Dairy Farmer’s: It’s the last chance to enroll

USDA extended the deadline on its signature dairy safety net program — Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC). The new deadline is this Friday, September 27. Until the extension, the deadline had been September 20.

“With smaller margins and increased feed costs, DMC has resulted in almost $230 million in payments disbursed,” said Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

“I know that some farmers may still be cautious given their experiences with former dairy support programs, but producers who have not signed up yet should come into a local office to learn how much money the program can put into their pockets,” he continued.

Half have signed up
“More than 21,200 dairy operations have already signed up for DMC, but we’re providing an additional week to help ensure interested producers have time to come into the office,” said Northey of the one-week extension.

Almost half of the producers who have signed up so far are taking advantage of the 25 percent premium discount by locking in for five years of margin protection coverage. FSA has launched a new web visualization of the DMC data, which is available here.

Margin payments have been triggered for each month from January through July. Dairy producers who elect higher coverage levels could be eligible for payments for all seven months. Under certain levels, the amount paid to dairy farmers will exceed the cost of the premium.

For example, a dairy operation that chooses to enroll for 2019 with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) and elects the $9.50 coverage level on 95 percent of production will pay $4,275 in total premium payments for all of 2019 and receive $15,437.50 in DMC payments for all margin payments announced to date. Additional payments will be made if calculated margins remain below the $9.50 per cwt. level for any remaining months of 2019.

Advice to dairy farmers
“My message to those dairy producers who are hurting out there: Don’t leave this kind of financial assistance on the table,” said Northey, who announced the deadline extension on September 19, 2019, as part of a hearing in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. “Producers across the country have told us that DMC is a great risk management tool that works well, and it can work for you, too.”

“Dairy farmers have much to gain by signing up for this program, and another week to take advantage of this benefit can be nothing but helpful for them,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “We urge producers to take advantage of this added opportunity to sign up.”

“We appreciate USDA’s decision to extend the sign-up period for the DMC, and we are hopeful that more producers will sign up before the enrollment period ends. FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative believes that this program will perform much better than its predecessor and encourages all dairy farmers to sign up,” says John Rettler, president of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative and a dairy farmer from Neosho, Wis.

“We can’t emphasize it enough, this is a program all dairy farmers should sign up for,” says Rettler. “There are still improvements to be made over time to DMC, and much of the valuable feedback we receive is through producers who have experienced the program. Farmer participation allows for greater improvements later on.”

National Association of County Agriculture Agents

The National Association of County Agriculture Agents National Conference was recently held in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Delaware was represented by Laurie Wolinski and Dan Severson.  This was Dan’s first time attending the national meeting.  Delaware brought home a North East Regional award for Team Newsletter.  The newsletter that garnered the award was UD’s Delaware Dairy Newsletter.  Congratulations to Susan Garey, Dr. Limin Kung and Dan Severson.

Silage Season Safety – Processing & Packing

When you’re processing and putting up silage in any type of structure, it’s a complicated job, and potentially dangerous.

Silo Gas

  • Let’s talk silo gas for a minute – also known as nitrogen dioxide.  It’s a normal part of the silage making process.  We start to see this gas a few hours to a day or so after a silo is filled – And then it’s produced for about 2-2.5 weeks
    Silo gas is created in ANY type of silage storage
    system, but is a particular problem in tower silos.

    depending on conditions – Silo gas is produced
    in ALL kinds of silos – tower silos, bunkers, piles, bags – the biggest issue however, is when it’s a confined space.  This could be in a tower silo, an adjoining room, the chute or in the space between silo bags.

  • In the air, nitrogen dioxide has a faint yellowish color though in low light conditions, you probably won’t see it…It smells a bit like bleach.  It is very irritating — even a few breaths can cause serious health problems.
  • Avoid silo gas, especially during that initial three-week post-harvest window. Treat a tower silo and areas surrounding stored silage as a confined space.  Ventilate thoroughly – generally with the blower.  Get more information – entering any confined space incorrectly has deadly consequences.

Bunker Silo Rollovers & Other Issues

  • There are special hazards with packing a bunker silo.  Some great detailed information can be found in this piece from Penn State on horizontal silo safety.
  • Tractor rollovers occur every season while people are packing bunkers and piles – It’s critical that you select the right tractor – it MUST have a ROPS (rollover protective structure) and a seatbelt.
  • A wide front-end is also an absolute must. Front-wheel and front wheel-assist tractors provide extra traction and stability for packing. Duals usually increase stability as well as appropriately-placed weights.
  • Backing a tractor up ANY slope is preferred – you achieve better stability AND CONTROL.
  • On a slope – as you fill a bunker, make sure your packed, wedge-shaped surfaces are not too steep – We generally talk about a safe slope being 3 to 1 or something even less steep. On a pile or bunker that’s 20 feet high, you need a wedged surface do drive up that’s at least 60 feet long in the horizontal direction.  Anything less, and you run a great chance of rolling a tractor.
  • There are many other precautions to take with your employees and family members who are working at this time…Like these:
    • Only experienced people should be permitted to operate equipment.
    • Require all equipment operators to remain in their vehicles to avoid being run over.
    • Keep visitors and children out of ANY farm work zone.  A packing operation seems cool and fun to watch – but operators have a lot to pay attention to, and the chaos associated with visitors and bystanders can be very distracting.
    • Have workers wear brightly colored safety vests or t-shirts to increase visibility.

This post was originally developed to support a series of silage harvest-related podcasts posted by colleague Liz Binversie of Brown County, UW-Extension.  This one is written to connect to the podcast covering processing and packing

Dairy a Major Contributor to Pumpkin Spiced Everything

Whether it’s social influence or a true appreciation for the flavor, consumers can’t get enough of these Fall themed dairy products.
( Starbucks )

Like it or not, the official-unofficial start to Fall has arrived. That’s right, the Pumpkin Spiced Latte is back.

While many consider the release of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks to be a season in itself, dairy farmers have a reason to be thankful for this fad. Shoppers are purchasing pumpkin spiced everything, including dairy.

Whether it’s social influence or a true appreciation for the flavor, consumers can’t get enough of these Fall themed dairy products. Ranging from ice cream to cottage cheese, there’s no shortage of pumpkin spiced products in the dairy aisle.

Want to give some of these pumpkin spiced dairy products a try? Take a look at the list below:

  • Ice Cream– Probably the most “normal” pumpkin spiced dairy item, Ben & Jerry’s, Turkey Hill, Blue Bell, Halo Top and Talenti all have limited edition Fall flavors that customers can’t get enough of.
  • Creamers– While many coffee shops offer up their own versions of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte, consumers may find it difficult to make this Fall beverage for themselves at home. Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss was the only real milk pumpkin spiced creamer to make the list.
  • Yogurt– Channeling the “flavor of Fall”, companies like ChobaniYoplait,Oikos, Noosaand Siggi’s have debuted pumpkin spiced yogurt.
  • Milk- Whether it’s Halloween, the Holidays or any day in-between, Heiland has released a limited edition pumpkin spice milk along with Prairie Farms.
  • Cream Cheese– Want to spread a little pumpkin spice cream cheese on your pumpkin spice bagel? Philadelphia cream cheese has you covered!
  • Cheese– Featuring the signature buttery and nutty flavor of a gouda and packed full of the aromatic flavors of Fall, Beemster offers up Pumpkin Spice Gouda.
  • Cottage Cheese- Mauna claims to have launched the first-ever pumpkin & spice flavored cottage cheese. A blend of real pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice seasoning and cottage cheese, the product is said to conjure up the flavor of pumpkin cheesecake.

Fluid Milk Is Cool Again

The demand for fluid milk has been dropping for many years. Consumers have moved toward other beverages that can offer convenience, better flavor, certain health characteristics or any number of demands. With 34% of the milk produced in the U.S. ending up as fluid milk on grocery shelves, it’s important to identify ways to turn this category around.

A recent study by Rabobank suggests that those fluid milk products that can differentiate themselves from regular, commodity milk are turning the demand curve upward. During a recent conversation with Chip Flory on AgriTalk, Tom Bailey, senior dairy analyst with Rabobank, shed light on this new trend.

“Consumers have changed. A lot are looking for something new, exciting and different. They are looking to make an impression. When someone looks in their fridge, they want to make a statement,” Bailey said. “The milk brands haven’t adjusted along with consumers. Where we have seen differentiation we’ve seen some big wins. Brands that [offer a premium experience] are not only are getting margins back into their returns, but they are selling more. It shows that if brands are willing to innovate and reinvest, there are some low hanging fruit there.”

In addition to more premium products, whole milk continues to be the only conventional milk category that is growing.

“Anything skimmed is declining, and that’s what consumers have been buying,” Bailey said. “They like whole milk – it tastes better, has better mouth feel and is generally preferred. Nutritionally it’s good for you so people are coming back to it.”

While there are opportunities for dairies to take advantage of local market, it’s not without risk, Bailey warns. Setting up your own bottling plant, or working out an arrangement with a local bottler, takes a lot of investing and follow through in order to win. But, Bailey says, consumers like that “red barn effect” where consumers want to get back in touch with the farm and farming culture.

“Local milk is coming back around. People want milk that tastes good,” Bailey says. “When you’re able to control the supply chain a little bit more and have solids control you can have a product that not only speaks from the local standpoint from the taste standpoint too.”

Still, milk brands that offer some point of difference from conventional private label milks have been winning in the marketplace.

“Long term that could be great for commodity prices,” Bailey said. “Short term it will take investing and realignment with the consumer to get there.”

Open House for ag producers

We welcome agriculture producers to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in Value- Added Dairy and Agriculture Products. (photo by TheAlexGuide, creative commons/flickr.com)

NEWARK, Del. — We welcome agriculture producers to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in Value- Added Dairy and Agriculture Products.

Our first session will be held August 21, 2019 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Genaurdi Food Innovation Lab located at the UDCreamery located behind Townsend Hall in Newark.

To RSVP, please email mlit@udel.edu or call 302-831-1364

Future sessions include Food Safety Planning, Pasteurization, Marketing your Ag Product, Cheese Fermen- tation & more! While you visit, please take the opportunity to tell us your interests and needs by filling out our survey. Light refreshments and UDairy Creamery product samples available.

Please park behind Townsend Hall and enter through the rear entrance of Worrilow Hall. 529 S. College Ave. Newark, DE.

Silage Harvest Starts with Planning

August is the time to start planning and making arrangements for silage harvest. It’s also a good time to bring the team together and make a checklist of what needs to be done to ensure nothing gets missed, said Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator at The Ohio State University.

Starter checklist:

  • Speak to harvesting team or custom harvester
  • Check the chopper to ensure it’s in excellent working condition
  • Line up equipment, including hauling trucks or wagons and packing tractors
  • Make sure there are enough properly trained people on-hand to use equipment
  • Have pile covering materials ready for use

Monitor Moisture

“With corn silage harvest, you’ve got one shot to get it right and you’ll be using that silage for about a year, maybe longer,” he said. “It’s so important to get dry matter content right because if you don’t, you’re going to really struggle.”

Ideally, target 35% dry matter (DM) for all your silage, but the range is 32% to 38% DM. There are some issues if silage is harvested too wet or dry, but if you must err, Lewandowski recommends harvesting wetter rather than running too dry.

“Typically, corn silage dries down about ½ percentage point of moisture each day. Last year, we ran into a warm streak and were at ¾ percentage point a day, so it went from ‘not quite ready’ to ‘should have harvested yesterday’ very quickly,” he said. “So, you’ve got to monitor daily.”

Length of Cut

Length of cut is critical to fiber digestibility. While fine, small pieces make for easy packing and exclusion of oxygen, they don’t make effective fibers in the ration or the rumen.

“If you’re not using a kernel processor, the theoretical length of cut should be set at ¼ inch to ½ inch,” he explained. “But if you are using a kernel processor, it helps to increase the availability of starch, so we cut a little bit longer at ¾ inch. Those who are shredding the whole plant length-wise can cut bigger pieces – up to 1 inch.”


There are two types of inoculants to consider:

  1. Lactic acid – if in past years you’ve struggled to get a good fermentation, use a lactic acid bacteria at the point of chopping. It helps produce more acetic acid and drops the pH.
  2. Lactobacillus buchneri – If you’ve had problems in the past with feed out and spoilage, then consider adding a L. buchneri inoculant. It helps to increase the stability of silage. It also boosts your acetic acid, which works on spoilage organisms to like yeast and mold, especially as you open the face up.

“There are a lot of good inoculants on the market. Do your research,” he advised. “Also, make sure you use enough and be cognizant that these are living organisms. Don’t use chlorinated water and watch the water temperature.”

Excluding Oxygen

“Oxygen and air are the enemy of silage,” he said. “Packing helps us to exclude it, but a lot of producers have a hard time measuring it. The goal is to have a density 42 to 45 pounds per ft3 of silage as its delivered to the bunker silo. On a DM basis, that’s a density of 14 to 16 pounds per ft3.”

To get there requires having enough weight to pack and packing in a timely manner. A few tips:

  • For every ton of silage, you need 800 pounds of weight for packing. If delivering silage at 50 tons per hour, multiply that times 800, and it tells you 40,000 pounds of packing or 20 tons of tractors (or packing equipment) are needed for packing
  • Never put down more than a 6-inch to 8-inch layer
  • Pack that well
  • Apply another 6-inch to 8-inch layer

The goal is to harvest quickly. Once you’re done, it’s critical to cover the silo as soon as possible to keep oxygen out and protect it from the elements.

“In recent years, research on a two-step covering product where they have the oxygen barrier sealing and a regular piece of plastic over the top has shown to help with fermenting high-quality silage,” Lewandowski said. “Research has shown that putting plastic on the inside wall of your bunker silo can help to increase the quality of that silage as well.”

Once covered, seal it either using bags with weights or cut tires that are touching one another. If you’re bagging silage, make sure it’s packed tightly but consider leaving the end open for a day to release some of the air and gas, then seal it up tight, he noted.

Safety Tips

  • Big equipment visibility is often very limited, so always keep children away from the area.
  • Plan a pre-harvest meeting with silage crew and farm employees, especially those not directly involved in the silage process to share what’s going to be happening to minimize their risk.
  • Don’t pack silage above walls.