Monday, September 28, 2015

Dairy FAQ: Why is harvest important for dairy farmers?

Harvest is busy. We've heard that a time or two, right?

In Indiana, most livestock farmers are also crop farmers, so that means harvest is a critical time for them. However, even for dairy farmers that are not crop farmers, harvest is an important time.

A lot of prices are based on supply and demand. For example, when there was a drought in the Midwest in 2012 it helped drive corn and soybean prices significantly higher than they had been (and much higher than they are now). There was less supply than demand, so prices were up. When there's more supply than demand, prices are lower. This impacts dairy farmers (and other livestock farmers) who buy feed for their cows. Feed cost is approximately half of total production costs on a dairy. A lot of things influence this, such as price of feed, how much they grow themselves and of course, the weather. One factor that influences so much in agriculture that none of us have any control over.

Corn and soybeans are staples in dairy cows' diets. Maybe you've heard me talk about that casserole of ingredients that we feed cows (also known as a Total Mixed Ration or TMR...what the cows are eating in the picture above). Corn silage and soybean meal are important parts of this. Corn silage is a great source of energy (and milk cows need a lot of that!) and soybean meal is an excellent source of protein.

Therefore, an ample harvest is important in ensuring that dairy cows have enough of these important feeds to eat year round.

Fun fact: The biggest consumer of soybeans are livestock! (Atleast in Indiana)

Emptying corn from the combine into the grain cart

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