Buckeye Dairy News: Volume 3 Issue 6

  1. Ohio Will Host the Professional Heifer Growers

    Thomas Noyes 
    OSU Extension Wayne County

    The Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association was established in 1997 at the National Meeting of Dairy Heifer Growers in Atlanta, Georgia. Today there are almost 500 members including heifer growers, veterinarians, extension and industry representatives. This rapidly growing and important organization has as their mission:

     Heifer growers dedicated to growing high quality dairy replacements.

    One of the goals of the organization is to provide educational programs and professional development opportunities for heifer growers. That opportunity will be available on November 1 & 2, 2000 in Akron, Ohio. The northeast region of the Professional Heifer Growers Association has planned an excellent meeting and tour to be held at the Radisson Hotel, Akron City Centre.

    The program will begin the evening of October 31 with a dinner and program Getting Started as a Heifer Grower with Dr. John Foley, Cargill Dairy Nutrition. The conference on November 1 will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude with an evening dinner and a presentation by Maynard Moen of Land O'Lakes on facility options. Conference speakers will discuss transportation stress, Johnes, biosecurity, vaccinations, contracts and a panel of growers.

    On November 2 will be an optional tour of area heifer operations. Tour stops will include: heifer grower Ray Ruprecht raising heifers for a high producing Holstein herd; the 1100 cow herd at Stoll Farm's calf facility; the 600 head contract raiser Orrson Farms; and heifers in a grazing system at the Doug Billman farm.

    Registration for the conference, if made before October 1, is $35 and after October 1 is $45. The evening dinner and program is $20 and the farm tour is $25. The pre-conference symposium is $20. For a program brochure and registration information, contact your local extension office or contact Tom Noyes at the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722.

  2. Cost of Production Records: The First Key to Marketing Management

    Ernie Oelker 
    Trumbull County, Extension Agent

    Total economic cost of production is a very important number that all dairy farmers should carefully monitor. According to Dr. Cameron Thraen, Dairy Marketing Specialist, Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University, without knowing your costs of production, there is no way you can answer this question: What is a good milk price? Having a sound working knowledge of your farms total economic cost (cash and non-cash) of producing a hundredweight of milk is key to formulating a good marketing risk management program.

    Cost of production includes physical capital (facilities and equipment), labor, energy, livestock, feed costs and all other costs incurred in producing the total output of the dairy farm. The total economic cost includes all opportunity costs of land ownership, foregone interest on your equity, and the opportunity cost of unpaid owner and family labor. Proper costing treats the dairying activity as a separate enterprise and does not commingle costs from other farming operations such as crop or forage production, heifer raising, etc. Only the actual costs of producing milk should be included.

    In today's agricultural environment, dairy farmers face substantial risks which arise from many different sources. The USDA's Risk Management Education program identifies five primary sources of risk: 1) production risk, 2) financial risk, 3) legal risk, 4) human resource risk, and 5) marketing risk. Marketing risk is the risk associated with unexpected changes in input and output prices. It is the risk associated with not having a marketing plan and with not knowing your costs of production of milk.

    I have been privileged to be part of a team of Extension professionals which planned and conducted a series of meetings on dairy farm risk management. We presented information on dairy farm risk assessment and put participants through a series of exercises designed to help them work with dairy farmers to complete dairy farm risk assessments. The participants in these workshops (about 50 in total) represent agricultural credit organizations, farm service and supply industry, and veterinarians. They were quite serious in their participation in the risk assessment workshops. They seemed to be in agreement that risk assessment on dairy farms is a serious challenge and that more needs to be done to help dairy farm management teams deal with the issue of risk, especially price risk.

    Marketing or price risk is one of the most important areas your management team should address. Since market forces (not government policy) control the prices you will receive for your milk, you need to learn how to protect your business against price fluctuations, because these fluctuations are a fact of life. Understanding the milk pricing system will help you to understand the monthly fluctuations in your milk check. But, understanding is not enough! You need to know your costs of production and use the milk marketing tools available to you to lock in a profit margin, or at least cover production costs during times of low prices.

    I suggest that you work with your cooperative field representative or your local Extension agent to find out more about dairy futures options. Become familiar with the terminology of milk marketing; basis, hedging, margin accounts, etc., and begin to explore the alternatives available. Next, try some on paper transactions to see how these tools could work for you. As you learn about the new milk pricing system and the marketing tools available, get a system in place to help you determine your total actual costs of production per cwt. Information is power. Collect it and use it to improve your profitability.

  3. Dangerous Gases and Fires Can Make Silos Death Traps

    John M. Smith 
    Auglaize Co., Ext. Agt.

    This is the time of year when farmers begin storing their silage feeds for the coming winter. And their silos can become towers of death if safety practices are not followed carefully.

    Silos can be dangerous in two serious ways. They can become cylinders of highly toxic gases as well as the site of fires and explosions.

    Toxic gases are a side effect of the necessary process that turns green plant materials into silage. Silage is formed by natural chemical fermentation that takes place in the chopped materials. Fermentation begins shortly after the plant material is placed into the silo.

    During the ensiling process, several gases -- including carbon dioxide, methane and nitric oxide are released. All of these can seriously threaten human and animal life. Normally, they are present in low enough concentrations in silos such that they are not of great concern. The real danger, however, occurs when nitric oxide combines with oxygen. The resulting gas, nitrogen dioxide, is highly toxic and can cause death or permanent lung damage.

    Nitrogen gases have a disagreeable odor and range in color from red to orange and dark brown. Also, because these gases are heavier than air, they will naturally settle to the lowest possible level, near the silage surface level. Therefore, great caution should be taken when working near the base of a tower silo during the first few weeks after filling.

    Caution should also be exercised when working in barns and stables located near a recently filled silo. These can become death traps for man and animal when nitrogen gases are present. The greatest danger occurs one to three days after harvest, but can continue for up to three weeks in some situations. A potential toxic gas hazard also exists when silos are being opened the first time for feeding. 
    Unfortunately, it is possible to work in the presence of toxic silo gases for some time without ever feeling major discomfort. The resulting lung damage, however, may cause death just a few hours later. No one should assume that they are safe just because they have not been affected by silo gases in the past.

    OSU offers the following GAS-SAFETY RULES FOR SILO WORKERS:

    1) Run the silage blower for 15 or 20 minutes before entering a partially filled tower silo. Keep the blower running while anyone is within the structure.

    2) It's best to stay out of the silo for two weeks after filling. Never enter a silo under any circumstances without a safety harness and unless someone else is nearby.

    3) Leave the blower pipe close to the silage level to draw off gas.

    4) At the slightest indication of coughing or throat irritation, get out of the silo and into the fresh air at once. Immediate medical attention will reduce lung damage and stop pneumonia from developing.

    5) Keep children and animals away from the silo during the filling period and for at least one week afterward.

    6) Keep the door between the silo room and the barn closed during the danger period to protect livestock.

    7) Ventilate the silo room for at least two weeks after filling the silo by opening any available outside doors and windows to carry away any toxic gases. Removing chute doors to the level of the settled silage will permit natural ventilation at the point where gas tends to concentrate.

    8) If gases are present, an air line or an air backpack is a must for entering the silo. The best rule is to stay outside, but if there is a necessary reason for entering the silo use supplied air.

    Besides holding deadly gases, silos can also become the sites of fires and explosions. Silo fires often result from ensiling feeds too low in moisture, usually below 45% moisture. The heating of the materials in combination with air leaks in the silo structure can permit a fire to start anywhere within the structure and to continue burning for long periods of time. Once a fire starts, it is very difficult to control or stop.

    Ensiled materials should contain 50% or more moisture for safe storage in conventional tower structures and 45-48% for haylage in oxygen limiting structures. In addition, cracks and leaks at the base of the silo and silo doors should be sealed before filling. After filling, keep the silo sealed until the silage is needed.

    Contact your local OSU County Extension Service offices for additional information on silo hazards and safety procedures for proper and safe handling of silo emergencies.