at the last meeting with Ed Frederick at the helm.

Jeff Reneau, of the University of Minnesota, who will take over the reins of the roundtable, spoke about the Precision Dairy Conference. The conference is June 25 to 27 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

An optional farm tour of dairies using precision technology will be held June 25. On June 26 and June 27, about 30 speakers, including top international precision agriculture experts, will address the conference. The trade show will include 60 booths. It is going to be the largest precision dairy conference in North America and the first in the United States, Reneau said.

Al Juhnke, agricultural adviser to Sen. Al Franken; Andrew Martin, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's agricultural and rural outreach director; and Dave Ladd, of RDL and Associates, gave an update on the federal farm bill.

Juhnke said the bulk of the Senate bill introduced this year was the same as the package that passed the Senate in June 2012. The bill is expected to be voted upon June 10.

The House is expected to take up the legislation June 17, Juhnke said. The goal is to get the bill passed through both the House and Senate before the August recess, so the conference committee can work on the bill during that time. Once out of conference committee, the bill will need to be again passed in both chambers and signed by the president.

The Senate bill contains conservation compliance; the House bill doesn't. The Senate bill puts a cap on benefits at $750,000 adjusted gross income; the House doesn't. Both bills move from direct payments to crop insurance to support crop producers.

The Senate wants to get the farm and food bill done so they can move onto immigration reform, Martin added.

Ladd said he expects the commodity titles to line up pretty close between the House and Senate. The battles likely will be over cuts to the food and nutrition components.

Dave Weinand of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture reviewed the state's dairy statistics. Minnesota dropped below 4,000 dairy farms in December 2012. There are now 3,959 dairy farmers in the state.

The number of cows in the state has held steady at 465,000 since November 2011. Milk production per cow has bounced up and down and was at 1,736 pounds for March 2013. The state's average dairy farm now has 117 cows.

The March 2013 price for federal milk market order 30 was $17.26, down from $17.57 per month earlier but up from $15.89 per year earlier.

Minnesota's farms produced 4.99 percent of the nation's milk production in the first quarter of 2013.

Del Lecy, of farm business management at Central Lakes College, shared the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities State Farm Business Management Program dairy farm sort.

There are 2,200 farms enrolled in the farm business management program, including dairy farms. The average dairy in the farm business management program has 165 cows, Lecy said. The average producer had a net return of 40 cents per hundredweight in 2012. The high 20 percent had a net return of $2.47 per hundredweight.

The average price received per hundredweight of milk in 2012 was $19.64 and the average producer sold 22,395 pounds of milk. The average net return per cow was $293.19. The average turnover rate was 37.7.

More than 30 percent of the herds with more than a 100 cows are in the state's farm financial database, Lecy said.

The data shows there may be benefits to specialization as the smaller dairy operations, those with fewer than 50 cows, spend more on feed and have higher direct and overhead expenses.

The data is broken down to show financial data from organic and non-organic dairy operations, dairies that milk three times a day and those who don't and those who use sand bedding and those who use compost bedding.

The net return per cow for the dairies with sand bedding is $406.78, compared to $68.94 for compost bedding. Looking behind the data, Lecy said the herds that use compost bedding are smaller, have a higher turnover rate and have higher feed costs. Their milk production is less than the dairies that use sand bedding.

He suggests that farmers contact their farm business management instructor to help them compare what production system is right for them.

Curt Zimmerman from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said the Dairy Research, Teaching and Consumer Education Authority is starting to meet and Doris Mold recruited volunteers for the Moo Booth at the Minnesota State Fair. The state fair is Aug. 23 to Sept. 2, and this year's featured breed is Red and Whites.