September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Did 2013 set up 2014?

By Dave Vander Kooi- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

As I reflect on the past year, 2013 seemed sort of boring in the dairy world. It seems as if we just plodded along getting by and paid the bills. Part of the problem is, in 2013 I turned 60 years old and we all know that as we age we expect results faster because we don't know how much time we have left.
When I truly look back on 2013, so much has happened. I was able to join a great group of five guys on a mission trip to Guatamala, where we installed wood burning cook stoves in tin houses, built small chicken coops, and went zip-lining with suspect equipment over massive canyons on our free day. Another highlight was finishing remodeling our house interior. This sounds easy unless you have been through it personally; then you understand frying eggs on a hot plate on the bedroom floor and washing dishes in the basement bathroom. The best highlight was Scott and Tae giving us our 10th grandchild, Rhett, in September, and Aaron and Kia expecting in February 2014.
On the dairy side, we finished the barn 3 freestall addition in February, which gave us capacity to milk 1,250 cows plus housing for all dry cows and close up heifers at the same site. This addition created the next challenge of not being able to milk 1,250 cows in a double-16 parlor, three times a day. Joe and I had measured and remeasured and were convinced we could add four milking stalls on the front of each side without moving any walls and end up with a double 20. In February, it was easy to hire a concrete contractor to do a very tedious job like that. Basically, all the gravel and concrete had to be carried up through the cow return alleys and put in place with buckets and shovels. At the same time, the equipment people had to move both receiver jars eight feet forward, add pipeline, vacuum lines, etc., and at the same time, our staff had to keep milking on schedule. At the time, it seemed like the slowest and most expensive double-4 parlor expansion that ever happened, but the end result was fantastic. The double-20 makes a very efficient two-man parlor. We retrofitted the whole parlor with new RFID readers which give us much more accurate individual milk weights.
On the farm and feed side, 2013 was full of challenges. April's ice storm and a very wet May delayed planting and caused a lot of replanting; so much so, that we did not unhook the planter until July 3. Then, suddenly, the rain stopped and cool wet soils turned into sun-baked cake in days. Along with that, we had all new seeding alfalfa due to winter kill and field timing. Needless to say, we will run out of haylage by the end of January forcing us to buy more dry hay. Our corn silage yield was 10 percent below our five year average, but, fortunately, we could just chop more acres.
So where does that leave us, and maybe you as dairy farmers, heading into 2014? It is no secret that milk prices are good and feed prices are falling. Maybe this will be the first really good year since 2008, and we can pay down some debt and strengthen our balance sheets. Regaining alfalfa acres to lower purchased high-priced soy meal will not kick in until the second half of 2014, however.
How many good months we get will be determined by us, not by a farm bill written in Washington D.C. We need to keep culling our herds with intensity, not overcrowd our cow pens, and only expand if it truly makes sense with our families and business plan. If a milk buyer comes in your yard begging you to expand because their plant is short of milk, ask them for a five-year guaranteed milk price on your additional production.
Hopefully in 2014, I can quit plodding and start running, well maybe walking fast. I have a machine shed to finish, trucks to fix, cows to milk, and crops to plant. The inside of our house is awesome with its new kitchen, flooring, windows, and furniture. All that is left is a little painting, a reading lamp, and outside landscaping. And then there are the 11 grandkids...[[In-content Ad]]


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.