2017-09-16 / Viewpoints

Local dairy farm gets it right

BY JAYNE SEBRIGHT

(Jayne Sebright is executive director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, which supports the Pennsylvania dairy industry.)

Potter County’s Bachman family and its God’s Country Creamery (Endeavor News, Sept. 9) is an example of dairy producers who have responded to stiffening marketing challenges through innovation.

Interestingly, while milk production in Pennsylvania has ramped up by 2.1 percent over the past year, Class I fluid milk sales (milk moving into the bottle) have fallen drastically. When markets need less milk from their suppliers, farmers such as the Bachmans have to reduce their herd size or discontinue operations.

Countless farmers have been scrambling to figure out how to protect their business and their family from the reality of being without a market to sell their milk.

So, what can their do?

First and foremost, they would be wise to seek education and keep current on expectations. Dairy farm managers today are expected to be more than just quality milk producers. They are expected to have best management practices in place for animal care and welfare, environmental stewardship and even just farmstead appearance.

Secondly, as the Endeavor News story in last week’s edition demonstrates, they can share their story.

Processors like to be affiliated with farms that represent their brand well in the local community. Take the time to share your story with your non-farm neighbors and local community members so they better understand your farm’s role in producing quality food and taking good care of your animals and your farm.

You can host farm tours, volunteer to speak at local community groups, or get involved in the local school educational program. Demonstrating your commitment to the farm and relating it to the products in which your milk is used can benefit both the processor and your farm.

Producers should also be sure to know their buyers. What is the financial position and strength of your milk buyer? Who is its primary customer? Is it dependent on just a couple of customers, or does it have a diverse portfolio?

Are its sales trends increasing or decreasing? What is the buyer doing to market the products that use your milk?

Risk is nothing new to dairy farm families. Anyone who has operated a dairy farm and lived to tell about it will tell you that it is one of the riskiest ventures you can take. However, not all farms are aware of how sensitive they are to risks on the receiving end of their product. Make sure you take the time to know your own situation and are taking the steps necessary to protect your business and your future against that risk.

The Center for Dairy Excellence can help you to recognize and manage your risks. A good point of contact is Alan Zepp, our risk management program manager, available at 717-346-0849 or azepp@centerfordairyexcellence.org.

You can also visit the Business Tools section on our website, centerfordairyexcellence.org.

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