How Suffering Farmers May Determine Trump’s Fate

Last October, Jerry Volenec, a dairy farmer from southwestern Wisconsin, took the morning off to go to Madison for the World Dairy Expo, an annual cattle-judging contest and trade show. Volenec wanted to hear a town-hall discussion led by Sonny Perdue, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, to learn how the Administration planned to address the economic crisis gripping Wisconsin’s family dairy farmers.

Volenec’s farm sits atop Bohemian Ridge, a jagged plateau named for the Czech immigrants who settled there in the late nineteenth century. Among them was Joseph Volenec, Jerry’s great-great-grandfather, who established the farm, in 1897. In the nineteen-fifties and sixties, Volenec’s grandfather milked a herd of sixteen cows; he could make a living because New Deal policies used price supports and other measures to boost farmers’ earnings and limit overproduction.

Jerry Volenec always wanted to become a farmer. “You couldn’t keep me out of the barn,” he said. “I was milking cows by myself by the time I was fourteen.” By the early nineties, when Volenec began farming full time, the New Deal policies had largely been dismantled. The family increased its herd to about seventy, and Volenec’s father started paying him a salary, enough money for his education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and to start an I.R.A. In 2000, Volenec installed a milking parlor, and since then he has increased the herd to three hundred and thirty cows. “We’re the biggest of the small guys,” Volenec, who is forty-five, with a sturdy build and a thin goatee, said. “But I was making more money, doing less work, when I started, twenty-five years ago. I’m basically paying myself living expenses now.”

Five years ago, the price of milk fell precipitously, accelerating the long unravelling of rural Wisconsin. Since 2010, the population in two-thirds of the state’s rural counties has decreased, leading to a shrinking workforce, fewer jobs and businesses, and slower income growth rates than in metro counties. More than seventy rural schools have closed, and for the past three years the state has led the country in family-farm bankruptcies. “The level of desperation and lack of hope in our phone calls has increased,” Angie Sullivan, who supervises caseworkers at the Wisconsin Farm Center, part of the state’s Department of Agriculture, said. “Dairy farmers are working on their fifth year of low milk prices. Many banks have stopped loaning them money.” Wisconsin has seven thousand dairy farms, roughly half the number that it had a decade ago. Yet the number of cows has remained constant, because of consolidation and the proliferation of factory dairy farms, some of which have herds of more than five thousand cows.

“It’s like a never-ending cycle, almost like a hamster on the wheel,” Travis Tranel, a Republican state representative from Cuba City, forty miles south of Volenec’s farm, told me. Tranel is an organic dairy farmer with a five-hundred-cow herd. “You just keep running and running. Your only option is to produce more.” Tranel said that consolidation has all but wiped out small dairy farms in Wisconsin and now threatens medium-sized farms such as his. “We can see the future if we stay on the path we’re on,” he said, noting that the consolidation of hog farming had already transformed Iowa. “I definitely do not want to see rural Wisconsin become as empty as rural Iowa.”

After the town hall, Perdue took questions from reporters, one of whom asked if the state’s loss of small farms was inevitable. “In America, the big get bigger, and the small will go out,” Perdue said. “I don’t think in America for any small business we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” Volenec wasn’t surprised by Perdue’s answer. “I walked in there knowing that’s how they felt,” Volenec told me, referring to the Trump Administration. “The part that was unnerving to me was that he said it to our faces. They’re not trying to hide it anymore. They’re telling us flat out: You’re not important.”

In 2016, after voting for Barack Obama twice, Volenec voted for Trump. Volenec had grown disenchanted with Obama after his Administration banned whole milk from schools and did little to slow the loss of family farms. “I wasn’t following politics closely,” he said. “I never listened to Trump give a speech, just commentary over the radio. I had the general impression that what’s wrong with the agricultural economy was that too many politicians were involved, and that having a businessman in the White House would benefit me.”

As rural Wisconsin’s fortunes have declined, its political importance has grown. Trump won the state by less than twenty-three thousand votes. If the 2020 election is close, Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania—the other Rust Belt states he flipped in 2016—and still win a second term by holding Wisconsin. Trump underperformed in the suburban counties of Milwaukee, the Republican Party’s stronghold, while overperforming in the state’s rural areas, where he won nearly two-thirds of the vote. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the largest shift in voting between Obama’s seven-point victory in Wisconsin, in 2012, and Trump’s one-point win came in communities that cast fewer than a thousand votes. (Nationally, Trump won sixty-two per cent of the rural vote.)

Four years ago, Trump promised to reverse the economic decline of family farmers. “Hillary Clinton wants to shut down family farms just like she wants to shut down the mines and the steelworkers,” he said, during a campaign stop at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. “We are going to end this war on the American farmer.” In early 2018, he launched a series of trade wars, which provoked China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union into imposing penalties on American dairy products. Mexico, the largest importer of Wisconsin cheese, levied a twenty-five-per-cent tariff on American cheeses. Last summer, Trump allotted fifteen billion dollars in compensation to farmers, but the vast majority of it has gone to the largest farms. In a tweet, he called farmers “great patriots” and promised that they would eventually be better off.

In June, as Trump’s poll numbers dropped nationwide, the Washington Post reported that his campaign advisers were losing hope for Michigan and Pennsylvania, and would focus on holding Wisconsin. “It’s baked into the cake that Trump will lose the state’s large metro areas in a landslide, while the suburbs have been fleeing him,” Ben Wikler, the head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told me. “Trump can’t win a second term unless he racks up enormous margins in rural Wisconsin.”

For Volenec, Trump’s appeal vanished almost immediately. “If I had known the things I know about him now, I wouldn’t have voted for him,” he said, when I visited him at his farm in February. As Trump’s trade wars escalated, Volenec’s problems worsened. In March, 2018, Canada effectively cut off all dairy imports from the United States, and milk from Michigan that had previously been exported began flooding into Wisconsin’s processing plants. The co-op where Volenec sent his milk for processing was now competing with cheap out-of-state milk, and put a cap on the amount that it would take from him. That week, Volenec heard about a meeting of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, a family-farm advocacy group, in nearby Dodgeville, to promote a version of supply management, a system used in Canada that sets a quota on the production of dairy, eggs, and poultry. Designed, like the New Deal policies, to prevent overproduction and to guarantee farmers a stable income, the system relies on higher prices for Canadian consumers. Trump’s trade war with Canada is aimed at dismantling supply management, which has long been deplored by Republican politicians. John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, called it “Soviet-style” agriculture. For Volenec, it was a revelation. “This was my first glimpse into a world where the dairy farmer is not subservient to The Market,” he wrote in an essay called “Groomed for Apocalypse.”

Volenec lives on the farm with his wife, Jennifer, and their four daughters. His parents still live and work there, too, and the family employs four farmhands, Mexican immigrants who milk the cows three times a day, in five-hour shifts. Volenec spends most of his time feeding cattle and doing maintenance. His workday begins at five in the morning and, in the spring and summer, ends at nine or ten at night. It was bitterly cold the day I visited, so Volenec led me into a small office adjacent to the milking parlor. On the wall was a whiteboard with numbers detailing the farm’s milk production, which averages roughly thirty thousand pounds a day. A truck picks up the milk every day and takes it to the co-op, where it is turned into cheese. (Ninety per cent of Wisconsin’s milk is used to make cheese; if the state were a country, it would be the fourth-largest cheese-producing nation in the world.)

Dairy farmers have felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic acutely. As schools and restaurants closed, they abruptly cancelled their contracts with milk bottlers and cheese factories. The price of milk dropped by more than thirty per cent, and some processors began asking their farmers to dump milk. By late April, as hungry people lined up at food banks, one farm had already dumped more than five million pounds of milk, according to “The Mid-West Farm Report.” Mitch Breunig, a dairy farmer in Sauk City, had to dump all of his morning milking for ten days. “We took a hundred-and-fifty-foot hose and ran it from the milking parlor right into the manure-storage unit in the barn,” he told me. Breunig wound up dumping eighty thousand pounds of milk, for which he received no money. “I would just look at it and think, Wow, everything we did was for nothing.”

State agencies issued protocols for dumping milk, which can pollute groundwater and decimate fish populations. Though Volenec has not had to dump any of his milk, he’s been worrying about the environmental costs of large-scale dairy farming, from water contamination to climate change. Manure runoff from industrial dairy farming has contributed to a dramatic increase in bacteria and nitrates in the state’s groundwater, according to a study funded in part by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. (A farm with twenty-five hundred cows produces as much waste as a city of four hundred thousand people.) The E.P.A. recently sampled the groundwater in a thirty-mile area of Juneau County that’s dense with dairy cows and found that sixty-five per cent of the sites had elevated levels of nitrates, which have been linked to birth defects, colon cancer, and “blue-baby syndrome,” a condition that reduces oxygen in an infant’s blood and can be fatal.

“You’re now looking at three or four generations of depletion,” Curt Meine, an environmental historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told me. “Depletion of rural communities, rural landscapes, rural soils and water, depletion of the land and local economies. And you have the brain drain that followed it. This is why we have this deep urban-rural divide. We have concentrated and exported the wealth. Everyone sees it, but neither party has wrestled with it. One party exploited it, the other party has ignored it.”

“It’s hard, because I’ve built my life around a system that I believe now is extremely problematic from an environmental, social, even a personal level,” Volenec said. “It’s not the farming that I was brought up with. It’s not really even farming anymore. It’s mining. We’re extracting resources and shipping them away, and they’re not coming back. There’s no cyclical nature to it. It’s a straight line out.”

Volenec and I walked across the road to see his great-great-grandfather’s homestead. The land begins behind his house. Rolling fields stretched to the horizon, punctuated by cornstalks and a few trees. Volenec told me that he will be the family’s last farmer. “I don’t want my kids doing what I’m doing,” he said. He gazed at the snow-covered plot. “The flip side for me is: Is what I’ve done worth anything?”

Volenec’s farm is in the Driftless Area, a vast region of hills and valleys in southern and western Wisconsin whose agricultural and political histories are deeply entwined. The Driftless Area, with its steep coulees and sandstone bluffs, is a geological anomaly in the Midwest. (It also encompasses smaller portions of Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.) As rural America trended Republican, it remained one of the few rural regions that still tended to vote Democratic. The Driftless Area was where Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, worked on soil- and watershed-restoration projects. In 1945, when Wisconsin had about a hundred and fifty thousand dairy farms, Leopold wrote an essay called “The Outlook for Farm Wildlife,” which warned of the dangers of industrialized agriculture for soil, animals, and rural communities. Leopold saw two possibilities for American agriculture: the farm as a “place-to-live,” where wildlife could be accommodated, or the farm as a “food-factory,” whose only goal is to produce sellable goods. The latter, he believed, generated “new insecurities, economic and ecological, in place of those it was meant to abolish.”

After the Second World War, American agriculture moved toward Leopold’s darker possibility. Companies such as Dow Chemical and DuPont began repurposing wartime technology and materials for agricultural uses. Nitrogen, an essential element in TNT and other explosives, was used to make fertilizers that can vastly improve yields. Such fertilizers soon became widespread, leading to the Green Revolution, which brought an enormous increase in agricultural production in the developing world. It helped reduce hunger, but also diminished biodiversity and left lasting environmental damage—depleting the soil, increasing greenhouse-gas emissions, and contaminating water supplies. In the U.S., synthetic fertilizers were essential to what’s known as the “cheap food policy,” in which the U.S.D.A. pursues ever-higher yields to keep food prices low for consumers, at the expense of farmers’ wages and the environment.

Jerry Volenec on his farm, in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin.Photograph by Peyton Fulford for The New Yorker

Decades before Sonny Perdue, Earl Butz, the Secretary of Agriculture under Richard Nixon, urged American farmers to “get big or get out.” Butz called farming “a big business,” and told farm audiences that they needed to “adapt or die.” In the summer of 1972, after experiencing crop failure, the Soviet Union bought eleven million tons of American grain. The sale wiped out American grain reserves, helped create a worldwide food shortage, and contributed to a rise in global food prices of more than thirty per cent. Butz implored farmers to plant “fencerow to fencerow,” promising them limitless exports. New Deal policies had encouraged soil-conservation measures, but Butz’s export-driven focus led to monoculture farming, which transformed much of the rural Midwest into endless fields of corn and soybeans. Agricultural exports became an instrument of foreign policy. “Food is a weapon,” Butz told Time in 1974, as a wave of famines spread around the world. “It is now one of the principal tools in our negotiating kit.”

In the early eighties, however, a grain embargo against the Soviet Union, a strong dollar, and a global economic recession caused exports to dry up. Many farmers, who had borrowed heavily to expand, were foreclosed on. The signing of NAFTA, in 1993, by Bill Clinton, promised a revival of exports but ended up hurting family farmers, encouraging consolidation with large agribusiness companies that, like their counterparts in the auto industry, started moving production to Mexico. Since NAFTA’s passage, more than two hundred thousand small farms in the U.S. have gone under, and an agricultural trading surplus with Canada and Mexico has become a twelve-billion-dollar deficit.

Because the topography of the Driftless Area made large corporate farms less tenable, the region has until recently resisted many of these trends. It has one of the highest concentrations of organic farms in the country, an enduring culture of local coöperatives established by Scandinavian immigrants, and a tradition of economic populism. The partisan tilt of the Driftless Area is a major reason that Wisconsin, prior to Trump, had not voted for a Republican for President since 1984. In 2008, Obama won Wisconsin by fourteen points and carried all the Driftless Area’s twenty-two counties.

Since the financial crash of 2008, however, the region’s economic decline has accelerated, driving political changes that may determine the next President. In 2010, Scott Walker, a Republican, won his first term as governor, capturing almost all the Driftless Area. Before his inauguration, he began appealing to—and stoking—resentment. “We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” he said. Then, in February, 2011, he announced a law that gutted collective-bargaining rights for public employees and reduced their health-insurance and pension benefits. The law, which became known as Act 10, led to protests at the state capitol that at times drew a hundred thousand people.

Katherine Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent eight years interviewing rural Wisconsinites for her book “The Politics of Resentment,” published months before Trump’s election. “I heard so many complaints about teachers,” she told me. “ ‘How is it that they can get off of work? People who really work hard don’t have time to go out and protest.’ ” Act 10 prompted a recall petition, which gathered more than a million signatures, but Walker won the recall election, nearly sweeping the Driftless Area. He was reëlected two years later, with strong support from the region. In 2012, Walker announced a plan to increase Wisconsin’s milk production to thirty billion pounds a year by 2020. The goal was met four years early, but the increase contributed to a collapse in prices and the further consolidation of dairy farming.

Compounding the economic anxiety, a month before the 2016 Presidential election, Wisconsinites learned that their Obamacare rates would increase by an average of sixteen per cent. Rural residents were hit particularly hard, because they are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance. Trump seized on the underlying discontent, staging five large rallies in Wisconsin during the campaign, one of them in Eau Claire, which borders the Driftless Area. Two days before Election Day, he held a rally in Minneapolis, whose television market covers a large swath of western Wisconsin.

Hillary Clinton was the first candidate of either party not to campaign in Wisconsin since Richard Nixon in 1972. But Clinton’s negligence was not the only advantage Trump enjoyed. In 2011, Walker had signed one of the strictest voter-I.D. laws in the country, which was blocked by the courts until shortly before the 2016 election. A survey conducted by political scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimated that, of people in two of the state’s largest and most heavily Democratic counties who were eligible to vote but didn’t, ten per cent had been deterred by the law. Trump also benefitted from the growth and reach of right-wing media. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that, by 2016, Wisconsin was being blanketed by conservative talk radio, averaging nearly two hundred hours a day statewide. At the same time, traditional reporting is dying. In 2000, there were twenty-one full-time reporters covering state politics. Today, there are five.

Trump won almost all the counties in the Driftless Area, but the 2018 midterms proved that Wisconsin was not yet a one-party state. Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of schools, defeated Walker by twenty-nine thousand votes, and Democrats won every statewide office. Evers’s victory was driven by high turnout in Milwaukee and Madison, but also by better results in rural Wisconsin, including in the Driftless Area, where he won nearly half the counties. Evers, who grew up in Plymouth, a small town an hour north of Milwaukee whose motto is “Cheese capital of the world,” campaigned heavily in farm country. “People in rural Wisconsin care about schools, health care, and good roads as much as anybody else,” Evers told me. “Wisconsin is the linchpin for both parties. If a candidate can make inroads in rural Wisconsin, they will definitely win.”

The Statz Family Farm is on the western edge of the Baraboo Hills, a dramatic outcrop that straddles the border of the Driftless Area. In 1972, when Leon Statz was twelve years old, he moved there with his parents and seven siblings after their old farm, on Madison’s west side, was swallowed up by a shopping center. The new farm sat on two hundred acres, with a white farmhouse and a stanchion barn for sixty cows. During high school, Leon apprenticed with a farmer down the road. After graduating, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “short course,” a four-month agricultural-training program that has been offered since 1886.

In the early eighties, Leon married Brenda Farber, and they had three children. After the middle child was born, Brenda quit her assembly-line job in nearby Reedsburg so that she could bring up the children and help on the farm. Although they worked constantly, they had little money, and Leon fell into a depression. Brenda recalls him saying, “If I fail, I’m responsible for everybody, and everybody fails.”

Despite the economic hardship, Brenda remembers those years as a joyful time. “I loved raising my kids on the farm, because you get to be with your kids,” she told me as we sat at her dining-room table. Brenda, who is fifty-seven, has long beige-blond hair, glasses, and a soft smile. “We put swings in the barn so they could be near me when I milked,” she said. “They get to learn so much—my kids have seen calves being born. When my boys were little, we would put pillows in the tractor, and they’d sleep in the tractor while I was plowing. We’d pack a lunch and eat out in the field.”

In 2000, milk prices fell to a new low, and Brenda, like many people in the area, found a job at the clothing retailer Lands’ End, packing orders. She woke up at four, milked the cows, and then milked them again when she returned from work. Leon milked, fed the cattle, and ran the silos. The children helped, too, when they were old enough. Most of the neighbors were going under. “From here to Reedsburg, there were probably thirty small dairy farms like ours,” Brenda told me. “There are two of those still operating.”

Brenda Statz on her farm, on the western edge of the Baraboo Hills.Photograph by Peyton Fulford for The New Yorker

After Scott Walker was elected, Leon grew more vocal about politics. “He thought Walker was owned by big money,” Brenda said. “He would get irate about everything they were cutting that was for a farmer.” When Walker introduced Act 10, Leon joined protests at the state capitol. The law led to teacher pay cuts of about ten per cent, making recruitment more difficult for rural areas. Walker’s cuts to state aid for local governments disproportionately hurt rural communities, which typically have smaller tax bases. At the same time, Walker’s agricultural policy favored large farms: for example, much of a tax cut for manufacturers and farmers, passed in 2011, and which has already cost the state more than a billion dollars, went to businesses making more than a million dollars a year. Walker also pushed a law to allow foreign corporations to buy more Wisconsin farmland. (The effort failed.)

In December, 2017, Brenda had a knee replacement. With Brenda unable to milk for several weeks and prices in free fall, the Statzes decided to sell their dairy cows and switch to beef, corn, and soybeans. Leon took a job as a meat cutter at a nearby Piggly Wiggly but hated it. Several weeks later, he took dozens of antidepressants and drank five beers. He left a note for Brenda: “Wish I never sold my (our) cows. I’m a dairy farmer. I miss going to the barn and seeing cows in there. Now I hate going to the barn. I hate living around the farm. I hate working for someone else. I want my old life back, but I can’t get it any more. Everything I do fails. I didn’t plan ahead for this, I thought everything would be fine. I wish I could turn the clock back and start over. I really screwed up. I have everything that’s worth nothing. Sorry, good luck, Leon.”

Brenda found Leon semiconscious, and her pastor helped persuade him to go to a hospital in Madison. He went to psychiatrists and tried different medications, but, a few months later, Ethan, his youngest child, found him in an outbuilding, tying a noose. Leon underwent eight rounds of electroconvulsive therapy. Brenda recalls him crying on the return trip from the hospital in Madison. “I want to feel better and I can’t,” he told her.

One weekend in October, 2018, a neighbor’s land came up for sale. Leon had always dreamed of buying it for his sons, who wanted to farm. All weekend, he studied whether they could afford it, but it was impossible. “He got real quiet,” Brenda said. That Sunday, she asked Leon to help her deliver some tables and chairs for their grandson’s first-birthday party, but he declined. “I came back early and he was already in bed, and it wasn’t that late,” Brenda recalled. “He had a really hard time sleeping. He told me he wanted to talk that night, but I didn’t ever want to wake him once he was asleep.” Tears began pouring down her face. “Oh, I wished I would have woke him up.”

The next morning, as Brenda was getting ready for work, Ethan found Leon hanging from a noose in the shed. Brenda showed me a message he had written to her on a breeding card that she found in his wallet. “I love you,” it read. “I’m concerned about your health. I’m concerned about not getting a job. I’m working where I can.”

Brenda bought the neighbor’s land with money from Leon’s life-insurance policy. We walked to the edge of the property, which includes the shell of an old house that she hopes to tear down. Though friends had tried to dissuade her from buying the land, she never doubted her decision. “It’s what he wanted,” she said. “Now I got to figure out how to make this work.”

On a Saturday morning in February, farmers and their supporters packed the cafeteria of Baraboo High School for a “farmer appreciation breakfast.” Two dollars bought a plate of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage served by high schoolers from the local chapter of Future Farmers of America. The breakfast was a benefit for the Farmer Angel Network, a support group founded by Randy Roecker, a dairy farmer from nearby Loganville, who was a friend of Leon Statz. As in many rural areas, suicides in Wisconsin have increased dramatically in recent years, reaching a record of nine hundred and eighteen in 2017. Roecker has had his own battles with depression. The problems started during the 2008 recession, shortly after he borrowed three million dollars to expand his family’s fifty-cow barn into a three-hundred-cow operation with a state-of-the-art milking parlor. “I’m losing thirty thousand dollars a month, and this has been going on for years,” Roecker said. To pay the banks, he keeps borrowing more, drawing on equity from his farm.

“I wanted to die every day,” he recalled. “My family really watched me close. They took all the guns out of the house, of course, but I would get in the truck and take off, and I’d go and drive into the back of our fields. I was numb, numb to everything. I would get panic attacks so bad that I couldn’t even go into a Walmart. I’d just sit out in the parking lot feeling sick.” Roecker went to see many psychiatrists, was hospitalized several times, and received electroconvulsive therapy. “Nobody could help me, nobody,” he said. “Finally, I had this vision in my head of my own funeral, and my family standing there, and that’s what kind of snapped me out of it. I couldn’t put my family through it.” Though Roecker no longer feels suicidal, he still struggles with depression.

Roecker describes himself as a “liberal conservative”—in 2008, he voted for Obama—and believes that Canadian-style supply management should be adopted in the United States. “We have a broken system,” he said. “It’s been that way since Earl Butz. But these bigger farms that I know don’t want supply management. They say it’s not the American way—free trade, free enterprise, that’s the American way.”

In 2008, Roecker participated in a trade mission to China for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and he is keenly aware of the damage that Trump’s tariffs have done to markets that took years to cultivate. Still, he views Trump as transformative. “I don’t agree with everything he says,” Roecker said. “But he’s the only President who has ever tackled the trade issue.” He believes that Trump’s bellicose negotiating style will eventually lead to better terms for American farmers. Roecker cited the recently renegotiated NAFTA treaty, which includes a small increase in American dairy exports allowed into Canada. “Everybody else has kicked the can down the road for decades,” Roecker said.

In January, Roecker’s state representative offered him two tickets to a Trump rally in Milwaukee. “I was sitting in the second row behind the President,” Roecker said. “It was unreal. I felt more inspired than I ever have in my life. I’m not a big patriotic, flag-waving person, but I felt very patriotic going to that. My son, too. He’s twenty, and he kept saying, ‘Oh, my God, Dad. Oh, my God.’ ”

Roecker introduced me to his family, who were sitting around a cafeteria table. His mother, father, daughter, and son-in-law all work on the farm. His parents, both in their eighties, still wake up at three-thirty every morning and work until eight at night. All of them support Trump. “He talks to us like a builder is talking to his workers,” Roecker said. “I don’t know what it is—I’m not brainwashed—but this is how we feel. We feel like he is more in touch. I know what my wages are. We live below the poverty level over here. Most of the farmers I know, we’re on free health care, and a lot of farmers I know are on food stamps.” He looked around the table at his family. “It’s all Trump supporters around here.”

“And, in one of life’s cruel twists, you’ll eventually be able to stay out late but you’ll no longer want to.”
Cartoon by Kendra Allenby

Conservatives have won just one of nine statewide races in Wisconsin since Trump became President. The most surprising defeat came in April, in a State Supreme Court race that turned into a national scandal. Shortly before Election Day, Governor Evers called for postponing it, owing to the coronavirus pandemic. He also asked a federal judge to extend the deadline for requesting and returning absentee ballots. Republicans sued him in the State Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority. The justices, all of whom had voted absentee, ruled that the election must go forward. In a separate last-minute ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, 5–4, that Evers could not extend the deadline for absentee ballots, even though thousands of voters had not yet received them because of delays in the U.S. mail and the flood of requests sparked by the virus. The biggest voting problems were in Milwaukee, which had just five polling places open, out of a hundred and eighty. Thousands of voters stood in hours-long lines or were turned away when polls closed. But Jill Karofsky, a liberal circuit-court judge, took fifty-five per cent of the vote, winning almost all the Driftless Area counties.

Contact tracing by Wisconsin health officials has linked seventy-one cases of COVID-19 to in-person voting. Bill Hogseth, the chairman of the Dunn County Democratic Party, worried that he would be one of them. Hogseth had worked the polls on Election Day behind a plexiglass barrier wearing a surgical mask, safety glasses, and nitrile gloves. After the election, he self-isolated for fourteen days. Despite Joe Biden’s decisive win in the Democratic primary over Bernie Sanders, Hogseth is concerned about the lack of enthusiasm for Biden. “There’s a deep desire for structural change,” he said. “Biden’s running on a return to normalcy.” Hogseth, a Sanders supporter, noted the high number of suicides in rural Wisconsin and the empty barns he drives by. In 2016, Trump won Dunn County, which had twice gone for Obama. “The virus is laying bare just how fragile these rural communities are,” Hogseth said. “We have nine thousand people who are sixty or older, and we have zero I.C.U. beds.”

Like Hogseth, Josh Orton, a Wisconsin native and a senior Sanders campaign adviser, sees parallels between the policy records of Biden and Hillary Clinton. Orton noted that Clinton’s Wisconsin campaign had relied almost exclusively on appealing to anti-Trump sentiment. “I saw one positive Hillary ad that the campaign itself did, and it was a feel-good Katy Perry music video,” Orton said. “Every other ad was, like, ‘Trump is scary.’ ” In the end, Clinton received two hundred and thirty thousand fewer votes than Barack Obama had four years earlier. (Trump received several thousand fewer votes than Mitt Romney had.) “While the Supreme Court result is encouraging, I’m still concerned about November,” Orton said. “Joe Biden needs to give voters a reason to turn out besides beating Trump. He’s starting to, and I hope it continues. But will anti-Trump fervor be enough to win Wisconsin? Maybe.”

Recently, Biden began courting progressives by offering sweeping plans to aid working parents and combat climate change. (He is also making a pitch to Trump-averse conservatives by inviting the former Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican, to speak at the Democratic Convention, which will be mostly virtual, this month.) Biden is not repeating Clinton’s mistake of taking Wisconsin for granted. Whereas Clinton did not run her first television ad in the state until a week before the election, Biden’s campaign has already aired ads in five of the state’s media markets. His campaign has hired strategists who worked on Evers’s and Senator Tammy Baldwin’s midterm victories, and he has held several virtual campaign events in Wisconsin, including one devoted to rural issues. Ben Wikler, Wisconsin’s Party chair, sees potential for a Biden victory on the scale of Obama’s in 2008. “There’s a similar sense of profound national crisis,” Wikler said. “People are really hurting—people are dying now—and the level of engagement we’re seeing is enormous.” But Wikler also noted that Clinton had led state polls by fifteen points after the party conventions and by six points a week before the election, roughly the same margin as Biden’s current lead over Trump. Last week, in signing an executive order expanding virtual health services, Trump indicated that he would be fighting for rural voters. “We take care of rural America,” he said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to allow the April election to proceed may end up helping Biden. After the election, Hogseth called an emergency Zoom meeting of the Dunn County Democrats. Eighty people joined, twice the usual number, some of them Sanders supporters uninspired by Biden. “People were really frustrated and angry that the election took place,” Hogseth said. “What we decided was to make sure the election in November is not just about the Presidential race.” Hogseth believes that Karofsky’s victory reflected a decade’s worth of pent-up progressive anger at the Republican hold on state government. That anger deepened a month later, after Republican legislative leaders took Evers’s stay-at-home order to the State Supreme Court, which overturned the measure. Hogseth thinks that the growing outrage might prove to be Trump’s undoing, too. “This election is also going to be about the high-stakes struggle for power in this state,” Hogseth said. “We’re going to make sure Bernie supporters in Dunn County know that we’re fighting for Wisconsin, too.”

On my way to pay a final visit to Jerry Volenec’s farm, I drove through the Driftless Area. The prairie grasses jutting through the snow, the little country churches, and the birch trees dotting the hillsides all quietly dazzled. I passed through Viroqua, near the headquarters of the Organic Valley dairy coöperative, one of the few economic bright spots in rural Wisconsin. A few miles outside of town, I saw a factory farm with several thousand cows crammed into enormous confinement barns. The stench was overwhelming.

I turned onto Volenec’s road, passing St. John Nepomuc, the Catholic church that the Volenec family has been attending for three generations. Charles Volenec, Jerry’s father, had told me that the congregation was dwindling and that his grandson, who graduated from high school this year, was the church’s only altar boy. The road was lined with cornfields.

In his office, Jerry told me he had written a poem after Sonny Perdue’s talk in Madison. He called it a commentary on “Get big or get out”:

I was told to buy a shovel
So I bought a shovel
I was told to dig
So I dug
What is the hole for I asked
For your neighbor, he has passed
I was told to keep digging
So I put my shovel to the task
A hole for each neighbor
Until I was the last
Keep digging I was told
I looked around and asked
Who for?
For yourself I was told
You are needed no more.

Volenec told me that he’s grateful to Trump for his political awakening. “I may as well have been asleep before 2016,” he said. “Without Trump’s arrogance, the way he behaves, I probably wouldn’t be paying attention. Provided that he doesn’t drive this country into the ground before he’s replaced, I think he’s woken up a lot of people.”

Volenec has recently found a renewed determination to help save family farms. He has become more active with his co-op and with the Wisconsin Farmers Union. And he has begun connecting with like-minded farmers across the country. “I started out fighting for my own well-being, my own survival,” he said. “It’s evolving for me. I want to be on the right side of what’s coming next.”

His current mood reminded him of an unruly cow that once wandered off his farm. “I was on a four-wheeler and was trying to round her up,” he said. “I chased her round and round. Then she got tired of me chasing her and she stopped, turned, and she was going to fight. She was too tired to run, but she was going to use what she had left. She was challenging me—she was going to fight. I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m running my ass off, I’m tired, and I don’t have the energy to run anymore. But, by God, I’ve got enough in me to stand here and fight.” ♦


US farm groups need more time to apply for COVID-19 aid

28 farm groups in the United States have asked the US Department of Agriculture to extend the deadline for farmers to apply for COVID-19 assistance payments.

Reuters reports that the farm groups are urging the department to do more to reach growers who have been hurt by the pandemic.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has sent a letter to the USDA saying that the 28 August deadline may prevent farmers from participating in the $16 billion aid programme.

Farmers and ranchers continue to struggle selling goods due to pandemic-related disruptions. The ongoing crisis has forced many producers to euthanise livestock and turn to the government to help.
“We strongly encourage you to increase producer and stakeholder engagement initiatives,” the groups told USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

As of 3 August, the USDA paid out $6.8 billion of the programme aid, with cattle, dairy and corn producers as the biggest recipients. The letter states that participation among fruit and vegetable growers is, “egregiously low”.

The USDA began the programme to help farmers shortly after the pandemic reached the US, however, it was not set up for many specialty-crop growers.

The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

A spokesperson for USDA’s Farm Service Agency told Reuters last month that USDA was awaiting further direction from Congress before it could modify eligibility dates or offer more aid.

Some lawmakers believe that authority was already granted to USDA by the CARES act, passed on 27 March.

Read more about this story on Reuters.

Australian dairy farmers shaking up milk supply arrangements

Plenty of farmers are stepping away from their traditional relationships with processors and it’s showing in the numbers.

For evidence, you need look no further than one of the biggest dairy processors in the country.

This week, Fonterra reported its Australian milk collections fell another 11.8 per cent last season to 107.8 million kilograms of milk solids, compounding a 20.3pc drop in 2018-19.

“Volumes have been impacted by a combination of drought, high on-farm input costs in the first half and the highly competitive milk supply market, with losses primarily to milk brokers,” its Global Dairy Update said.

“Fonterra also made a conscious decision to purchase less third-party milk to focus on a value-add product mix.”

The statements come after an exceptional season for much of Fonterra’s Victorian and Tasmanian base.

Fonterra Australia managing director Rene Dedoncker clarified the comments.

“The Australian dairy industry has become more competitive and fragmented with more options for farmers to choose where they supply their milk,” he said.

“One impact of this is we’ve seen more milk than ever trucked from Victoria to NSW and Queensland to help fill fresh milk contracts.”

The drought had seen fresh milk processors reach further south to fulfil contracts and, Milk2Market general manager Richard Lange said, Fonterra’s comments were borne out by broader seismic changes in the way Australian milk is supplied.

He said analysis showed the volume of milk contracted directly between a farmer and a processor has slumped to just 68pc from around 90pc two years ago.

Brokers like Australian Consolidated Milk had also taken a bigger slice of supply and farmers were also taking a more active role in pooling milk supply, with a surge in collective bargaining.

Together, brokers and groups now accounted for 17pc of milk supply, Mr Lange said.

The mandatory dairy code had also offered farmers new opportunities, he said, to split their milk between processors.

It meant they could spread their risk and had added benefits for those supplying processors with tight volume requirements that might heavily discount oversupply.

One who has taken advantage of the changes is the owner of three dairy farms in the Mt Gambier region milking a total of 2750 cows, whose identity cannot be shared under the terms of his contracts.

The farmer told Stock & Land he was able to split his milk supply between a supermarket and a fresh milk processor, offering certainty that all the milk supplied by his farms would be sold for its maximum value.

“We got a three-year commitment and a two-year commitment and, in this current climate with what’s going on in the world, that’s a good thing,” the farmer said.

He’d been sceptical at first, with concerns about the logistics of having multiple tankers rolling up the driveway.

“To start with, I thought it was going be a nightmare, but it’s been pretty good,” the farmer said.

In any case, he said, two tankers only arrive during the peak period when the surplus over the first contracted volume needs to be collected.

Making the deals had also been easier than expected, taking less than two weeks from the opening of talks, and he hoped digital records would streamline audits.

Had it been worth it financially? “Definitely,” the farmer said. “It’s been significant.”

He recommended the approach to other dairy farmers.

“Keep your options open, it doesn’t hurt to shop around,” the farmer said.

“There’s always some someone, somewhere, looking for business opportunity.

“I know of other farmers who deal with two or three little cooperatives and the little processors are just as important as the big ones, so try and share the love.”

Mr Lange said he had seen large farms gain 50 cents a kilogram of milk solids by splitting supply and there were opportunities for small farms, too.

“The classic example is when a small farmer supplies a local ice cream company and the rest of the milk goes to one of the bigger companies; we saw that in South Australia and in northern Victoria as well,” he said.

Smaller farmers were forming groups as well, Mr Lange said.

“Predominantly, smaller farmers are in a collective bargaining group as they’re seeing some benefit in coming together to get a better price, or they’re in the traditional arrangement,” he said.

Also new was the option for farmers to participate in spot trading on the Milk Exchange, which Mr Lange said has traded 100m kgMS for the season to date.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a good, active liquid market to enable those farmers to participate in the spot market,” he said.


Fonterra’s first wood pellet-fuelled plant will fire up in September

Fonterra is one step away from pushing the go button on its first factory to convert from coal to wood pellet energy.

The dairy company’s Te Awamutu plant in the Waikato is putting the finishing touches on the $11 million power source conversion which could be used as a blueprint for its other factories around the country.

It was part of the company’s move to renewable energy and to reduce emissions as it worked towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Te Awamutu site operations manager Marc Carney said further testing was planned over the next few weeks with September 1 the date earmarked for the plant to officially switch over.

This is how to retire coal plants around the world to avoid climate catastrophe

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The factory had used coal to heat its boiler, to produce dry milk products.

“The boiler produces steam which is used as a heating medium to dry milk powder, to make products like whole milk, skim milk and buttermilk powder,” Carney said.

Once the new wood pellet burner is operational, it will eliminate 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year or the same as taking 32,000 cars off the road.

It will also reduce Fonterra’s coal energy consumption in New Zealand by 10 per cent.

There were similar wood pallet burners at the Waiouru Army Camp and another in Timaru but nothing on the same scale as the one at Te Awamutu, Carney said.

“We’re really happy the company has made such a big investment, $11m in this conversion, which is something that it’s not required to do.

“But I think it’s shown our staff here in Te Awamutu, and our farmers, that the company is serious about playing it’s part to take care of the environment.”

Fonterra announced it was ditching coal power at its Te Awamutu site in January 2020. The conversion to wood pellet energy is expected to be completed in September.


Fonterra announced it was ditching coal power at its Te Awamutu site in January 2020. The conversion to wood pellet energy is expected to be completed in September.

Carney said he was also pleased Te Awamutu had been selected for the fuel conversion pilot project.

“We’re about the fifth biggest plant the company has, so it’s the ideal size to test the technology, and then see if it can be used in our other factories.”

The company partnered with Nature’s Flame in Taupō which would supply the wood pellets. It used waste wood shavings, sawdust and off-cuts from the forestry and the timber industry to convert into pellets for heat fuel.

The large coal storage pit across the road from the Te Awamutu factory is now empty and being used as a car park.

A special storage shed is being built near the pit, so the wood pellets can be delivered from Taupō, out of the weather.

From there, the pellets are moved to the factory boiler via the existing conveyer belt, which used to carry the coal across the road.

The Te Awamutu plant burnt 42,000 tonnes of coal last season.

Although it will burn 50,000 tonnes of wood pellets once the conversion is completed, Carney said the emissions will be cleaner and lower compared to coal.

Fonterra has 21 factories in New Zealand, some already used a mix of renewable electricity with wood biomass conversions in progress.

Wood biomass is a renewable fuel made from wood and can be converted into energy through combustion or gasification.

It is different from wood pellets, which are made from offcuts and are compressed.

Last year Fonterra made a commitment not to instal any new boilers or increase capacity to burn coal.

It also converted the boiler at its Brightwater site near Nelson to run on a mixture of coal and wood biomass.

The company is also working to move away from coal at its Stirling site, South Otago.

Fonterra said it started its energy efficiency journey in 2003 and was on target to reach a 20 per cent reduction in energy intensity by 2021.

“Since 2003 we have saved enough energy to power all the households in Hamilton for more than 43 years.”


26 ways UK farmers are doing their bit to reach net zero carbon emissions

The NFU has published 26 examples of how farmers are working towards net zero on their farms, showing how other farmers can make changes to their businesses to help achieve the NFU’s 2040 net zero ambition.

The booklet, titled “Doing our bit for Net Zero“, includes case studies from every sector and from farms across England and Wales, and cover each of the three pillars outlined in the NFU’s net zero plan: productivity, carbon storage and renewables and bioenergy.

Some of the work outlined in the booklet includes:

  • Improving genetics and animal health
  • Increasing soil health and fertility
  • Undertaking precise tree planting and woodland management
  • Investing in new technologies to increase productivity
  • Creating biomass and renewable energy to power the farm and local areas.

The 26 case studies aim to inspire farmers to start their net zero journey ahead of the 26th meeting of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow in November next year.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts features as one of the case studies. He said: “British farmers are ambitious and we want to be the global leader when it comes to climate-friendly food.

“Our goal of net zero agriculture by 2040 means the industry as a whole being a net zero contributor to climate change. It is a challenge but by coming together to encourage progress it can be done, and it will also help improve our business resilience as well as our environment.

“There is not one singular way to go about these changes – it just needs to work for the individual business. Even within the NFU’s three pillars of improving productivity, increasing carbon stores and boosting renewables and bioenergy production, these case studies show that there are so many options for farmers to explore.

“We also recognise that each farmer will be starting their net zero journey from a different place. Whether they’re at the start of this journey or well on the way, every farm and business model has something it can offer.”

NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “As we look ahead to COP26 next year, we want to be able to show the progress we are making. We want to help pave the way for other agricultural industries across the world to start on the path to net zero. We want to show that it can be done and that every farmer is part of the solution to climate change.”

The NFU will be publishing extended versions of the case studies online over the next few months to provide even more detail about the work farmers are undertaking and how it is contributing to the NFU’s net zero vision.


Proposals sought for Jersey cattle and product research

The AJCC Research Foundation has issued a request for research proposals to be funded in 2021 addressing significant issues for the Jersey breed and Jersey milk producers.

Current priorities for research funding are:

  • Nutrition of high-producing Jerseys, particularly practical feeding methods to maximize production of valuable milk components;
  • Factors affecting management of Jersey calves;
  • Factors affecting semen production of Jersey bulls;
  • Factors affecting yield and/or quality of products manufactured from Jersey milk;
  • Factors affecting economic impact of Jerseys: efficiencies, net income, longevity, and lifetime profit;
  • Optimizing the genetic basis for improving animal health and/or enhancing product quality;
  • Enhancing environmental impact associated with Jerseys;
  • New technologies for safe and sustainable food production from Jersey cattle; and
  • Feasibility of adding value and increasing consumer acceptance of Jersey-derived products through enhanced product quality and branding.

Application deadline is December 1, 2020. The Research Advisory Committee of the American Jersey Cattle Association will evaluate the proposals, then forward its recommendations to the AJCA Board of Directors, which will award funds at its meeting in March 2021.

Submissions are evaluated for (a) merit (e.g., potential to advance practical knowledge, creative approach to the problem); (b) competence (i.e., high probability of successful completion within the proposed time frame); and (c) relevance (e.g., problem derived from one of the areas of research priority).

Since 1988, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in seed money for selected projects. Funding is in the form of seed money and has averaged $8,900 per project since 2011.

Detailed information about the Competitive Grants Program can be found on the USJersey web site (permalink or requested from Cari W. Wolfe, Director of Research and Genetic Program Development, at 614/322-4453.

Top Dairy Industry News Stories from August 1st till 7th 2020

Top News Stories:

California Incentives Spur Dairy Manure Methane Digester Developments

State incentives designed to help California’s dairy industry reduce methane emissions have led to a spike in the number of manure digester developments underway on California dairies. According to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, the wave of digester developments on California dairy farms has spurred interest in the technology nationwide.

“Dairy producers outside of California may be anticipating future environmental mandates in their own states,” said Tanner Ehmke, manager of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division. “But the possibility of financial incentives and energy market opportunities are what’s capturing attention.”

California’s 1.4 million dairy cows are the largest source of methane in the state, which put dairies in the spotlight when, in 2017, the state moved to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by adopting rules for methane emissions. Manure methane digesters are the primary means to reduce dairy emissions and offer the added benefit of capturing and recycling methane as renewable natural gas for energy.

As a state law prohibits California from regulating methane from cattle farms until at least 2024, it has used incentives to encourage dairies to develop digesters. To date, the state’s dairy digester development program has awarded more than $183 million in grants for 108 digester projects. California’s legislated goal for 2030 is to reduce dairy manure methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels and is about half way to that goal.

A key driver behind the growth of manure methane digesters has been consumers’ increasing concern about GHG emissions. They are putting that concern into action by demanding products have smaller carbon footprints, pressure that is being felt by state governments, retailers and dairy supply chains.

In turn, California has implemented two measures beyond the grant program that are driving digester development: the Cap-and-Trade program and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). These programs are now the main sources of revenue for dairy digester projects.

Under the Cap-and-Trade program, regulated entities in California pay a fee to the state for their GHG emissions. This revenue funds the incentives for non-regulated sectors, like agriculture, to voluntarily reduce emissions. The LCFS, an option that has generated revenue for dairy biogas, works similarly to Cap-and-Trade but is focused on transportation fuels. Fuel suppliers are required to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels by blending low carbon fuels or purchasing credits from an entity with excess credits.

The decision to install a digester is multifaceted. The cost to install a digester varies greatly depending on the dairy’s location, size, manure management and existing infrastructure. But digester companies report the average cost for a herd of 2,500 cows at $3 million, depending on the manure equipment already in place.

Scale is a key component impacting digester costs. A minimum of 2,000 cows is the threshold in California, where the typical digester is a covered lagoon digester producing gas for pipeline injection. Generally, each additional 1,000 cows reduces the cost per cow of digester projects by 15-20%.

The risk of policy change to the Cap-and-Trade program and the LCFS is low in California, but risk may be higher for projects outside of California trying to capitalize on credits.

The full report, “Interest in California Dairy Manure Methane Digesters Follows the Money,” is available on

About CoBank

CoBank is a $152 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

USDA Extends Deadlines, Defers Interest Accrual Due to COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“USDA recognizes farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic this year and to help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today support health and safety while also ensuring the Federal crop insurance program continues to serve as a vital risk management tool.”


Specifically, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide policyholders additional time to pay premium and administrative fees and to waive accrual of interest to the earlier of 60 days after their scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. In addition, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide up to an additional 60 days for policyholders to make payment and waive additional interest for Written Payment Agreements due between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020.

RMA is authorizing additional flexibilities due to coronavirus while continuing to support producers, working through AIPs to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. RMA staff are working with AIPs and other customers by phone, mail and electronically to continue supporting crop insurance coverage for producers. Farmers with crop insurance questions or needs should continue to contact their insurance agents about conducting business remotely (by telephone or email). More information can be found at

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private insurance agents. A list of insurance agents is available online using the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at

Steven Schauer joins DBA and Edge as communications specialist

Steven Schauer, an experienced communications professional, has joined the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, where he is helping shine a brighter light on the good work of the sister organizations’ members.

In a new communications specialist role, Schauer is putting strong storytelling skills to work while assisting in social media, news media relations and member communications. He is particularly focusing on the progress of a growing number of innovative farmer-led watershed conservation groups that DBA and Edge closely support through the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance.

“Communication is critically important in any business and today it may be as important as ever for our dairy farmers, as customers are keenly interested in how food is produced and who is producing it,” Tim Trotter, executive director of DBA and Edge, said. “We are fortunate to have found someone with Steven’s skills and passion for telling great stories to bolster our team.”

Schauer has worked in communications for more than a decade and most recently served for nine years as the director of athletic communications at Concordia University Wisconsin. He also previously worked with the Green Bay Packers and at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He has a background in news media and creating content in written, social media and video forms.

“I am excited to tell the story of the hard-working men and women in the dairy community,” Schauer said. “I have always felt that farmers are undervalued and underappreciated, and highlighting their work more often and more creatively will help advance the industry as a whole.”

DBA and Edge represent farmers and supportive businesses throughout the Midwest on governmental policy and provide a variety of other services. DBA, with members in Wisconsin, focuses on regulations in that state. With members in Wisconsin and additional states, Edge fights for effective dairy policy at the federal level.

Dairy Defined: Still Time to Influence the Dietary Guidelines, NMPF’s Hanselman Say

Public comments on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee’s scientific report may be submitted until Aug. 13. It’s a great time for dairy voices to be heard, said Miquela Hanselman, NMPF’s manager for regulatory affairs, in an NMPF Dairy Defined podcast.

“The committee, USDA and HHS work really hard to put together these guidelines to promote a healthy lifestyle for Americans,” Hanselman said. “And dairy is an important part of that.”

Dairy advocates interested in commenting on the guidelines can join NMPF’s call to actionhere. The guidelines contain numerous affirmations of dairy’s role in a healthy diet, including:

·Dairy is recommended for consumption within all three healthy eating patterns featured in the report, with three servings per day recommended in the Healthy U.S. style eating pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Style patterns and two servings per day in the Healthy-Mediterranean pattern;

·The committee recognized milk as a nutrient-rich beverage that contributes positively to under-consumed nutrients, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and D, and others;

·Low-fat and nonfat dairy foods are recommended as nutrient-dense building blocks of a healthy diet; and

·In the committee’s first-ever recommendations for birth through 24 months, yogurt and cheese are recognized as complementary feeding options for infants ages 6-12 months, and dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) are included in healthy eating patterns for toddlers 12-24 months.

To listen to the full discussion, clickhere. You can also find this and other NMPF podcasts onApple Podcasts,Spotify, SoundCloudandGoogle Play. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file below. Please attribute information to NMPF.

Proposals sought for Jersey cattle and product research

The AJCC Research Foundation has issued a request for research proposals to be funded in 2021 addressing significant issues for the Jersey breed and Jersey milk producers.

Current priorities for research funding are:

  • Nutrition of high-producing Jerseys, particularly practical feeding methods to maximize production of valuable milk components;
  • Factors affecting management of Jersey calves;
  • Factors affecting semen production of Jersey bulls;
  • Factors affecting yield and/or quality of products manufactured from Jersey milk;
  • Factors affecting economic impact of Jerseys: efficiencies, net income, longevity, and lifetime profit;
  • Optimizing the genetic basis for improving animal health and/or enhancing product quality;
  • Enhancing environmental impact associated with Jerseys;
  • New technologies for safe and sustainable food production from Jersey cattle; and
  • Feasibility of adding value and increasing consumer acceptance of Jersey-derived products through enhanced product quality and branding.

Application deadline is December 1, 2020. The Research Advisory Committee of the American Jersey Cattle Association will evaluate the proposals, then forward its recommendations to the AJCA Board of Directors, which will award funds at its meeting in March 2021.

Submissions are evaluated for (a) merit (e.g., potential to advance practical knowledge, creative approach to the problem); (b) competence (i.e., high probability of successful completion within the proposed time frame); and (c) relevance (e.g., problem derived from one of the areas of research priority).

Since 1988, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in seed money for selected projects. Funding is in the form of seed money and has averaged $8,900 per project since 2011.

Detailed information about the Competitive Grants Program can be found on the USJersey web site (permalink or requested from Cari W. Wolfe, Director of Research and Genetic Program Development, at 614/322-4453.

CWT Assists with 3.5 Million Pounds of Dairy Product Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) member cooperatives accepted 16 offers of export assistance from CWT that helped them capture sales contracts for 94,799 pounds (43 metric tons) of Cheddar cheese, 41,888 pounds (19 metric tons) of butter, 597,453 pounds (271 metric tons) of cream cheese, 1.157 million pounds (525 metric tons) of anhydrous milkfat, and 1.874 million pounds (850 metric tons) of whole milk powder. The product is going to customers in Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East and Oceania. It will be delivered from August through November 2020.

CWT-assisted member cooperative export sales contracts for 2020 total 22.203 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 6.288 million pounds of butter (82% milkfat), 3.117 million pounds of anhydrous milkfat, 4.382 million pounds of cream cheese and 31.345 million pounds of whole milk powder. The product is going to 28 countries in seven regions. These sales are the equivalent of 694.6 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT members in moving dairy products overseas through the Export Assistance program is critical during the challenging times U.S. dairy farmers and cooperatives are facing. The Export Assistance program helps in strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact producers’ milk price. The program is helping member cooperatives grow and maintain world market share for U.S dairy products and is a significant factor in maintaining the total demand for U.S. dairy products and the demand for U.S. farm milk.

Dairy product and related milk volume amounts reflect current contracts for delivery, not completed export volumes. CWT pays export assistance to bidders only when export and delivery of the product is verified by required documentation.

USDA report describes fast-paced consolidation of dairy industry

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows how consolidation in the dairy industry continues to play out in Wisconsin and other dairy states.

The study from USDA’s Economic Research Service looks at trends in the dairy industry from the 1980s through 2019. It found that the pace of consolidation in dairy “far exceeds” the rate seen in most other agriculture sectors.

“Consolidation in U.S. crop production was widespread across crops and was persistent over time; over 30 years, consolidation in crops doubled. The equivalent measure in dairy shows a 16-fold increase in 30 years,” the report said.

The report found consolidation in hog and egg producers has occurred at a similar pace to dairy, but other livestock sectors have seen consolidation at a much slower pace.

Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that larger operations are able to contain certain costs in ways that smaller operations can’t.

“It doesn’t mean that (smaller farms) are doomed to go away. But over time, they’ve been shifting and changing.”

The USDA report found that in the year 2000, farms with 2,000 cows or more only represented 4.5 percent of U.S. milk production. By 2016, that group represented 35.2 percent of all milk production.

Milk production shifted to larger herds.

The report also shows the number of licensed dairy herds in the country fell by more than half from 2002 to 2019. Herd numbers declined by 4 percent annually through 2017, but that rate accelerated to 6.8 percent in 2018 and 8.8 percent in 2019.

Much of the decline comes from a falling number of small commercial farms, defined by the report as farms with less than 200 cows. The report found that trend has been concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast, particularly in Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Stephenson said the finding isn’t a surprise to many in Wisconsin, where the number of licensed dairy herds has been declining by record numbers in recent years.

“We’ve seen farms that have the types of things going on that indicate that they’re probably last-generation farms,” Stephenson said. “They are smaller. The operators may be older. They may not have a successor that’s coming into there, and their investments to replace some of the capital structure on those farms has just been in a holding pattern. And (leaving the industry) is probably a very sensible thing for them to do as they’re imaging their glide path to retirement.”

RELATED: Wisconsin Milk Production Held Steady In 2019, Despite Fewer Farmers, Cows

But Joleen Hadrich, extension specialist for the University of Minnesota, said the Midwest is losing more small commercial dairies because other regions have already experienced major consolidation.

“The reason why our small dairies have been able to succeed in the upper Midwest and the Northeast is due to the number of processors and local co-ops who are processing the milk. So there’s still a competitive market to where you can potentially sell your milk. And in these other regions, where it’s more consolidated, you may only have one processor as an option,” Hadrich said. 

Hadrich works primarily with dairy farms on improving their profitability given the rapidly changing market conditions.

The USDA report shows month-to-month changes in milk prices have grown in recent years. In the 1980s, milk prices ranged from a low of $11.30 per hundredweight — 100 pounds of milk — to a high of $14.30 per hundredweight. By the 2000s, that range has expanded to a low of $11.00 per hundredweight to a high of $21.90.

Hadrich said this price volatility is here to stay, so farmers need to think more about profitability and managing their risk.

“The price of a candy bar consistently increases, right? It doesn’t decrease over time. So it’s a unique challenge that dairy farmers face. So one of the top recommendations I have for my producers is that you really need to know your break-even or your cost of production,” Hadrich said.

She also encourages farms to use forward contracts, where they secure a price for future milk production.

Stephenson said these kinds of risk management tools are how large dairy farms have been able to protect themselves against price swings in the last five years.

“What we’ve tended to see is that our larger farms have been less reluctant to use risk management tools available to them,” Stephenson said. “They’re protecting themselves against the worst of the lows and they’re giving up some of the highs in order to be able to do that.”

Stephenson said there is no existing mechanism to prevent sudden changes in milk price. But he said some dairy processors have been taking their own steps to try to lessen the impact.

“Cooperatives or even dairy plants that buy directly from farms in the COVID crisis simply told their dairy producers, ‘We can’t handle as much milk. You need to cut back 5 percent’ or something like that,” Stephenson said. “They created a big disincentive for milk production above that level. That did reduce milk supply. That did help to rebound milk prices. So those kinds of mechanisms can be used to help moderate price swings.”

Stephenson argues consumers can also have some impact on the future of the dairy industry.

“I do think that a lot of people value a countryside that has an aesthetic to it that may include small farms,” Stephenson said. “If they’re willing to pay for those additional costs that are highlighted by a study like this, then fine, so be it, let’s have more of that kind of industry. But this is showing us that there are costs to maintaining some of the things that we might feel are desirable attributes to a dairy system.”

Tim Trotter, executive director of the Dairy Business Association, said continued consolidation and the growing size of farms is inevitable for the dairy industry, just like many other industries.

“That trend is probably not going to change. But that’s not to say smaller or mid sized farms are not profitable,” Trotter said. “It all comes back to their financial wellness and that’s not always dictated based on the size of the farm.”

Trotter also said that consolidation isn’t necessarily a “bad word.” There are many benefits for farmers who decide to consolidate, he said, from achieving lower production costs to allowing producers to have a better work-life balance by sharing the labor. 

“I think it’s just keeping your eye on the ball and knowing where you’re going and understanding when you need to make some changes,” Trotter said.

Source; article 

Want to understand the laws of supply and demand? Watch the dairy industry

Dairy farmers have been on a roller-coaster ride over the past couple of years as the price of milk has surged, then fallen.

In 2019, Wisconsin dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd told Marketplace that milk was just too cheap because “we really do have too much milk on the market.”

Russia wasn’t importing any, and the European Union was producing more of its own.

Then the trade war with China hit. Milk prices crashed, and Lloyd had to borrow money to keep her 400-cow farm afloat.

“The Nelson family farm has been in business for over 100 years,” she said at the time. “We’re really just digging deep into the asset base that the generations have built.”

Some of her fellow dairy farmers got out of the business. Milk supply came down, and prices started going back up. 

When COVID-19 appeared, all of that milk suddenly had nowhere to go, and prices tanked again.

Today, Lloyd says the price gyrations of the past couple of years are not sustainable in the long run.

“No business can operate that way — just not knowing how you’re going to cover your costs, from an even day-to-day basis,” she said.

“When it comes to dairy, there is a very fine line in that supply and demand,” said dairy farmer Joe Bragger, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “It only takes a few-percent shift to make a big impact on prices.”

When the food-service industry essentially shut down because of the pandemic, farmers cut back production and dumped milk they couldn’t sell.

Then, the government started buying excess dairy products to deliver to people in need.

And prices edged up.

Agricultural economist Dan Sumner at the University of California, Davis, said that’s when dairy farmers started ramping up production.

“They have added some heifer calves that might have not made the cut a year ago,” he said. “They’ve kept an old cow on a few more months that might not have been profitable a year or two ago.”

Sumner said that means prices could fall again.

And that worries Wisconsin dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd.

“You know, I still have my banker knocking at the door, saying, hey, remember that X amount of dollars you borrowed last year to try to hang on? Well, when are you going to pay that back?”

Lloyd said that’s going to be a lot easier if milk prices can remain stable.


Saputo boosts profits despite sagging revenues as retail milk sales rise

Dairy processor Saputo is reporting higher profits and lower revenues in its first quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic upended consumer buying patterns.

The Montreal-based company says retail sales volumes increased, while revenues from food service and industrial segments declined last quarter as customers turned to home dining and away from restaurants.

Saputo says overall sales went up across the country — mainly in the fluid milk category — while sales dropped in the United States, which had an “impact on efficiency and absorption of fixed costs.”

Net profit climbed 16.9 per cent year over year to $141.9 million, while earnings per share hit 35 cents compared to 31 cents in the first quarter of last year.

Saputo reports revenues fell to $3.39 billion in the quarter ending June 30, down eight per cent from a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, earnings fell to 35 cents per share from 42 cents per share, beating analysts’ expectations of 29 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The board of directors has announced a half-cent increase in the quarterly dividend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.

Rise in U.S. milk sales gives dairy farmers hope

A new report shows dairy — and specifically milk sales — are up across the country.

Experts say during the coronavirus pandemic, more people have been buying milk to cook and bake at home.

But the pandemic has also posed challenges for farmers.

Heather Schlesser is a dairy agent for UW-Extension Marathon County. She says, “I mean they went really low during COVID and everyone was contracting prices trying to make money so they can stay afloat. And what we’ve seen is those prices have actually come up higher than what they were anticipating. Higher than those contractable prices.”

According to data from Nielsen, from January through July, U.S. milk sales were up 8 percent from this time last year. Dairy farmers of Wisconsin say sales are up 10 percent.


Through bumps of COVID-19, camel milk farmer enters her biggest calving season yet

From cows to camels, Megan Williams has spent the past five years converting an old dairy farm to house and milk wild camels from the outback.

Key points:

  • Megan Williams’ camel farm is set to milk its largest number of camels ever
  • The camel’s trust needs to be built to allow the milk to ‘come down’
  • The majority of milk produced is turned into powder

Growing up on a dairy farm in Kyabram, she had to learn the ins-and-outs of calving cows; but this winter is a little different.

After years of preparation, she is now entering her biggest camel calving season yet.

“We’re probably expecting around 100 births — we’ve started calving early, so we’ve already got about 10 to 15 babies running around,” Ms Williams said.

“We’re set to be milking our largest number of camels yet.”

A mother camel and her baby are sniffing each other on a farm

Ms Williams is expecting around 100 births on her camel farm this season.(Supplied: Megan Williams)

Pregnant for 12 to 14 months

a woman with sunglasses with camels close by her

Camel milk farmer, Megan Williams says making camel milk is basically the same process as with cows.(Facebook: Megan Williams)

Ms Williams said camels were pregnant for between 12 to 14 months, and the delivery was a little easier than what people may think.

“It’s different to traditional dairy farmers. We don’t have to go out in the middle of the night and pull calves and assist. We’ve only ever had one assistance needed,” she said.

“The camels are really hardy like that, by the time you see some feet sticking out, it’s usually half an hour before a baby is on the ground and up and drinking within an hour or two.

“The camels make it look easy, which I’m sure it’s not.”

She said she still needed to keep a close on them for the first few days after birth, to make sure they drank from their mother to bond and absorb nutrients.

‘The milking process is much the same’

Although cows and camels have stark differences, the milking process is much the same.

A woman with blonde hair is patting a camel with another 10 camels behind.

Ms Williams is currently selling 10,000 litres a month of camel milk but expects that to continue rising.(ABC Rural: Eden Hynninen)

“We still practice a lot of the same measures. We’re dairying essentially, but obviously, we’ve changed the animal,” she said.

“They still have four teats and we manage to milk them the same way with milking cups and lines — it’s just the training process can be lengthy.

Despite COVID-19 shutdowns impacting her tourism side of the business, she continues to see a growing demand for camel milk.

“While it’s disappointing for people to not be able to share the love on the farm, it has in a way made it easier for us to get out and concentrate on the camels,” she said.

“At the moment we’re definitely going to produce around eight to 10,000 litres a month, and then over the next 12 months, we’re set to double.

“We have also dabbled in a bit of feta and chocolate — I’m a chocolate lover, we just had to try it.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.


Milk Futures Lower In Chicago Thursday

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, milk futures turned mostly lower Thursday with cash trade providing very little market direction. August was the only month able to post a gain in Class III.   August milk climbed 29 cents to $19.84/cwt.  September milk fell 9 cents to $16.91.  October declined 20 cents to $17.14.  November milk tumbled 31 cents to $16.91.  First half 2021 is averaging $16.33/cwt.  

It was a quiet day in the CME Cash Dairy Product Trade.  Dry whey unchanged at $0.32.  Blocks unchanged at $1.8150.  Barrels unchanged at $1.6425. Butter up $0.0175 at $1.5575.  Nine trades were made ranging from $1.54 to $1.57. Nonfat dry milk down $0.0175 at $0.9550.  Five trades were made ranging from $0.95 to $0. 9550.

The grain complex was mixed.  December corn inched ½ of a penny higher to $3.2375/bushel.  November beans fell ¾ of a penny to $8.78.  August soybean meal declined $1.60 to $280.70/ton.  September Chicago Wheat decreased 9.50 cents to $5.0125.  October Live Cattle lost 47 cents to $106.97/cwt.  September feeders dropped 60 cents to $145.87.  September crude oil fell 18 to $42.01/barrel.     

Private labels key to driving Wisconsin dairy demand

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is stepping private label discussions into high gear with grocery stores and restaurants to increase dairy product market opportunities. Increasing sales of private label cheese supports dairy farmers by increasing milk volume and growing cheese sales.

“Forty years ago, private grocery store labels were generic black and white and centered around value,” explains Rick Findlay, VP Foodservice National Accounts for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. “Now, it’s the antithesis of that. It is a higher quality product on the cutting edge of innovation.”

By promoting private label cheese, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin builds Wisconsin Cheese distribution and leverages the strength of the Wisconsin Cheese brand.

Private label represents about 20-40% of a grocer’s assortment in a typical store. Currently, sales of private label products grow and outpace total store growth. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is partnering with Whole Foods and their trusted and popular in-house brand, 365 Everyday Value® label, to assure they use high-quality Wisconsin cheese.

“Grocers want their own label because the only place you can buy that product is at that store,” says Findlay. “Because of its exclusivity, grocers promote and push their private label.”

More than 200 cheese brands now feature the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese logo. This strong foundation, along with the upward private label trend, offers significant prospects to help further propel sales of milk and cheese. That’s good news for Wisconsin’s more than 7,000 dairy farms and 1,200 licensed cheesemakers who produce more than 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese.

“This incredible diversity gives grocery stores and restaurant operators an opportunity to offer a unique product, and exclusive flavors and varieties,” says Findlay. “We’ve developed long-term alliances with restaurant operators willing to use and enhance the value of the Wisconsin brand. We are promoting Wisconsin’s quality cheese for pizza, burgers and sandwiches.”

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin takes a three-pronged approach to increasing sales at restaurants:

·Drive awareness of Wisconsin milk and cheese. Work with restaurant operators to place the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese and Proudly Wisconsin Dairybadge on their menus, websites, social platforms and billboards, and even painting the badge on restaurant walls.

·Enlighten restaurant operators about the quality and breadth of Wisconsin cheese. Invite owners and operators to visit Wisconsin dairy farms to learn first-hand how farmers produce high-quality milk.

·Grow volume. Work with multi-unit foodservice operators. Restaurant chains that serve pizzas, burgers and sandwiches are the largest consumers of cheese.

“We’re zeroing in on the large operators with hundreds of restaurants to gain incremental volume,” says Findlay. “Those who display the Proudly Wisconsin badge see growth between 5-10% in sales.”

“The Wisconsin badge is the hallmark for exceptional farmers and great milk and cheese,” says Findlay. “It embodies everything Wisconsin dairy foods are known for: quality, tradition, passion and innovation, as well as our farmers’ exceptional environmental stewardship and dedicated animal care.”

Ecological Control of Pasture Flies

Farmers that raise animals know that June is when flies start to be a nuisance, and by July, if a control program is not in place, production losses occur. The information from this pasture walk will help farmers put a fly control program into place.

Speaking at the pasture walk was Dr. Phil Kaufman, veterinary entomologist with Cornell University and Keith Waldron, NY Integrated Pest Management extension specialist. This team has been working together to present this topic for a number of years. Throughout the presentation, they repeated the need to clean up around the farm. Two of the three most common flies affecting animals on pasture, face fly and horn fly, breed in undisturbed manure piles. The third, stable flies, breed in moist rotting organic material, like moist straw bedding, the base of big bales stored on the ground, and poorly composted grass clippings.

Dr. Kaufman stressed the importance of managing fly control ecologically since organic methods are not as effective against populations that are already out of control. Chemically, it takes large doses of chemicals and the results will be less and less successful as the flies become resistant to pesticides. By reducing breeding areas, populations will be decreased, reducing the need for insecticide use, which will improve the effectiveness of chemicals.

The following are ecological control methods and thresholds for when numbers of flies will affect production losses.

Face flies, found (you guessed it) on the face, would become a problem at 10 flies on the face at one time. The female face fly is the most commonly seen. She is there to feed on the protein that is in the mucus around the eyes and nose, which she uses for reproduction. If there is not enough mucus, she pokes around the eyes, irritating them and causing them to tear, which is what the fly is after. This feeding behavior is how pink-eye is spread.

Horn flies are found on the animal’s back and belly areas. They become a problem when they reach 50 per side in dairy animals and 100 per side in beef animals. Both sexes have biting mouthparts that they use to pierce the skin to obtain blood meals. You may notice horn flies billowing up from the backs of cows as they enter the barn, since horn flies do not like dark areas. A number of non-chemical traps have been designed to take advantage of this behavior. Both the face and horn fly females lay eggs on undisturbed cattle dung. Female horn flies wait by the tail head or lower rear of the animal to await dung deposition so that they can lay their eggs on the dung within seconds of it landing on the ground.

Both of these flies affect only animals on pasture and are outdoor insects. Control of face flies is difficult if other animal owners in the area don’t have a program in place, since the face fly females leave the host daily and can fly up to 5 miles to find animals the following day. Because horn flies stay with the animals, their movement between herds is more restricted than face fly movement.

The stable fly is a pest on pasture animals and will also attack animals in confinement. Found on the legs of cattle, they are considered to be an economic problem when there are an average of 10 or more flies per animal, counted on the legs of 15 animals. Like the horn fly, they are blood feeders. If you see your animals stomping or standing in water or muddy areas, it often means they are being bitten by stable flies. Ecological control of this pest requires cleaning up rotting organic material, such as silage left around the blower, calf hutches, or round bale feeders left in the same place for too long.

The group went out into Bill and Joanne’s pasture to look at dung pats to see what interesting things we could find. Under the pats there were small holes that were made by a beetle that lays its eggs into dung balls and buries them in the ground. Dr. Kaufman said there were more than 125 different species that live part of their life cycle in the dung pat, of these, only three were considered pests. For this reason, he cautioned people not to disturb the manure pats as a way of controlling just the three pests.

One question that most farmers came with was, “What are those yellow fuzzy flies that are seen on cattle dung early in the spring and then later again in the fall?” This year, there seems to be more of them than usual, one producer felt that it might be a harbinger of fly problems to come. It turns out that they are Yellow Dung flies, a predator that sits on the dung pat and waits for flies to come along and pounces on them to eat. Parasitic wasps and other non-pest flies were also discussed at the pasture walk. It was stressed that the parasitic wasps are an important part of a successful fly control program, but only in confined systems.. The control program that was recommended was:

  1. Cleaning up breeding areas
  2. Identify pest, and know its life cycle
  3. Monitor numbers, keep track of thresholds
  4. Use organic chemical controls as last resort

The earlier your program is in place, the more success it will have.


What is hindering dairy bred beef in Australia?

Research looks at barriers to rearing bobby calves for beef.

DEVELOPING profitable beef supply chains for male dairy calves will be a key part of the milk industry’s ability to retain its social licence to operate going forward, says university researcher Veronika Vicic.

For that reason, the Charles Sturt University School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences student is undertaking work aimed at identifying current production challenges as perceived by dairy farmers when rearing bobby calves to weights that fit commercial beef industry specifications.

She hopes that through the success stories of some producers the research will facilitate a better understanding of how to integrate successful production practices on dairy farms to rear male calves for beef.

Speaking at the Graham Centre Livestock Forum, held online last week, Ms Vicic said excess males in dairying, which had led to euthanasia, was a large industry problem.

As demand from consumers for higher welfare and more sustainably produced food increases, the dairy industry has come under growing scrutiny for the treatment of male calves.

“To overcome the issue, we need to identify rearing strategies to utilise non-replacement male dairy calves for beef production but that’s where we hit another industry issue in that there are limited supply chains available in Australia,” Ms Vicic said.

“A potential solution is to look at primal growth paths that lead to eating quality outcomes that consumers are willing to purchase.”

Ms Vicic has found that Australia is in the minority of developed countries where slaughtering male dairy calves is perceived as more profitable than rearing them for meat production.

Currently, dairy calves are either transported at ten days of age and become bobby veal products, go to calf rearers or are reared on the dairy farm.

It’s estimated 400,000 non-replacement dairy calves are processed annually in Australian abattoirs.

“Overseas, there are other supply chains commonly used,” Ms Vicic said.

“Once reared, the calves go to a backgrounder or a finishing property, or they are feedlot finished and graded as a grainfed product.

“In the United States, around 40pc of Holstein steers undergo this pathway.”

Ms Vicic’s research, due to be completed in December, has involved interviewing dairy farmers to gain knowledge about current practice and potential barriers to the adoption of a system like those seen overseas.

Interviews have been held across different dairy regions to determine if production challenges are the same. The interviews are also identifying if farmers are willing to adopt new practices into a dairy system, to help the production of dairy-beef based on economic gain.

The theory is perceived high-cost requirements of rearing and producing male calves on high-growth diets in Australia may be offset by targeting a premium beef market. This can be achieved if Australian producers are able to follow an optimum growth path and produce a consistent high-quality product.


Fonterra favours wood over electricity for emission reduction

Fonterra favours wood over electricity for reducing emissions from its South Island plants.

The country’s biggest dairy processor said using electricity to convert its South Island plants from coal is technically challenging and would cost “well over $200” for every tonne of carbon saved.

Fuel switching is the single most effective thing the company can do to reduce its emissions the firm’s sustainable energy and utility manager Linda Thompson says.

While there has been much discussion by the Government about the potential for firms to use surplus power when the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter closes, Thompson said its focus is more on wood, which it has used at its Brightwater plant near Nelson and is installing at Te Awamutu.

Even without the cost of getting increased power supplies to a site, Thompson said converting an existing plant to incorporate new technology is not easy and can be costly.

Electricity is not a “silver bullet” and comes with “significant engineering challenges.” Wood biomass is less complex.

“That is the direction we are headed in,” Thompson told delegates at the electricity industry’s Downstream Summit in Wellington yesterday.

Fonterra accounts for about 20% of the country’s carbon emissions. About 89% of those are generated on-farm, with about 10% from the company’s manufacturing plants.

Most of the latter come from the company’s sites fuelled with coal – three on the North Island and seven on the South Island.

The Government late last month announced $70 million of funding toward transmission upgrades and connection costs to help industrial coal users in the lower South Island to shift to electricity. The form of that assistance is still being finalised.

Asked what sort of Government assistance would be most useful, Thompson said Fonterra had modelled a range of options that could help lower the potential cost of reducing coal use at its South Island sites.

But she said that even with lower power prices and low or no transmission costs, the South Island electrification projects still needed a carbon price of about $100 a tonne to be economic. With no assistance, the average cost of carbon abatement across its South Island sites was “well over $200” a tonne.

NZ carbon units are currently selling for about $34 a tonne. The new auction scheme being introduced to the emissions trading scheme is intended to cap prices at about $50 a tonne.

Thompson said Fonterra is a keen backer of decarbonisation and is seeking a 30% reduction in emissions from its processing operations – relative to 2018 levels – by 2030.

The firm has only nine winters of plant shutdowns left to undertake upgrades that try and deliver that target for more than 100 boilers and air heaters operating across 30 sites, she said. That means Fonterra has to focus on the sites with the highest potential to deliver the biggest savings.

She said the $12m the firm is investing to replace a coal-fired boiler with wood pellet fuel at its Te Awamutu site will reduce emissions by about 84,000 tonnes a year.

The $1.7m the firm spent to co-fire Brightwater with wood and coal will save about 2400 tonnes a year.

Thompson said much of the issue is the challenge of trying to retrofit older factories to do something they were never designed for.

Last month, Fonterra said it would replace coal at its Stirling plant near Balclutha with wood. The company had previously been considering using electricity.

Thompson said the cost of installing an industrial-scale heat pump at Stirling was estimated at $10m.

As well as the unit itself, the plant’s reticulation systems would have to be converted from steam to hot water. New process heat exchangers would be required, along with new piping and the plant’s chiller room would also have to be extended.

Installing an 11-megawatt electrode boiler was estimated at $15m – about $9m of which was the cost of upgrading the site’s electricity supply. Operating costs would also increase by about $3m a year, she said.

Source: BusinessDesk

Got Milk?’ Ads Return

As US Milk Sales Rise Amid Pandemic,’ Got Milk?’ Ads Return

The dairy industry has a familiar question for you: “Got milk?”

Six years after the popular tagline was retired, “Got milk?” ads are back. A dairy industry-funded group is reviving the campaign, hoping to prolong the boost milk has gotten during the pandemic.

U.S. milk sales have been in freefall for decades as choices grew and consumers turned to soda, juices and plant-based alternatives like soy milk. Dean Foods, the nation’s biggest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Borden Dairy, another major producer, followed with its own bankruptcy in January.

But then came the coronavirus pandemic, and milk sales saw a sharp rise. Kids who were no longer having meals at school were drinking milk at home. Adults — no longer commuting — had time for a leisurely bowl of cereal. Many people were buying milk to bake and cook at home.

Unlike the original “Got milk?” campaign, which debuted in 1994 and was known for its glossy photos of celebrities sporting milk mustaches, the new campaign reflects the age of social media.

Television ads feature videos culled from the Internet of people doing funny things with milk, like opening a gallon with their toes or jumping into a kiddie pool filled with milk and cereal. In one TikTok spot, Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky swims the length of a pool with a glass of chocolate milk balanced on her head.

There will also be tie-ins with other brands like Hershey, which will offer in-grocery coupons when shoppers buy milk with chocolate syrup.

From January through July 18, U.S. milk retail sales were up 8.3% to $6.4 billion, according to Nielsen. During the same period last year, milk sales were down 2.3%.

Milk sales saw their biggest year-over-year jump of 21% in March, when buyers were stocking up their pantries. But they remained elevated even after panic buying subsided. In June U.S. milk sales were up 2%.

Sales of milk alternatives have also risen. U.S. sales of oat milk were up 270% to $132 million in the 29-week period, Nielsen said. Almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk also saw gains.

Yin Woon Rani, CEO of MilkPEP — short for the Milk Processor Education Program, which is funding the campaign — said cow’s milk ticks the boxes of what consumers are looking for during a pandemic: comfort, nutrition, stability and versatility. Social media research showed a 40% increase in positive mentions about milk this year, she said.

“It’s been a really exceptional year,” she said. “We’re very focused on, ‘How do we sustain that demand?’”

Other brands have also noted that consumers are looking for comfort foods. McDonald’s said last week that it will focus on familiar menu items — not newer innovations — when it ramps up marketing in the second half of this year.

“Consumers are still looking for the trusted favorites,” McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczkinsi said.

The “Got milk?” campaign will likely run through the end of this year. Rani wouldn’t say how much MilkPEP is spending.

Rani said the organization debated a lot of taglines for the campaign but found “Got milk?” resonated the most. Even teens too young to have seen the original ads knew the line, she said.

“Sometimes the answer you’re looking for is right under your nose,” she said.

Source: NY Times

Canfield dairy farm recognized by country music star now expanding product line

A local dairy farm is thriving despite the pandemic. Frog Pond Farm in Canfield is adding to its variety of goat milk products.

Milking goats is nothing new for Dave and Marsha Coakley. What is new is what they’re now selling on the farm — goat milk and cheese in addition to the fudge they’ve been making.

Frog Pond Farm was just awarded the USDA Grade A seal last week.

“One of the five goat dairies that’s Grade A in the state of Ohio and one of only three that manufactures on-site,” Dave said.

When we last checked in with Dave and Marsha, it was February. They provided fudge for country singer Brantley Gilbert ahead of his concert at the Covelli Centre and got to go backstage.

It all starts in the barn. Once the goats are milked, all of the liquid goes into a bulk tank, which chills the milk down. It’s all regulated by strict state standards.

The second part of the process is pasteurization, which happens in the cheese room. This is also recorded and monitored by the state.

“You get your best taste by how fast you cool,” Dave said. “You want to not hold it at a certain temperature longer than you have to.”

Once the milk is pasteurized, it can either stay that way or be turned into cheese.

After cheese cultures are added, they scoop the curds out and bag them.

“I would say probably about three to four pounds of cheese goes in each bag, so I would scoop it out and then I would hang it on these racks,” Marsha said.

The entire drying process takes about 12 hours. After that, flavors are added. Right now, they’re offering five types of Chèvre — which is French for goat cheese — in 4-ounce containers.

“We shrink-wrap it in the vacuum chamber. That, obviously, protects the shelf life,” Dave said.

The Coakleys are talking with a couple of local retailers as they work to finalize their official product labels.

To think it all started with two goats.

“This was the business that we just kind of let it take its own life and it just kind of grew on its own,” Dave said. “We didn’t force anything, so it’s just kind of developed and we said, ‘Oh, I guess this is where we’re supposed to go.’”


Trade Gives US Dairy Producers Something to Cheer About

The intensity of U.S. events in recent months has made it very easy, and sometimes necessary, in the dairy sector to be laser-focused on domestic markets, with never-before-seen price swings and a renaissance in consumer appreciation at the retail level.

But even as these challenges have whipsawed markets and led to a rollercoaster of responses, positive trends are emerging in dairy markets abroad – ones that deserve more attention now and in months ahead.

U.S. dairy’s continued evolution into an export powerhouse has quietly been reaching new milestones. In May, monthly export volumes were the highest in more than two years. Robust gains were driven by record sales of nonfat dry milk/skim milk power and rising cheese volumes. This occurred despite COVID-19 disruptions that have spurred lockdowns worldwide. Volumes reached a new record in Southeast Asia, U.S. dairy’s biggest regional market and a crucial one to dairy’s future.

Total export volume in May was 18 percent higher than in the same period a year ago. Total export value also improved, 8 percent over year-ago levels.

While trade’s torrid pace in May isn’t expected to be maintained, continued strength is expected when June export numbers begin to be announced on Aug. 5. For 2020 so far, dairy export volumes through May are up 10 percent and value has risen 12 percent. And most tellingly for dairy producers, trade is again becoming a bigger portion of overall demand for U.S. milk. Exports were equivalent to 17.4 percent of U.S. milk solids production in May, the highest rate since April 2018.

Nor was this success the result of perfect trade conditions, as evidenced by lower sales to Mexico, the largest U.S. dairy trade partner. Diversifying and increasing sales to many countries around the world underscore just how successful exporters were elsewhere while noting that important work continues to be needed to boost sales even more.

About that work. Dairy has the great fortune to have in its corner the U.S. Dairy Export Council, which provides a unique platform to unite the entire industry through our joint trade policy work. The latter work is in addition to USDEC’s work with foreign buyers and U.S. sellers to advance trade worldwide.

At NMPF, we’re proud of our work with Cooperatives Working Together, which assists in making U.S. products even more attractive abroad, patiently building the foundations for long-term industry success. We’re also active members of the Consortium for Common Food Names, which strives for a level playing field for U.S. cheeses who face discriminatory practices on food names that are continually encouraged by the European Union as it seeks its own trade agreements.

Work across the entire dairy sector comes into play as we pursue important policy priorities that seek to enhance opportunity for our hard-working producers. Some of our efforts include defending gains we’ve already made. Others seek new frontiers with opportunities oversees. Highlights of the current trade agenda include:


  • Getting the full benefit of the bargain struck on new market access and trade rules with Canada and Mexico under USMCA;
  • Working with the U.S. government to resolve impediments to trade in dairy markets around the world including in Mexico, South America, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, and more;
  • Co-sponsoring a virtual Townhall series designed to spur discussion on the importance of trade to America’s farmers and agricultural manufacturers (find out more here);
  • Pushing for strong dairy results in ongoing trade agreement negotiations with the UK, a major dairy importing country, and with Kenya, a country with high dairy consumption for its region and notable trade barriers to dairy that an FTA could knock down and;
  • Advocating for the launch of additional trade deals with key markets, such as concluding a comprehensive agreement with Japan and pursuing FTAs with Southeast Asian countries.

Dairy export markets also promise to be challenging for the rest of the year. China’s purchasing decisions will be pivotal; Latin American, in particular Mexican, response to coronavirus holds profound implications for those markets; and higher U.S. domestic cheese prices pose trade-competition challenges.

But at a time of incredible uncertainty and unprecedented demands for resilience across our industry, trade has helped steady dairy demand even as domestic markets have faced severe disruptions. That’s given the industry something to cheer about and build upon.

Even with the intense focus on dairy’s present, it’s important to remember dairy’s future, for which trade is key. Thanks to the efforts of U.S. dairy producers and processors, and those who represent them worldwide, that future is bright.

The FAO Dairy Price Index – July 2020

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 101.8 points in July, up 3.5 points (3.5 percent) from June. In July, quotations for all the dairy products represented in the index rose, moving the overall value 0.7 points (0.7 percent) above the corresponding month last year and for the first time above pre-pandemic level. Quotations for milk powders, especially whole milk powder (WMP), rose on account of strong import demand by Asian buyers with some concerns over the eventual size of export availabilities in Oceania in the 2020/21 production season. Meanwhile, although they remained below the pre-pandemic levels, quotations for butter and cheese continued to increase, buoyed by robust import demand amid seasonally declining export supplies and steadily rising internal demand in Europe.

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative calls for US policy to help US cheesemakers use cheese names protected in EU

A letter from Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, dated July 30, urges the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a core policy objective in trade discussions to secure market access assurances for what it said are common food names, which it said is important for dairy farmers and cheese processors.

The effort is directed at the European Union, which uses trade agreements to block American-produced cheese from using cheese names like feta, Parmesan and Gouda in international markets, as they have protected designation of origin (PDO) status.

US processors are forced to label their cheeses with non-traditional names, which the dairy group said are unfamiliar to customers.

Most of the billions of pounds of milk that Edge members produce each year is made into cheese.

Brody Stapel, president of Edge, said, “Our dairy farmer members continue to emphasize the importance of expanding exports through free and fair trade agreements. The EU’s use of geographical indications to obstruct the use of common cheese names is a direct threat to our ability to increase dairy exports around the world. Establishing stronger safeguards against these anti-competitive tactics will help level the playing field.

“This is why we are extremely pleased that so many senators have endorsed this key objective. We thank each senator who signed on to the letter and we especially commend the work of Sens. Thune, Baldwin, Stabenow and Tillis to elevate this issue on behalf of our dairy farmers and cheese processors.

“As we come off the fresh implementation of the USMCA trade agreement, we look forward to further growing US dairy’s place in the global market. Support like this from those senators will greatly help.”


NY dairy farmers seeing demand for milk grow

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit Central New York, dairy farmers suffered greatly from decreased demand.

The demand for milk is growing once again, giving local farmers a much-needed boost.

“Yeah, it has been a struggle for us. The last 5 years has been a struggle,” said Mike McMahon, Dairy Farmer.

A struggle made worse during the early stages of the pandemic when dairy farmers were hit hard by the loss of schools and restaurants to sell to.

“We saw the price of milk in May the same as it was 22 years ago. You can’t do that forever.”

But business for dairy farmers is bouncing back thanks to an increased demand for milk and milk products by consumers looking for comfort foods to help get them through the pandemic.

” We’re seeing an increase in consumption in consumption of whole milk and cheese and ice cream and yes we are seeing an increase in demand.”

That increased demand for milk is paying off. Nationwide milk sales are at 4.5 billion dollars from the same period last year an increase of nearly 12 percent.

A much-needed boost at just the right time.

“We really needed this right now for sure.”

Source: CNYcentral

Class III Bounces Back in Chicago Wednesday

Volatility continues as Class III bounces back Wednesday, on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Milk futures turned higher as traders worked to correct oversold positions, cash markets were mostly lower.  September Class III traded almost a $1.30 range higher and lower to settle the day in the green.  August finished the day 27 higher to $19.55, September up 33 to $17.00 and October finished 53 higher to $17.34/cwt. Fourth quarter of 2020 is averaging at $17.09/cwt as November finished 76 higher and December gained a whopping 60 cents back.  Class IV milk also surged higher. August up 23 to $13.08, Sept up 8 at $13.02, and Oct up 35 cents to $13.50/cwt.  July Class III price was announced at $24.54/cwt, Class IV at $13.76. 

This all came after a giant volume trade in the CME spot market.  Dry whey down $0.01 at $0.32.  Eight sales were made ranging from $0.3250 to $0.3325.  Blocks down $0.1150 at $1.8150.  Nine sales were made ranging from $1.8025 to $1.82. Barrels down $0.1725 at $1.6425.  Nine trades were made at $1.62 to $1.6425. Butter down $0.1150 at $1.54.  Three trades were made ranging from $1.5225 to $1.54. Nonfat dry milk up $0.0275 at $0.9725.  One trade was made at that price. 

DBA and Edge ‘Policy Picnics’ connect dairy farmers with key issues

Engaging farmers and others in the dairy community in the legislative process and empowering them to stay connected with issues that affect what they do and how they do it is a key goal of the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.

The groups’ use of Policy Picnics continues to be an effective way to accomplish this with members, who appreciate getting the latest information.

“Aside from the (coronavirus) concerns, some of us farmers are unsure of the reasons for the huge dip in the milk price recently,” said Tiffany Kohlmann, who milks 240 cows with her family near Clarksville, Wis.

Kohlmann was among dozens of DBA and Edge members who attended a Policy Picnic on July 16 at Shiloh Dairy in Brillion, Wis. Edge also held one of the events on July 28 at MoDak Dairy near Goodwin, S.D. Edge and DBA are sister organizations based in Green Bay, Wis., that together represent farmers throughout the Midwest in fighting for effective government policies at the state and federal levels.

Kohlmann said she thinks it’s vital for DBA and Edge to advocate for farmers’ needs. She said farmers have had the same inputs as always, but their expenses have increased while their profit has decreased.

“Store prices kept going up, but the farmer was not seeing that money,” she said of the earlier days of the pandemic. “It’s important for Edge and DBA to get involved to make sure that dollar from the consumer is passed down to the farmer, so that we can actually continue providing a nutritional product for the most efficient price.”

Building connections

At the picnics, members hear from the groups’ government affairs team, including a consultant from Washington, D.C., and chat one-on-one with other staff members, lawmakers and fellow farmers.

Members and staff both benefit from the interaction, Tim Trotter, executive director of DBA and Edge, said.

“The picnics are a great resource for both groups to get information and ideas from each other as well as connect on the policy issues,” Trotter said. “They are designed to be an informal gathering, as you would expect in rural communities, … and sometimes that’s where you get the best ideas and input.”

Trotter said farmers love the chance to network and share ideas about their businesses with each other and also engage more personally with staff.

“Building strong connections and prioritizing two-way communication is crucial for the organizations and the members,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being in close contact with our members, so engagements like this give us that point of contact. This is also a great opportunity to meet people and catch up.”

The chance to interact with lawmakers is also important, Trotter said.

“With the legislators in attendance, it’s all about the engagement aspect of it,” he said. “You move policy by engagement and by having that legislator or staff person creating a personal relationship with constituents, and in this case the constituents are dairy farmers.”

Jeremy Natzke, owner of Wayside Dairy in Greenleaf, Wis., appreciated being able to put faces with names at the Shiloh Dairy event.

“Creating a personal relationship helps keep legislators involved and provides a better understanding of the farmer perspective,” he said. “I have to speak up for myself.”

Making voices heard

Learning what issues will affect day-to-day farm operations and what to do more research on is a priority for Heidi Fischer, who helps run Fischer-Clark Dairy Farm in Hatley, Wis., and also serves on Edge’s board of directors.

Fischer said having a proactive voice in agriculture is critically important.

“People (including most lawmakers) really don’t know what’s happening on the farm, so the more we can make our voices heard, the more they will know about how this stuff truly impacts us as farmers,” Fischer said.

In addition to the direct connection between members and staff the Policy Picnics provide, Fischer said these engaging get-togethers are crucial to help ensure policies are sensible, whether on the state or federal levels.

“I also think it’s a way to just show everybody where our (groups’) activism is and how we’re spending our time.”

Irma Vermeer Hired as Data Coordinator at NAAB

The National Association of Animal Breeders is pleased to announce Irma Vermeer as the Data Coordinator for NAAB. Irma began fulfilling her duties on the 27th of July.

As Data Coordinator, Irma will work closely with NAAB staff and industry stakeholders to coordinate and manage the Dairy and Beef Cross Reference database. Irma will be responsible in overseeing all aspects of data processing, from the point of data entry to the distribution of associated reports and genetic evaluation information. Alongside guarding data integrity, Irma will be responsible for maintenance and improvement of NAAB system user experience. As such, Irma will be in frequent communication with cross reference participants and industry partners. Irma’s passion is to seek possibilities to enhance data automation, thereby creating efficiency of data processes for stakeholders.

Prior to joining NAAB, Irma was employed by CRV in The Netherlands where she was part of the Animal Evaluation Unit – the department responsible for the National Genetic Evaluations of The Netherlands. In her role as Breeding Values Analyst, Irma routinely performed advanced data analysis as well as provided customer service for industry representatives and cattle producers.

‘’We are very pleased to welcome Irma to our staff”’ states Jay Weiker, President and CEO of NAAB. “Irma’s familiarity with genetic data in combination with her passion to optimize those datasets is unique. As the genetics industry continues to expand with increasing volumes of data from domestic and international sources, Irma’s international background and excellent communication skills make her the perfect fit for this position. We believe Irma will be instrumental in NAAB’s continuous goal to improve the dairy and beef cross reference database for a smooth input and output of accurate and reliable data.”

Irma grew up on a dairy farm and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Husbandry from the HAS Den Bosch in the Netherlands with special emphasis on animal breeding, reproduction and statistics. Irma is married and resides in Berkeley, CA with her husband, Sebastian. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, milking cows, joining pub quizzes and riding horses. She will be working remotely from California but will visit the NAAB office in Madison on a regular basis when travel is resumed.

NAAB is the national trade association for artificial insemination businesses. NAAB members account for about 95% of dairy semen sold in the USA and market semen to more than 100 countries around the world.

Seven scholarship recipients awarded by CentralStar Cooperative

CentralStar Cooperative, serving dairy and beef producers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, is awarding seven individuals with $1,000 scholarships this summer for the upcoming school year.

In addition to offering school information, applicants had to write five, 300-word essays on varying subjects and one 500-word essay about their experiences that demonstrate a commitment to the agriculture industry.

“We always have a strong group of applicants, so the judging process is intense,” commented Dori Lichty, communication specialist. “It’s great to see such enthusiasm from youth about the future of the agriculture industry and their desire to be involved.”

Pursuing education in agricultural-related fields, the following individuals will receive scholarship funds. Kathleen Yanke, Prairie du Sac, Wis., is the daughter of Herb and Cathy Yanke, Yanke Prairie Farms, Ltd. Collin Weltzien, Arcadia, Wis., is the son of Keith and Karen Weltzien, Weltzien Farms. Jessica Magdanz, Pine River, Wis., is from Magdanz Dairy, LLC, and is the daughter of Dan and Medora Magdanz. Sisters, Marie and Grace Haase, Somerset, Wis., daughters of Jason and Rose Haase, Haase Dairy Inc, will both receive scholarships. Rounding out the list of winners is Megan Breuch, Stoughton, Wis., daughter of Willie and Laurie Breuch, and Colin Wussow, Cecil, Wis., son of Ron and Nicolle Wussow, Milk-n-More Farms and Harvesting, LLC. 

CentralStar’s goal of enhancing producer profitability through integrated services is fulfilled by incorporating an array of products and services critical to dairy-and-beef-farm prosperity. CentralStar’s product and service offerings include Accelerated Genetics, GenerVations and Select Sires genetics; extensive artificial-insemination (A.I.) technician service; genetic, reproduction, and dairy records consultation; DHI services; diagnostic testing; herd-management products; research and development; and more. CentralStar’s administration and warehouse facilities are located in Lansing, Mich., and Waupun, Wis., with laboratories in Grand Ledge, Mich., and Kaukauna, Wis. For more information, visit CentralStar Cooperative Inc. at 

Dairy prices plummet at GDT auction as China demand slackens

Dairy product prices plummeted at this morning’s Global Dairy Trade (GDT) auction, the main price index falling by 5.1 per cent as demand from North Asia slackened. The decline follows a smaller dip of 0.7 per cent a fortnight ago and a big jump in early July.

Whole milk powder prices dropped 7.5% overall. Regular grade WMP to ship in October fell 7.6%. 

“This was a greater decline than the NZX Dairy Derivatives market had anticipated ahead of the event,” NZX dairy analyst Amy Castleton said.

“WMP prices fell 8.2% for product for next month shipping (shipping in September), indicating that buyers have filled their urgent needs for WMP. Buying from North Asia was up against the July 21 event, and up slightly against the equivalent event last year.

“There was also a slight increase in volume purchased by Africa compared to the last event, but less than the equivalent event last year. The Middle East bought less at this event than the equivalent event last year and both South/Central America and South East Asia/Oceania bought twice as much WMP than they had at the July 21 event, suggesting there is still some demand for WMP at this price point.”

Skim milk powder (SMP) fell 4.6% while butter prices dropped 2.8%, further losing gains made in early July. 

Anhydrous milkfat (AMF) gained 3% while lactose saw a price rise of 5.7%, moving the average price to $1349/t. Cheddar prices dropped 5.3% with Africa buying the most.


We Need Whole Milk Choice Back in Schools!

According to the proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2020-2025, whole milk will continue to be banned from schools across the nation. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are only updated and published every 5 years. The time is now to ensure whole milk can once again be offered as a choice in school nutrition programs. Other dairy groups are applauding the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) for simply keeping dairy in their recommendations and including some dairy in birth-24 months — but this isn’t enough. We are missing the mark on recognizing the need for whole milk in the guidelines. This is too large of a mistake to allow.

In 2017, Congress authorized $1 million of taxpayer money for a third-party review, conducted by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). It was the first-ever outside peer review of the DGA process. The report showed how only 20% of our government’s nutrition recommendations are based on “strong” science, according to the government’s own standards. The NASEM report made specific recommendations about how to improve the transparency, manage the major conflicts of interest on the advisory committee, and improve the scientific rigor to make the DGA policy reliable and trustworthy.

Yet this congressionally mandated report was vastly ignored in the recently proposed DGA, and we can no longer allow this flawed outcome to continue. Continuing the ban on whole milk based on out-of-date science and a clearly unbalanced, one-sided subcommittee on saturated fats is appalling.

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee ignored a massive body of recent science-based research showing the longstanding caps on saturated fats are not supported by science.

This science includes large, government-funded studies on more than 75,000 people, demonstrating that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. The 2020 DGA Advisory Committee is relying instead on reviews conducted in 2015 and 2010, which were deemed by the NASEM to be “unsystematic” and, therefore, unreliable.

A team of highly respected scientists also wrote a “State of the Art” review of saturated fats, recently published in theJournal of the American College of Cardiology, concluding that continued caps on saturated fats were no longer warranted. This paper’s authors included three former members of the previous dietary guidelines’ advisory committees, including the chair of the 2005 DGA. The paper adds to nearly 20 other reviews by independent scientists who have come to similar conclusions over the past decade. See the full list of reviews here.

Without intervention, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) will go into effect at the end of the year. We must delay the Guidelines until these issues have been fixed — but we need your help! Americans deserve sound science, not outdated studies.

Dairy cattle left out of Heart of Texas Livestock Show

The Heart of Texas Livestock Show recently announced that they will still have their 2020 livestock show, but this year, the show will not include dairy cows.

COVID-19 has canceled or changed a lot, including livestock shows. Kids in 4H and the FFA put a lot of hard work into raising and caring for their animals, only to now be told this year the show won’t go on for dairy cows.

“They have spent countless hours with these animals in order to get them ready for show, and for them to not have a place to be able to exhibit their animals is just downright disappointing to them,” said dairy advocate Abbi Goldenberg.

“Feed them, love on them, brush them down, fly spray them. Usually once or twice a week I wash them to wash all the fly spray and dander off and all the mud so I’ll know if there’s any scratches I need to heal,” said Member of Friendship 4H of Johnson County Ashleigh Fullerton.

The Heart of Texas Livestock Show is still scheduled to take place. They have now cut back the animals in the exhibit, which includes dairy cattle. The show wouldn’t explain why this decision was made, but many believe it’s due to the number of participants.

“I don’t want youth that show a one-off breed or a one-off species to feel like they are less valuable that someone may consider the major players in the livestock game. It takes just as much hard work and effort and the youth learn the same lessons,”said Goldenberg.

“We put in just as much time and money and hard work as the beef people, and I don’t really see how it’s fair to beef people that they get to show and we don’t,” said Fullerton.

Fullerton has already seen some shows canceled. She was really looking forward to finally being able to show Bell and Pepper, but now is faced with another disappointment.

“I’m kinda sad and disappointed, because I put a whole bunch of time and love and care for them and I work with them everyday,”said Fullerton.

For kids like Ashleigh, her dairy cows are more than just animals, they are friends.

“Every time I come outside, they run to me because they love me and I love them back,” she said.

The Heart of Texas Livestock show is set to take place in October, and kids like Ashleigh are hoping that they change their minds.


Dairy Cares Raises $210,000 for Children’s Wisconsin

Dairy Cares of Wisconsin’s first-ever “virtual fundraiser” has raised $210,000 for the Children’s Wisconsin.

For nine years, the non-profit organization’s signature event was a summer Garden Party that raised funds on behalf of the statewide health system (formerly Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin). However, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing protocols, the campaign shifted exclusively to multi-media platforms this year.

“We knew we wanted to do something special for our 10th anniversary, but we never imagined it would be a campaign built largely on cell phone texting,” said Jim Ostrom, Dairy Cares co-founder and a member of the Children’s Wisconsin Foundation Board. “In the midst of a COVID-fueled economic downturn, the generosity of the dairy and agriculture-related industries — and a lot of big-hearted individuals who just wanted to do something positive during turbulent times — is truly inspiring.”

With the $210,00 brought in by July 25, Dairy Cares’ lifetime total raised on behalf of Children’s Wisconsin now surpasses $1.5 million.

While the virtual auction component of the campaign culminated July 25, people interested in supporting the campaign can still give, via their smart phones, until midnight on Friday, July 31. Text “DAIRY” to 71760 to make your donation.

All proceeds will directly benefit the health system, which is headquartered in Milwaukee and offers 40 different care locations through the state.

“On behalf of the Children’s Wisconsin family, I wanted to express our gratitude to Dairy Cares of Wisconsin and their incredible community of supporters,” said Christine Baranoucky, Children’s Wisconsin Foundation vice president of engagement & stewardship. “Even though we couldn’t be together in person this year, you didn’t let that stop you from making a difference and raising critical funds for the kids of Wisconsin.”

In 2018, Children’s Wisconsin christened the new, state-of-the art “Dairy Cares of Wisconsin Simulation Lab,” which gives medical professionals a safe venue to learn and sharpen their skills.

The “donate by text’ technology allows donors to see specific ways their financial gifts can be put to use during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the acquisition of cloth masks, hand sewn gowns, sanitizer and face shields.

About Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Headquartered in Milwaukee, the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin provides statewide care through 40 different locations. These various sites provide a range of specialized services, from dealing with childhood terminal illness and cancer to psychological disorders. Experts in premature birth, the neonatal intensive care unit is ranked top in the nation. For more information, visit the website at

Fonterra turns to ‘Kowbucha’ as a possible methane-reducing probiotic for cows

Kombucha for cows could be the next big thing in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if Fonterra research holds up.

Fonterra has trademarked the term Kowbucha, after early trials using probiotics to reduce methane production in cows showed promising results.

The term is a play on kombucha, the popular fermented tea drink.

The dairy giant has been researching ways that cultures from cows’ milk could be a solution to reducing methane emissions.

Research director Mark Piper said solving this problem could lead to a reduction in New Zealand’s carbon emissions of up to 20 per cent.

Fonterra has one of the largest dairy culture collections in the world at its Palmerston North research and development centre, with hundreds of samples gathered from farms over nearly 100 years.

Fonterra used them to create cultures for cheese and yoghurt making and to develop probiotics.

But recent experimentation with different cultures had led to the creation of new fermentations that Fonterra want to market as Kowbucha. The hope is that the cultures might turn off the gut bacteria in the cow’s digestive system that create methane in the first place.

Initial results had been promising, Piper said.

It’s early days but initial results with Kowbucha have been promising, says Fonterra's Mark Piper.


It’s early days but initial results with Kowbucha have been promising, says Fonterra’s Mark Piper.

“Obviously, there are sensitivities here in terms of ensuring that we don’t want changes to the cow’s natural biology and the milk it produces. That’s 100 per cent natural and we want to keep it that way.”

Fonterra is working with AgResearch and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium to conduct trials on cows.

“AgResearch is really well set up to run trials. They’ve got these big booths that you can put cows in and control what they are fed and then measure the gas that comes out of them,” Piper said.

It was too early to say if there would be a final product or what form it might take, he said.

First they had to establish what effect the cultures had in the animal and prove they could reduce methane. If that was successfully done, Fonterra would look at the best way to administer the Kowbucha.

“Is it a drink, a feed? Something they need to eat daily or once a year? Is it something they can have when they’re still inside the mother and it passes through into the cows? ,” he said.

A final decision was about 18 months away.

Another research project involved catching and destroying methane as it left the cow, Piper said.

“This happens naturally in the atmosphere, but we are looking at how to do it in minutes on the ground.,” he said.

Details were under wraps, he said.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce our carbon footprint, is cutting our food waste. This recipe provided by “Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand” is just one example of how to use up the food that Kiwis throw away most of: bread.

Commercialisation could prove challenging because it was still unknown if it could be done at scale or even if would be effective.

Any innovation would have to be good for the animals and humans, Piper said.

“It can’t be something that passes through to the meat or milk.”

Fonterra was also looking at options like inhibitors, vaccines, breeding types and feed to reduce methane, he said.


10% Rebate for COBA/Select Sires Member‐Owner‐Customers

COBA/Select Sires realizes the challenges facing dairy and beef producers today.  They are dealing with employee and personal health concerns and practices, volatile markets for their products, and interrupted supply chains while producing a safe and healthy food product.  “COBA/Select Sires management and farmer‐led board of directors want to do all that we can to help our members continue to survive and thrive despite the challenges they face.  For these reasons, we are offering a 10% rebate on all semen purchases during August, September and October,” remarks general manager,

Duane Logan.  The rebate will allow our producers to continue to invest in the best genetics in the market place for the long‐term success of their operations. The rebate will be a credit applied monthly to all accounts who are current at of the end of each month of the rebate.

The highly trained employees of COBA continue to provide reproductive services and solutions to meet the goals of member‐owner‐customers.  Helping them reach those goals by using the very best genetics is our driving force.  This rebate allows them to continue to invest in those genetics even as the markets continue to challenge their financial plans.  We are motivated to help our member‐owner‐customers to remain financially stable in a difficult economy.  The passion of COBA leadership is with our member‐owner‐customers as we make decisions such as this 10% rebate and returning 100% of their patronage for their 2019 business in May of 2020.  

COBA/Select Sires, Inc., one of the founding members of Select Sires, Inc., has become widely respected for its clearly demonstrated ability to provide the finest service and bovine genetics available in the world.  COBA/Select Sires, Inc., operates as a true cooperative by encouraging member input and returning profits to members through patronage refunds.

Big data used to study cattle resilience and efficiency

The international project GenTORE focuses on developing innovative tools for genetic selection and management to optimize the resilience and efficiency of livestock. (Sensor) data is collected for this research in the stables of Dairy Campus.

The aim is to use this information to develop tools for the livestock farmer and to achieve our global breeding goals.

Claudia Kamphuis, researcher at Wageningen Livestock Research, explains her part of the research at Dairy Campus. In this video she talks ‘Improving resilience and efficiency’ about, among other things, collecting sensor data that is also used at commercial companies. These currently available techniques have also been used on Dairy Campus for this purpose.

Collecting data on Dairy Campus

According to Kamphuis, the cows on Dairy Campus are not ordinary dairy cows, but special cows. “These cows gather a lot of information for our research,” the researcher notes. The cows wear collars with sensors. These sensors communicate with yellow dishes above the cows. This allows all activities of the cow to be registered and subsequently charted. From how active her tripe is to what is her position and behavior. These data are currently mainly used for monitoring animal health (udder health) and fertility (draft attentions). All other present information of this cow, such as her weight and milk production, is then added and analyzed. With the aim to investigate whether this data can also be used for typing resilient and efficient cows. “With this amount and especially by combining this variety of data, we may be able to rank cows in the future based on resilience and efficiency,” says Kamphuis.

Focus on resilience and efficiency

Resilience is the ability of the cow to cope well with changes in its environment and health. Feed-efficient cows can achieve equal milk production with less feed. This is of course interesting for dairy farmers from a cost perspective. In addition, resilient and efficient cows can contribute to the changing world in terms of agriculture and population composition.

Watch the video here, in which Claudia Kamphuis talks about the research she is doing with data from dairy cows for the GenTORE project.


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