David and Laurie Grant have infectious optimism and belief in the viability of the dairy industry

With financial and facility planning resources through a Dairy Advancement Program (DAP) grant, the Franklin, NY family successfully transitioned from a tie stall barn, constructed a freestall barn and are now expanding through a merger with a neighboring farm.

With the changes, production increased from 71 pounds to 85 pounds per day, and the Grants are considering increasing milking from two to three times per day. Given the farm economy and consolidation in the industry, they appreciate the security of eventually being able to fill a trailer full of milk to keep their milk market. The barn is laid out for robots, which they see as part of the future to manage labor and overtime costs.

“We knew we had to get more efficient, or stay the same and retire,” said David. “We built so we can survive and reach retirement.” The Grants are also thinking about the next generation, which includes sons Alex, 21, and Andrew, 19.

“DAP grants are a great opportunity to break out of the ‘typical’ and to look at new and different business opportunities. It’s helpful for farmers to have the financial assistance to be able to bring qualified advisors to the table,” said Paul Cerosaletti, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, NYC Watershed Ag Program, who introduced the farm family to the grant program. “To their credit, the Grants were interested in other people’s ideas and advice.” With DAP funding the Grants hired John Lehr, a Farm Business Consultant with Farm Credit East, for financial planning and Jeff Ainslie, Red Barn Consulting, for facility planning, including manure storage and facility layout.

“The financial part is invaluable. The clarity financial planning can give you with whatever direction you’re headed – refine, expand, merge - the possibilities are endless,” David said. “John helped us increase labor efficiency and puzzle the debt out to make it cash flow. He put it on paper that it would work even at $17 milk. So far he has been right.”

“The DAP program allows farm families like the Grants access to outside advisors who work with thousands of cows and see a lot of what might work, and more importantly, what likely won’t work. This practical experience plus financial expertise putting realistic budgets together creates a win-win situation,” Lehr said.

“A tie stall was the only thing I knew,” David said. “I knew it was labor intensive. Now we have less physical labor. Shoveling and milking time has decreased, and the people are happier.”

“Small farms need to start to think about this, if you can bring acreage together and efficiency in taking care of the cows,” Laurie said. “We’re tickled about it all.”