Thursday, July 18, 2024

Dairy Your Way

Dairy Your Way Cover
Click here to download the booklet.

Maybe you’re not going to change anything, but maybe you’re curious. Or maybe you’re feeling like the road you’re going down is no fun any more. A change might be in order. As part of a SARE-funded project, a group from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan developed a booklet, Dairy Your Way, that breaks down options in dairy farming, exploring the rationale behind different management options, and the potential pros and cons.

The booklet starts with housing: Tie stall, free stall, bedded pack, and pasture. In the look at grazing, there’s a profile of a farm that hybridizes grazing and confinement so it works for them, and a farm that has gone seasonal, and is highly profitable.

There are other income streams on dairy farms, including custom raising heifers, value added (making something from the milk, thereby adding value to it, and selling the product), and going organic. The authors include how-to’s and costs for each of these options.

If you’re thinking of replacing your milking parlor, there’s a chapter for you here, too. There are nifty diagrams, and a great description of a rotary parlor, set up in a circle. The cows step in, the floor rotates, and by the time they cycle around, they are done and ready to step out.

Speaking of stepping out, there’s also a chapter on entry and exit strategies for farmers.  You may want to farm til you drop, which we are all hoping won’t be for a long, long time. This chapter includes ideas like share milking, leasing, and work in arrangements, just in case someone convinces you to relax a little.

In short, there’s always lot to learn, and sometimes it’s great to check things out, even if it’s just to confirm that you are all set with things the way you have them. This booklet is a great place to get ideas, and to compare things to your status quo.


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Rachel Gilker
Rachel Gilker
Rachel's interest in sustainable agriculture and grazing has deep roots in the soil. She's been following that passion around the world, working on an ancient Nabatean farm in the Negev, and with farmers in West Africa's Niger. After returning to the US, Rachel received her M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science from the University of Maryland. For her doctoral research, Rachel spent 3 years working with Maryland dairy farmers using management intensive grazing. She then began her work with grass farmers, a source of joy and a journey of discovery.

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