David Marrison, Extension Agriculture Educator, Ashtabula County, The Ohio State University
A five county survey of dairy farms has been released by OSU Extension, Team Northeast Ohio, and county business development organizations. The survey collected data from dairy farmers in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull counties during the spring of 2013. Forty-three percent of the 189 dairy farms surveyed replied to questions about their plans, prospects, and challenges.
The goal of the survey was to learn more about the concerns and attitudes of dairy farmers in the five-county region. The survey results will be used by the six organizations to consider measures to assist in increasing regional milk production and addressing issues of concern to dairy farmers.
The survey was conducted by the OSU Extension Office in Jefferson, Ohio. David Marrison, OSU Associate Professor, developed the questions with a team of dairy farmers and other experts from the five counties. Marrison also analyzed the survey results. “This is the most comprehensive report on dairy farms in northeast Ohio that we have assembled,” said Marrison. “We want to thank all the dairy men and women who took time to answer our questions and give us their comments on the problems facing dairy farming today. The results will be of great help to all of the survey sponsors as we consider how to help dairy farms increase milk production in the region. ”
Some of the notable survey results included data revealing that over 78% of the local dairy farms plan to continue to operate during the next five years in spite of the many challenges facing dairy operations. Almost 35% plan on increasing their herd size during the next five years, adding an additional 818 cows in the region.
The survey coalition was interested in learning more about what was limiting local dairy farms from expanding besides milk prices and input costs, such as feed and fuel. The top three reasons cited included: land available to grow crops (60.8%), inadequate labor or unavailable labor (31.4%), and access to financing (29.4%). Participants were asked about the facility improvements they plan on investing in over the next five years with the top three responses being: adding housing for heifers (55.0%), increasing cow comfort (51.7%), and improving their manure handling systems (35.0%). The top three management areas which improvement will be sought by managers over the next five years are: feed management (57.9%), genetic improvement (50.9%), and milking herd health management (45.6%).
Each farm also was asked to respond to general issues affecting their farm. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of related topics to dairy farms and then provide qualitative feedback on their greatest success in dairy farming, their greatest concern for the future of dairy farming in Northeast Ohio, and to provide advice on how to maintain or increase regional milk production. These responses can be found in the survey summary, which can be found at: http://ashtabula.osu.edu/topics/agriculture-and-natural-resources/program-files-pdf/DairySurveySummary2013.pdf .