The NY Organic Dairy Initiative is looking for farms to participate in the Dairy Profit Monitor, an online farm business program that tracks key financial and herd health factors to help farmers stay competitive.
‘The Dairy Profit Monitor is a web-based tool farmers can use to evaluate the impact of changes, track their business over time, and compare where their real-time herd and financial numbers are in relation to similar operations locally, across New York and across the U.S.,’ says NY Organic Dairy Initiative project leader A. Fay Benson of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
The major focus areas of the Dairy Profit Monitor/DPM are milk production; labor efficiency; cost controls, including total feed costs; and how milk income is impacted by the amount of feed purchased and the cost of forages. The DPM can be used by organic and conventional dairies.
New York State has more than 430 organic dairies. Benson wants to start a periodic discussion group of organic farmers who would use the DPM for benchmarking and decision-making, reviewing reports monthly or quarterly.
‘Benchmarking as part of a small discussion group is a great way to pickup on practices proving successful for others and that you might try to grow your own net milk income over feed costs,’ Benson says.
Dairy Farm Business Specialist Betsey Howland with the Cornell University PRO-DAIRY Program helps individual DPM users and facilitates DPM discussion groups statewide.
She says, ‘Farmers can easily incorporate data from milk checks and records they keep on herd health and feeding programs into the Dairy Profit Monitor on a monthly basis.’
Farms making changes in operating practices see the impact within two to six months and year-to-year in the DPM reports.
‘One farmer used the Monitor to track how changing the feed supplementation program for his cows on pasture impacted the pounds of milk components shipped per cow per day. He was able to see an increase in those components, and the premium income they add to the milk check, from one grazing season to the next,’ Howland says.
The DPM milk check analysis function also measures the non-component value of milk.
Once farmers gain experience with reading DPM results, a discussion group can cover a report in about two hours.
‘After attending multiple meetings, one farmer was inspired to change his feeding program by purchasing larger quantities to receive a volume discount and storing feed differently to reduce shrink. Within three years, his DPM numbers rose from the bottom of the group to the top,” Howland says.
A group analysis feature compares only the group participants’ data. Farm identities are revealed only with complete group consensus; otherwise individual confidentiality is maintained.
‘In a discussion group you can learn from farmers using similar practices and those doing different things. Members serve as one another’s sounding boards. The keys to the success are a willingness to share real data about your farm, and to honor the confidentiality of the numbers for each farm. Trust and respect are paramount,’ Howland says.
The DPM was developed with financial assistance from Cargill and the New York Farm Viability Institute/NYFVI.
NYFVI Managing Director David Grusenmeyer says, ‘The more information farm business owners have to consider, the better their management choices can be. The Dairy Profit Monitor provides an excellent range of data with immediate and regular reporting capability to support strong decision-making.’
The Dairy Profit Monitor is available on a free three-month trial basis. The $300 annual subscription provides 12 months of access, including real-time comparison reports to other farms using the program. More information and how-to instructions are posted at www.dairyprofit.cornell.edu.
Dairy owners interested in starting a Dairy Profit Monitor discussion group can reach Fay Benson at CCE Cortland County, 607-745-3807, email@example.com.
The NY Organic Dairy Initiative and NY Organic Dairy Viability Task Force, which also receives NYFVI funding support, provide technical assistance, farm business planning and analysis, and other resources for organic producers, certifiers and handlers; and help conventional dairies looking to transition to organic production.
The NYFVI also funded development of The Farmer to Farmer Discussion Group Facilitator’s Guide available from Kathy Barrett, Cornell PRO-DAIRY Program, firstname.lastname@example.org, 607-229-4357.