DGA Update: Data Show Resilient Dairy Farms Typically Smaller, High-Quality & Well-Planned

Recently I attended the Women in Ag Conference in Willmar, where I attended several sessions on farm topics. There was one that really hit home with me. It was called, “Building Resilient Dairy Farms.”

Agricultural resilience is about equipping farmers to absorb and recover from shocks and stresses to their agricultural production and livelihoods. Right now, the trend in dairy is less herds and more milk production per cow. With the price volatility, what makes one farm more resilient than another?

This study looked to identify the characteristics of resilient farms that impact farm financial health. The data was taken from FINBIN (financial data) and DHIA (cow records) from 2012-2018. The data show that there were 24 out of 87 farms in MN that were considered resilient. The average farm size was 84 cows showing that small herds were the most resilient. The average age of the resilient farmer was 41 which is about 10 years younger than the state average. Resilient farms produced 17 percent less milk per cow but had a $0.52 increase in milk price which was mainly from components. Resilient farms were more focused on producing quality milk instead of quantity.

The main takeaways from this study are that resilient farms in MN are mostly smaller family dairy farms. They value milk quality premiums over volume. They have a plan and they stick to their plan regardless of what milk prices are doing. The resilient farmers are generally younger and value educational opportunities to help them succeed.

I believe the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship relates to this because it is a tool for farmers to get more education and get skilled labor on their farm. We need to keep our small dairy farms thriving and create opportunities for young farmers to get started. For more information or questions on the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program, contact me at 320-815-9293 or angie@sfa-mn.org.