Changes in Dairy Farming

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Dairy Farm ThumbnailDERBY-Dairy Farming has been been an industry in the Northeast Kingdom for decades, but in recent years farmers have been doing new things to keep production and buisness up.

Winter, does not slow down milk production like it did a decade ago. Maple Grove Farms of Derby made the switch to produce their milk all year round-versus their usual ten months out of the year. Farms that are partnered with Cabot are making this switch to produce year round, as it has kept buisness and profits up for dairy farming in recent years.


Small farms like Maple Grove Farm are also seeing an uptick in local buisness for year round milk production.

"We stagger our calving now so we can have a few cows a month all year round, and that keeps a fairly constant supply of milk going out our door, and it helps keep us at a steadier income throughout the year." said Maple Grove Farm Manager Andy Birch.

Birch grew up on a dairy farm, before purchasing his own farm in two thousand fourteen. In the five years he and his wife have been a dairy farm for holsteins, jersey's and brown swiss cows, and they have seen a couple changes across the industry.

"Since we've owned this dairy farm, we've seen the industry consolidate and change, and we have especially seen this change in milk production." said Birch.

"Thirty years ago in the state of Vermont there were over eleven thousand dairy farms, and many dairy farmers were working in the legislature too, and now even with the fewer farms around Vermont we're still able to produce more milk. Its a lesser known industry than it was thirty years ago, but it isn't dying like many people are assuming, the demographics are just changing a little." Birch said.

Maple Grove Farms is partnered with Cabot, but farm partnerships are another misconception in the farming community, as farms aren't always able to make a profit from their partnership.

"Cabot Creamery is a cooperative and we do own a share of Cabot, so when we sell one of our shares here as a farm we can make some profit, but that isn't always a guarentee. Usually at the end of the year we are able to cash in on some bills from selling our shares, but it isn't as large an amount as most people would think." said Birch.

Farms aren't the only people seeing a change in the farming industry,  dairy management professor of UNH Peter Erickson has seen the industry change more than he thought it was going to in the past five years too. Erickson has seen a change in how people view dairy farmers treating their animals as well .

"Animal mistreatment is minor for dairy farms, and this mistreatment of cows is a new cultural misconception." said Erickson.

Farming programs at colleges are also changing, as the demand for milk continues to change. 

"A friend of mine taught dairy farming at VTC and he had this incubator program. In this you would manage a herd in for milking, but I'd be surprised if they're still doing this. Cause, a lot of the co-ops's just don't need the milk anymore, we've become a more productive milking industry in the past ten years, even though we have fewer dairy farmers." Erickson said.

"We're also better than we were in two thousand eighteen when it cost a lot more to milk. Now milk is going over twenty dollars for a hundred weight, so its a bit more affordable." Erickson said.

Nutrition hasn't changed, but the milking market continues to change. Many milk cooperatives you can partner with as a Vermont Dairy Farm, just aren't looking for milk anymore. This has caused farmers to venture into other milk partnerships, and to milk every month out of the year so that profits can be still be made.

Staying local is another way to combat the shortage of milking cooperatives, this is something Maple Grove Farms have been doing more as well in the past couple years.

"Now close to ninety percent of our products go to Orleans County, and just about ninety four percent go to Vermont." said Birch.

"I'd like people to know that dairy farming is definitely changing, but it isn't gonna go away like some people are thinking. The demand for dairy farming has continued to rise, we're milking more than ever before, there are just fewer dairy farms as a whole and less cooperatives." said Erickson.

The future looks challenging, but bright for dairy farms and farm managment programs alike. Its all about how farms can continue to adapt in this changing industry.