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Thread: How many acres support dairy cow?

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowagrazer View Post
    That is exactly right, I am trying to use the resources in front of me, and am not trying to get rich. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

    I am also trying to fulfill my passion for dairy, not take the easy road. Sure I could rent the ground to someone and have an off farm job. I could raise beef or sheep or pigs or goats or buffalo, but it wouldn't fulfill my desires. My goal is to be happy, keep the farm in the family, and make it SUSTAINABLE.
    I have a buddy that went organic recently. Upon visiting his operation my eyes were opened to a very simple way of farming. He grazed and fed only baleage to his cows. Milking once a day he only made 30lbs a day per cow but I saw how easy farming could be. If the farm is paid for and you build a simple parlor his style may be an option to be a full time farmer on 80 acres. If you take MBurgess's rate of 1 cow an acre you could have up to 80 cows. If you double crop some pastures with sudan grass in summer and oats or rye in the fall you MAY be able to have enough grass and baleage to last a year for 60 cows. As for my operation, we have a 70lb average. My feed bill is about 40% of total operating cost due to loan payments and high school taxes. If I would go the way of my buddy I would drop over 50% in milk to save 40%. We graze 100 milking cows on 40 acres and have about 80 acres for forage. I wouldn't milk 5-30 cows as a part time job due to the time and commitment that it takes to milk cows. You would need to get up early to milk, go to your full time job, and then come home and milk. What happens if you have a sick cow and need to call the vet? Just some thoughts to ponder.

    tjkillduff, what can the land do as far as bu per acre of corn? Those rates seem low compared to my area of PA. Rent values for land and that can average 200 bu/acre can go for 400$/acre. Some better land south of us that people claim is the best non irrigated land in the world can go up to $500 an acre.

  2. #22
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    I personally see 80 acres of prime farmland as an excellent opportunity to milk cows. We're farming a shale hill in PA and are comfortably making a living milking 24 cows once a day and selling our milk retail. We are first generation farmers and had to buy everything to get started (farm, facilities, etc).
    If you milk 30 cows once a day and average 3 gals/day (25 lbs), this will give you 75 gallons of milk a day to sell to your local community. 75 gallons x 285 days (shorter lactation for the OAD cow)= 21,375 gallons of saleable milk. multiply that by your local price point ($5.00/gallon = $106,875.00 gross income). 30 mature cows (OAD milking) will eat roughly 180 tons of forage per year (no grain). I would hope that Iowa crop land would produce at least 3 tons of grass/acre per year. This would take 60 acres or 2 acres/cow to feed that herd year round. That leaves 20 acres to feed youngstock and put away some surplus for dry years.
    If you assign a theoretical value of $200.00/ton to the forage needed to feed the cows that would give you an annual feed cost of $36,000.00 leaving $70,875.00 to pay yourself, taxes, and whatever debt you incur building a small facility to milk 30 cows (it wont be too much).
    Don't think its possible? Neither did alot of people when we started out 4 years ago, and were still here and growing.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowagrazer View Post
    That is exactly right, I am trying to use the resources in front of me, and am not trying to get rich. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

    I am also trying to fulfill my passion for dairy, not take the easy road. Sure I could rent the ground to someone and have an off farm job. I could raise beef or sheep or pigs or goats or buffalo, but it wouldn't fulfill my desires. My goal is to be happy, keep the farm in the family, and make it SUSTAINABLE.
    You may not be trying to get "rich", and I don't know your financial situation, but making assumptions on the fact that you are studying and you MAY have access to your FAMILY farm tells me that you probably have little assets right now and possibly don't even own any livestock yet. So you have a lot of saving to do to build up equity in order to get to a comfortable and sustainable stage. Being happy also relys on being in a good financial situation and not struggling to pay the bills. Ask anyone here!! So you may not be interested in building up multi-millions, but you still have a way to go just to get started, in my mind anyway.

  4. #24
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    I am intrigued by this approach but am skeptical about getting 75 customers a day to the farm, each buying a gallon of milk, if that is all that the farm sells. The numbers sure look attractive.

    To the gentleman getting started, I am a big fan of finding a job on the best farm you can in your area while buying calves and raising heifers to build equity. If you have a home place where you can build a herd over time with used equipment you will avoid working for the bank for the rest of your life and reduce risk.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseyfarmer View Post
    Like I said before, I doubt it. The question that comes to mind is that if that was possible, how come we are not being overrun by NZ dairyman here in the U.S? If you are all so much better at this than us, there would be lots of you here doubling your money.. but very few of you are. And all the NZ dairyman I've known of who tried to make it go here ended up quitting. Seems to me nobody would quit if they were making money like that. But hey maybe I'm wrong.
    1/ There are only 10000 dairy farms in NZ, and many are owned by farmers who have 2+ farms, so there maybe say 7000 farm owners. Which is small on an international scale.

    2/ There are barriers to entry for NZers farming in the USA, both financially and legally.

    3/ Most NZ farmers don't know enough about USA and aren't confident investing in somewhere they know little about.

    4/ Most NZ farmers haven't even thought about it, or can't be bothered doing the extensive research necessary.

    5/ Many would rather invest spare capital in another farm in NZ or beach houses etc.

    6/ Large companies have been set up in USA and South America to develop grazing dairies, and sell shares to other NZ farmers as a way for them to invest overseas but not have to worry about most of the decision making.

    7/ The few NZers that I know farming in the USA have not quit yet!

    8/ Some NZers going over to the USA to farm have been a bit nieve and think you can farm exactly like in NZ, IMO. Hence profit generation has been slow to take off due to all the teething problems!

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfbvcf View Post
    I am intrigued by this approach but am skeptical about getting 75 customers a day to the farm, each buying a gallon of milk, if that is all that the farm sells. The numbers sure look attractive.

    To the gentleman getting started, I am a big fan of finding a job on the best farm you can in your area while buying calves and raising heifers to build equity. If you have a home place where you can build a herd over time with used equipment you will avoid working for the bank for the rest of your life and reduce risk.
    We are in the raw milk business and from my observations very few families that buy from us are buying one gallon a week. The avg. customer is buying 2-3 per week and we have many puchasing 5-8 per week to feed a large family. So in reality a farm of this size is going to be able to support roughly 200 families.
    About 70% of our milk is being sold raw with the remaining being processed into far more profitable products (yogurt, cheese, etc).
    The numbers I quoted were just an example of what can be done if you have the drive to farm and want to avoid a "get big or get out" mentality.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmvf View Post
    I have a buddy that went organic recently. Upon visiting his operation my eyes were opened to a very simple way of farming. He grazed and fed only baleage to his cows. Milking once a day he only made 30lbs a day per cow but I saw how easy farming could be. If the farm is paid for and you build a simple parlor his style may be an option to be a full time farmer on 80 acres. If you take MBurgess's rate of 1 cow an acre you could have up to 80 cows. If you double crop some pastures with sudan grass in summer and oats or rye in the fall you MAY be able to have enough grass and baleage to last a year for 60 cows. As for my operation, we have a 70lb average. My feed bill is about 40% of total operating cost due to loan payments and high school taxes. If I would go the way of my buddy I would drop over 50% in milk to save 40%.
    Remember there will also be other cost savings. Milking OAD reduces electricity costs and can save on labour depending on your set up. Also when you place lower demands on your cows (30 lbs/day ave) you will have much less animal health issues, less wastage in cull cows (udder blow outs etc), hopefully a higher conception rate. This will in turn reduce the replacement rate required OR allow you to rear the same amount of heifers and cull more intensely to increase genetic gain.

    Have you also accounted for savings in diesel due to less tractor work. Savings in R&M due to less machinery use. Savings in effluent management/treatment. Savings in fertiliser due to manure being applied directly rather that sitting in storage and loosing nutrients before it even gets to the field.

    I'm sure there are more things I haven't thought of. But even if it meant you could say you dropped 50% to save 50% i.e. there is no financial difference, which workload would you choose?

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmvf View Post

    tjkillduff, what can the land do as far as bu per acre of corn? Those rates seem low compared to my area of PA. Rent values for land and that can average 200 bu/acre can go for 400$/acre. Some better land south of us that people claim is the best non irrigated land in the world can go up to $500 an acre.
    The 200 bushel mark I think would be usually about right. This year my grandpa was getting around 150 and a guy I work for ended up at 120. (way too much rain this year in June) North only 10-15 miles people were reporting up to 230 this year.

    A survey by Iowa State reported 9 farmers from my county paying from $175-250 an acre, so I guess I could have been a little high on the average. I bet it will be higher next year with these corn prices though.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseyfarmer View Post
    Like I said before, I doubt it. The question that comes to mind is that if that was possible, how come we are not being overrun by NZ dairyman here in the U.S? If you are all so much better at this than us, there would be lots of you here doubling your money.. but very few of you are. And all the NZ dairyman I've known of who tried to make it go here ended up quitting. Seems to me nobody would quit if they were making money like that. But hey maybe I'm wrong.
    Might have something to do with your climate. Lots of Kiwis here and most of them stay. Looking at the Cornell data for New York, which is also a colder climate, I think that Missouri graziers can produce milk for $2-4 less than the Northern tier of states. It may be that Georgia is the place to be.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjkillduff View Post
    The 200 bushel mark I think would be usually about right. This year my grandpa was getting around 150 and a guy I work for ended up at 120. (way too much rain this year in June) North only 10-15 miles people were reporting up to 230 this year.

    A survey by Iowa State reported 9 farmers from my county paying from $175-250 an acre, so I guess I could have been a little high on the average. I bet it will be higher next year with these corn prices though.
    $200 per acre on 80 acres= $16,000. I can run a cow on 1.3 acres. That gets here all the forage she needs for the year. Grain is purchased. In a crop country, I would be looking at grazing 2 cows per acre and buying grain from the neighbors, as well as silage. Maybe could go to 2.5 cows per acre. So, 80 acres could run 160 cows and maybe more. Makes dairy a very viable option.
    However, if there are no dairies in the area other than yourself, it will be almost imposible to market your milk. Another option is to rent the land out and move to someplace else to live and dairy. Or go the direct marketing route. But marketing is as detailed and intense an interprize as dairy farming, not something you just do to get $58 milk. ($5 per gal = $58 per cwt)

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by OzarksMilk View Post
    Might have something to do with your climate. Lots of Kiwis here and most of them stay. Looking at the Cornell data for New York, which is also a colder climate, I think that Missouri graziers can produce milk for $2-4 less than the Northern tier of states. It may be that Georgia is the place to be.
    Georgia? You must be kidding. The heat and humidity there are not something that is cow-friendly in any way. The south has been deficient in milk ever since I can remember, there must be a reason that farms are built from the ground up here in MI just to ship south. Why dont they build closer to their market? Must be a reason. Four miles from here is a 4000 cow where there was only apple orchard 10 years ago. And it was built to ship every drop of the milk to the southern states.

    And the NZ people I know of were all in Missouri. I've only known of 1, that was here in MI for a very short time. LOTS of people here from the Netherlands milking cows though. Seems like more all the time.

  12. #32
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    80 acres of 200 bushel corn at 5 bucks will make a nice check...but it will cost you almost 4 bucks a bushel to make according to the latest I've seen.
    And some states will not allow you to direct market raw milk to the consumer..here in WI it is verboten.
    Get that land in the program, get it certified organic and milk 25. Organic rules and certain companies will limit your cows per acre but you will get more than the conventional guys.
    Graze em, make barley baleage, throw corn out the window. Keep your costs down.
    25 cows making 13000 a lactation with 8 or 9 dollar cost and 25 dollar base will get you more than king corn will

  13. #33
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    I see raw milk sales are illegal in Ia as well.....

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by sammyd View Post
    I see raw milk sales are illegal in Ia as well.....
    There's no reason why you couldn't do a creamline pasteurized milk for the local market as well.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseyfarmer View Post
    Georgia? You must be kidding. The heat and humidity there are not something that is cow-friendly in any way. The south has been deficient in milk ever since I can remember, there must be a reason that farms are built from the ground up here in MI just to ship south. Why dont they build closer to their market? Must be a reason. Four miles from here is a 4000 cow where there was only apple orchard 10 years ago. And it was built to ship every drop of the milk to the southern states.

    And the NZ people I know of were all in Missouri. I've only known of 1, that was here in MI for a very short time. LOTS of people here from the Netherlands milking cows though. Seems like more all the time.
    GA is actually quite a realistic option. Moreso than MO I believe.

    The shift from the Netherlands is probably due to the size of the country and availability of farm land.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseyfarmer View Post
    Georgia? You must be kidding. The heat and humidity there are not something that is cow-friendly in any way. The south has been deficient in milk ever since I can remember, there must be a reason that farms are built from the ground up here in MI just to ship south. Why dont they build closer to their market? Must be a reason. Four miles from here is a 4000 cow where there was only apple orchard 10 years ago. And it was built to ship every drop of the milk to the southern states.

    And the NZ people I know of were all in Missouri. I've only known of 1, that was here in MI for a very short time. LOTS of people here from the Netherlands milking cows though. Seems like more all the time.
    GA is actually quite a realistic option. Moreso than MO I believe.

    The shift from the Netherlands is probably due to the size of the country and availability of farm land.

  17. #37
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    I worked on a dairy that milked 60 Jerseys on 39 acres. They rotationally graze during the summer, and feed bought hay in the barn during the winter. Before I worked there, they sold their milk to a Co-op. After getting tired of putting up with low milk prices, they decided to build a little creamery with a storefront and now bottle their own raw milk. The stuff sells for over $8 a gallon, and they can never keep up with demand.

    Like Placer said, a pasteurized creamline milk is also an option for where you can't sell raw. Besides, to sell raw milk, you have to have a fundamental belief in the product. I have a friend who has about 200 Jerseys and sells to a Co-op. He decided he wanted to bottle his own, and so he created a separate enterprise to do just that. He took 15 of his cows and converted a 2 car garage into a creamery. He does pasteurized creamline milk in glass bottles. As his demand grew, he pulled cows off his farm that was selling to the Co-op. At last count, he was up to 50 cows or so for his bottling operation. I tinker in Youtube now and then, and have made a video about his operation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvszhsJWmAU

    MBurgess said 20 cows is a hobby, and I would tend to agree if you were just selling your milk to a processor. But, 20 cows can be very doable as a producer handler. That said, being a producer-handler is not a miracle cure for low milk prices. You will have to take on the additional workload of processing, marketing, and distribution. My two friends above both farm in an area that has a strong local-foods movement, which is a benefit to them. I do know a guy who decided to bottle his own, but never really looked past his farm gate. He assumed that "if he bottled it, they would come..." He donated a lot of milk to the food bank in the early days. Plus, I think his cow numbers put him in the awkward stage between small enough to do everything himself, and large enough to hire some help.

    I have another friend who milks 3 Jerseys, makes cheese, and sells it at local farmers markets. He worked a government job for many years before buying some land and starting to farm. He built the barn himself, and in the beginning milked 15 cows and sold to a Co-op. Almost going broke, that's when he became a producer handler. I describe his method of farming is "laid back". He rotationally grazes his cows and makes hay on native grasses. He breeds with a bull (only keeping him a year so he's gone before he gets ornery) and only feeds 2-3 pounds of grain. He milks once or twice a day depending on production, and his herd average is only 9,000 lbs. He's happy, and the cows are happy. He just got a team of draft horses and uses them to farm now, which I think is really cool. I made a video about his operation too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJIsrLyPqFg

    As for me, I am planning on becoming a producer-handler. My wife and I bought 41 acres this last summer with nothing on it. Over the next 8 years of my military "commitment", we plan on building it up. I believe there is plenty of room for small producer-handlers, but you have to do your research and be willing to do the extra work. I also think it's important to diversify your operation. Our website is www.midwatchcrew.com/dairy

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowagrazer View Post
    That is exactly right, I am trying to use the resources in front of me, and am not trying to get rich. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

    I am also trying to fulfill my passion for dairy, not take the easy road. Sure I could rent the ground to someone and have an off farm job. I could raise beef or sheep or pigs or goats or buffalo, but it wouldn't fulfill my desires. My goal is to be happy, keep the farm in the family, and make it SUSTAINABLE.
    Don't forget the following two passages...
    25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
    26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    In other words, you don't have to aspire to be destitute.

  19. #39
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    OzarksMilk ,would you care to share more info about your operation? On your place, how long is your grazing season? Do you stockpile forages and is that part of the 1.3 A/cow? Do you use summer annuals? What forage is your herd recieving, corn silage, haylage, or dry hay? If you are a grazing dairy, what production level are you confortable with? Anything else you can add would be much appreciated. Thanks, KB

  20. #40
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    Luke 18:25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

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