Friday, January 30, 2009

Once-A-Day Milking

Even though I'm mostly interested in "None'ce-A-Day" milking (I don't really want to be a dairy farmer) I read the cover story of the February issue of "Graze" with great interest. The title of the article is, "The economics of once-a-day milking", and it deals with the experiences of veteran dairyman Cliff Hawbaker and his transition not only to once-a-day milking, but also a little bit of no-grain dairying. That is what I love about "Graze" so far ... they go straight to the source and it seems like the articles are just straight forward, "here is what is working and here is what isn't working," kind of stuff.

Like I said, I'm not really interested in running a dairy (or even having a milk cow at this time), but what I can respect and what I actually love to read about is someone who is going against the grain and against conventional wisdom. In a time when there are dairies moving to three-a-day milkings and souped up cows the fact that Mr. Hawbaker is transitioning to a seasonal, grass bassed, and once-a-day dairy farm is really against the grain.

But, from reading the article it doesn't seem that he is doing it because he has a deep desire to have grass only cattle or because he is trying to reach a specialty market. The reason that he has changed and is in the process of changing is because he wants to make better use of his time and resources so that he can make more money! I guess maybe bigger isn't always better. The other thing that Mr. Hawbaker said he liked about the seasonal/once-a-day milking is that he has time for family and his partners have time for family also. That isn't to say that they aren't plenty busy, but rather you can work your schedule a bit more when you only have to milk once.

Of course there were plenty of numbers and figures in the article that didn't make a lot of sense to this non-dairy guy, but between and around all of that there were some great insights on making the transition from conventional dairy to un-conventional dairy and all the while continuing to sell to the conventional market. It hasn't been easy for them and while he bought more land to begin an all new grass based herd he is also transitioning his old herd to the new system.

They have had trouble with dry weather and the lack of organic matter in their soil from the years of conventional farming, but even still he thinks this is the best fit for him and his farm. I love his attitude!

If you want to read a little bit about Mr. Hawbaker and his seasonal/once-a-day dairy farm I did find this online article. Any of you with dairy experience or thoughts want to comment on this?


Monica said...

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has published a small handbook on raw milk production. It's very interesting for the non-farmer, too. (We drink raw milk in our house and I was interesting in getting to know more about it, pathogen testing, etc.)

Most of the raw milk people seem to milk twice daily. Milking once daily sounds oh so much more convenient!

Steven said...

Our friends ( ) sell raw milk and were milking 4 cows twice a day. This was getting to be too much as the husband also teaches and they have a big egg/broiler operation. So they transitioned to once a day and love it. They get less milk but it seems to be worth it.

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