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A monthly newsletter to an email list of over 7,000 producers, agriservice and legislators. This list is also used for program, webinar and forage management updates.

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Presentations and manuscripts from several PRO-DAIRY conferences are available in PDF format and for purchase in hard-copy format.

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October 2021

Hired labor on New York State dairy farms: Cost, efficiency and change from 2011 through 2020

Hired labor plays a significant role on dairy farms. As farms size grows, hired employees provide a larger percent of the labor needed to work the farm.

September 2021

Corn silage harvest timing: Not all growing degree days are created equal

Corn silage harvest timing has important implications on both the yield and forage quality of the crop as a livestock feed.


November 2021

2021 Corn silage overview

The growing season across much of the Northeast started with average to slightly above average heat unit accumulation and below average precipitation. This provided relatively good conditions for corn planting, with trial locations planted between May 7 and May 19. Conditions remained dry, with most locations receiving designations of abnormally dry or moderate drought from the U.S. drought monitor in May and June. The exception was Aurora, which received more timely rainfall throughout May and June.

2021 New York and Vermont corn silage hybrid evaluation final report

November 2021

Hybrid evaluation at multiple environments helps in decision making and expands the reach of this type of data to more farmers. Cornell, UVM, and seed companies collaborate to provide this robust evaluation. Hybrids were either entered into the 80-95 day relative maturity (RM) group (Early-Mid) and were tested at two locations in NY (n = 27; Lamb Farms in Oakfield and the Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro) and one location in VT (n = 27; Borderview Farm in Alburgh) or were entered into the 96-110 day relative maturity group (Mid-Late) and were tested at two locations in NY (n = 33; Greenwood Farms in Madrid and the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora) and one location in VT (n = 33; Borderview Farm in Alburgh). Weather data, growing degree days (GDD; 86-50°F system) and precipitation, both for the current year and long-term averages, can be found in Tables 1a and 1b for trial locations.


Patrick Hooker receives the PRO-DAIRY Agriservice Award

August 2021

Patrick Hooker is the 2021 recipient of the PRO-DAIRY Agriservice Award presented today by Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY Director Tom Overton during the virtual Dairy Day Recognition and Awards ceremony at the Great New York State Fair. This award is given in appreciation and recognition of outstanding contributions to NYS agriculture through support of PRO-DAIRY.


Costs to produce milk in 2020: What is the range?

July 2021

The cost to operate a dairy business is a critical component associated with generating profit. Profits are determined by quantity and quality of output, the prices received for output, and capital invested along with the costs to produce output. With many external factors impacting dairy farm financial performance in 2020 because of the pandemic, such as direct government payments, Class III and Class IV price variations, and milk production limitations from processors, understanding the costs to produce milk is important. Many of the different areas of cost are influenced internally and are under a higher degree of control of management, so the ability for a dairy to be successful in meeting goals over time is not solely dictated by external forces.


Dairy Profit Monitor key performance trend graphs: April 2020 – March 2021

June 2021

39 dairy farms have completed the Dairy Profit Monitor (DPM) program from April 2020 through March 2021. The trend graphs prepared by the DPM provide a snapshot of how key performance measures changed on these farms over the last 12 months. The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on milk price throughout the 12 month period. The average net milk price for these 39 farms ranged from $12.57 in May to $19.06 in November, which is a $6.50 range over the course of those six months.

Total lactating feed cost per cwt and cost per pound of dry matter also steadily increased from April to March reflecting the rising feed costs. Net Milk Income over Total Feed Costs per cow (NMIOTFC) using the actual milk price followed the same pattern throughout the course of the 12 months as the net milk price; taking a large hit in May, increasing drastically through July, and steadily decreasing from November on. If we analyze the NMIOTFC per cow using a fixed milk price, the cost per cow per day stays fairly consistent over the course of the 12 month period. Since producers cannot control the milk price they receive, analyzing the NMIOTFC with a fixed milk price allows us to analyze the performance of the management changes that were made on the farm during that time. The NMIOTFC per cow using a fixed milk price stayed relatively unchanged throughout the 12 months with the increase in pounds of components produced per cow over the period, offsetting the feed cost increase.

Milk sold per worker and labor efficiency on these 39 farms has slightly increased over the 12 month period. Given the changing labor regulations in New York State, this will continue to be an important management goal on farms.


Managing forage digestibility to combat high commodity prices

April 2021

Forage quality is important. It is hard to attend a meeting or read an agricultural publication without hearing this point, and while there is a risk of becoming numb to the message, this spring presents yet another reminder of how critical this can be to control production cost on a dairy. In this article Joe Lawrence, Cornell PRO-DAIRY, focuses on high forage diets to combat higher commodity cost. This information can also help plan what commodities may be needed in the new diet. Regardless of price trends, watch markets for relative deals on these inputs throughout the late summer and early fall to lock in favorable prices for the period when this silage will be fed.


Close call on Finger Lakes dairy farm is a reminder of hydrogen sulfide gas concerns around manure storages

March 2021

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is a well-documented and extremely dangerous gas that can be found in manure storages and is a byproduct of bacterial breakdown of organic compounds inside a manure storage. It is heavier than air and can concentrate low to the ground or in confined spaces. Any extra source of sulfur on farm has the potential to increase H2S gas production once it reaches the manure storage. Farms that use gypsum based bedding and anti-slip agents have increased risk of H2S gas production. A significant amount of work was performed by the Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District and Town of Benton Fire Department to study the levels of H2S gas around manure storages. Results showed that farms using gypsum products almost always carried higher levels of deadly H2S gas during manure storage agitation and pump-out. Studies also showed deep bedded packs can carry high levels of H2S gas.

An incident occurred on a gypsum-using farm in the Finger Lakes region in late fall 2020. A dairy farmer was flushing out gravity flow gutters inside the barn, using recycled manure from the storage. The farm owner was holding the hose at the top end of the gutters while two small children were playing in the barn. Unknown to the farm owner, the children were at the bottom end of the gravity gutters, where H2S gas was concentrating. One of the children told their father her friend was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up. The farm owner quickly realized the danger of the situation and picked up the limp child to take her to fresh air. Luckily the child revived and is well, so a good ending to what was very close to a lethal situation.


Dairy Environmental Systems issues fact sheets

January 2021

Advanced manure treatment and antibiotic resistance
For those thinking about exploring advanced manure treatment, a four-part fact sheet series is available:

A fact sheet describing basic manure characteristics, including composition and phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium characteristics, has also been posted.

A new case study is available that describes the persistence and decay of antibiotic residuals and antibiotic resistance genes through a dairy manure treatment system consisting of a solid-liquid separator and a rotary drum composter/BRU (bedding recovery unit).

Publication series